Wise Words is our new interview series talking to some of mountain biking’s most switched on people.
We’ll ask our short list of questions to a heap of influential, inspiring and outspoken people that we feel are driving the direction of mountain biking today. Some will make you think, some will make you laugh, some will be plain dumb, some will inspire you to better yourself and your riding. We hope!
This week’s Wise Words is brought to you by guide extraordinaire, Julia Hobson.
When it comes to guiding and riding, there isn’t an awful lot Julia hasn’t ticked off. Trans Provence timing crew, setting up her own guiding company, ambassador for brands like Juliana, Hope, Findra and plenty more, guiding in the Alps for Ben Jones MTB Adventures, the list goes on.
Julia is kicking ass in a World dominated by sweaty men. She’s the one you want on your side when things start going awry. A good egg.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
Energetic, enthusiastic and exciteable. Happiest outside and always up for, and planning, the next adventure.
What thing or things have you bought in the last year that had the biggest effect on your life as a mountain biker / cyclist / person that works in the bike industry?
Flat pedals and shoes. I’ve been clipped in since I began riding 18 years ago, but wanted to challenge myself to switch to flats so I could (maybe) develop a bit of style, improve my general riding skills and have the option of using both. I still hate them, feel less confident than with clips, and doubt I’ll ever be a true flats rider, but I can bunny hop, manual and jump properly now, and am working on the wheelies. I’ve even got to the point where I no longer slash my shins open every ride too.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I’ll happily admit to quite enjoying carrying my bike… All the best trails need a bit of effort to get to them.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Be nice, say hi! Respect other trail users and don’t be a dick. It’s the only way mountain biking will become more respected as a sport and lead to us gaining greater trail access, and it just makes the World a friendlier place if everyone says hi to each other when they’re out on the trails.
Ignore the people who tell you that a certain kind of bike or riding is better than any other. Ride whatever bike you like, in whatever style you like, forget everyone else’s opinions and do what makes you happy. If that happens to be road riding, awesome, if it’s gravel touring, wicked, if it’s enduro shredding, good for you, and if it’s e-bikes that bring a smile to your face, ace. If you’re like me, it’ll be a bit of all of the above. It’s all just riding bikes and it’s all good.
If you could go back and re-ride one day from your life so far, where/what/when/who would it be? Would you change anything?
I’m not one to look back, the past is over and we cannot change or relive it. There are many memories and days with lots of wonderful people that I cherish and will never forget. I wouldn’t change anything, everything that has happened in the past has shaped who I’ve become, I have no regrets… life is too short for them. Instead I love enjoying every ride in every place and with every person I get to ride with, and looking forward to where my bike will take me next.
What have you wasted the most time on in your life as a rider or bike industry career that you wished you’d given up years ago?
Social media and I have a love/hate relationship. I love how it can inspire me and enables me to keep in touch with many of the people I’ve met through guiding, racing and travelling with my bike, yet I hate how I need it to promote my guiding business and the amount of time I get sucked into spending on it.
Other than that, the last almost 3 years have been incredibly frustrating whilst I’ve battled French bureaucracy in trying to obtain recognition of my UK Guiding qualification in France. I finally have a licence to allow me to work in France now, but it feels like the whole process should have been a lot easier and wasted less of my life essentially banging my head against a wall as I was passed from department to department within the French Ministry of Sport. I’ve finally managed to see it through to the end now though so maybe it wasn’t a waste of time, it just felt like it.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
I’ve learnt over the years that I only suffer from a lack of motivation when I’m tired and my body is telling me to rest. It’s taken a long time to learn to listen to it, in fact I’m still terrible at it. Normally I’ll ignore it and do some “active recovery” in the form of swimming, climbing, skiing, or running, and that’ll leave me refreshed and ready to ride bikes again!
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
I think it’s the simple act of moving freely through beautiful wild places. Riding a bike allows you to be fully immersed in that place and all the sounds, sights, smells and sensations that make it what it is, at a speed which allows you to appreciate it all fully.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
The scars on my legs from trying to get to grips with flat pedals.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
A greater respect from everyone of the different kinds of riding, rather than the “them and us” attitude that I seem to be hearing everywhere currently. As long as people are happy and out enjoying themselves on bikes, does it really matter whether they are on a road, e-bike, or mountain bike.
Or whether someone’s first ride on an easy trail centre loop is any less of an adventure to that person than a multi-day high mountain trip might be to someone else. The World would be truly dull if we all liked the same things, we need to respect that a different choice or opinion from our own isn’t a wrong one.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Andy & Aneela McKenna of Go-Where Scotland, Chris and Kate Ball of the EWS, Lee Craigie of the Adventure Syndicate.