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!
Wise Words this week comes from H+I Adventures‘ co-founder, Mr. Euan Wilson.
The guiding holiday business is a tough one, but Euan Wilson has been offering award-winning tours all over the world for the last 11 years. If you can offer what many see as more than just a mountain bike holiday in over 20 countries, you must be doing something right.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
A good friend of mine calls me “Chevalier” or “White Knight”. It stems from a few years back when I was rocking a white bike, white Shimano shoes, white Sombrio shorts and hey, I have blonde hair too. I must have looked like an 80’s car crash of mountain biking clothing and broken dreams… But in recent years, it may have changed to The Invisible Man!
At H+I Adventures we’ve been crafting a world leading mountain bike travel company, which isn’t easy and in many ways we’re beating the path and setting the standards for how companies will operate in the future. That takes time, effort and emotional energy, which has left me dramatically lacking in ‘mate time’. That’s being remedied as we speak, and I’m making the effort to rediscover why we do what we do.
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?
Well I didn’t buy it, it was a present from my brother-in-law and Partner Manager at H+I Adventures, Donald. He bought me an AeroPress coffee maker. It is, in simple terms, a big syringe that will make you a coffee, all you need is hot water and coffee. I was introduced to this gem by Matt Hunter and Thomas Vanderham when they joined us in Scotland a few years back on a Shimano DI2 video and feature with the Anthill crew. I have it in my travel bag at all times, it has been to Kyrgyzstan, Nepal, Morocco, Colorado and many other destinations around the globe.
But recently I have invested in a FOX digital shock pump. You might think that’s a bit extravagant, but in this day and age a couple of PSI can make all the difference and it has proven to be invaluable. I was recently on a trip with a FOX engineer who changed my fork pressure by 2.5 PSI and it actually made a world of difference. Incredible to hear from a guy that still does the tyre pinch to check the pressure.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
Well if you were to ask our mechanics they would say I forget that grease exists when I build or maintain my bikes. I understand the relevance of grease, coming from an engineering background, but inevitably forget to grease things. When I ask the mechanics to have a look at something, the stock statement is ‘All good now, and even applied some grease for you..’ Oh well!
I’ve also developed an eidetic memory, but only for trails. I freak people out when I ride a trail once and remember rocks, trees and specific features that they struggle to remember even though they have ridden said trail a hundred times. I have been know to throw down the gauntlet now and again, “that I could remember any trail I have ever ridden in my life from memory and go and ride it”. Please don’t test me….
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
If you ride, you dig. It is a pretty simple idea and just take a minute to think about it. If every mountain biker dedicates just one day a year of effort off the bike, just think of the impact it would have on your own enjoyment of the trails you love the most. You spend only one day’s effort, everyone else spends one day of effort and you all benefit from hundreds of days of free effort on the trails you love the most, simple.
Also, ignore the trolls and forum warriors, who try to tell you what mountain biking should/ shouldn’t be. They’ll just destroy your stoke. Not one of them has designed, created, crafted or built anything in their lives, they haven’t driven anything forward or benefited anyone in a positive manner, they are just noise, and noise that we don’t need to hear in this increasingly negative world.
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?
The day that stands out in my mind as one to remember for the rest of my life and probably sits at the top of my best rides ever, is a day traversing from Lanín volcano to Villarica volcano in Chile. I was riding with Matt Hunter and Rene Wildhaber. It was a rough, rustic and a trail that has never been ridden by mountain bikes, so we were totally in the unknown. As we set off we knew we had 45km of epic landscape, uninterrupted sun, no shade and ever changing terrain that would test us all as the day went on.
We were surrounded by Araucaría trees, volcanic rocks the size of a television that weighed the same as a feather, and soil that changed colour as much as the wind. We made our way across a number of high passes and plateaux until, at around 20 minutes before complete darkness, we are standing at 1800m on top of a ridge with 360 degree views over unbroken forest. We knew we had 800m to descend to camp and only 20 minutes to do it in, and going by the rest of the day this would be impossible, but we set off in a train of tired but very happy mountain bikers, laughing and shouting as the descent kept going, twisting, turning and roosting corners like a purpose-built trail would.
After about 18 minutes we burst out of the forest into a clearing, laughing and pulling thorns out of our gloves, wondering where we were and how far camp was. In the last few moments of light, our local friend Cristián came out of the dark with bottles of beer and a welcoming smile: ”Camp is just over here, and we heard you descending that whole trail, laughing and shouting your way down, so we got the dinner on!” Amazing.
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?
Electronic devices, GPS, Garmin, iPhone apps, watches, heart rate monitors it goes on and on and on. They only serve to distract you from the reason you are out there, to ride your bike, reset, burn some energy and enjoy exploring the outdoors. Try it, have a mini digital detox every time you hit the trails, it really is liberating. You might also be surprised that if you listen to your body a bit more on a ride, you get to understand it a bit better, which you never know, may lead to better performance…
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
What motivates me is giving people an unforgettable experience, plain and simple, that’s why we do what we do. And how do I get my inspiration back? I hit the trails. We plan lunchtime rides most days from our HQ in Inverness, where we can get a fix of most types of riding, so it’s ideal. If were mulling over a decision we hit XC trails, or if we are need an adrenaline boost for a creative chat in the afternoon we hit the more Enduro trails.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
Finding and riding new trails in far off destinations. Adventuring into the unknown really gets the blood flowing and ultimately, that’s what led to H+I Adventures being formed, and still runs deep in our DNA. That’s why ‘Adventures’ is in the name, we like to push the boundaries a bit, push people’s comfort zones, all safe in the knowledge that when we reach our destination for the night we have a little slice of luxury and outstanding local food and drink to ease away the day’s activities.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
Anything fat bike or gravel bike. That’s just my personal view.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
I feel that over the past year or two ‘standards’ seem to have settled down a bit, so I would love to see ‘standards’ becoming more ‘standard’. Making life a lot easier for everyone involved. I am not suggesting innovation should slow down or stop, just work within certain parameters of ‘standards’.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
I would give Pete Drew from Silverfish a shout, he’s got some good insights and chat. And thanks to Hannah at Flare for suggesting us!