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!
Janey Kennedy is dropping the wisdom in this week’s instalment of Wise Words.
If you have booked a Dirt School course, are part of the BASE Mountain Bike course at Borders College or have been guided by Go-Where Scotland then you’ll know that Janey Kennedy lets her riding do the talking. Definitely a pinner but can also help you become a pinner too.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
A mini terminator who never stops, is addicted to exercise and challenging herself. Loves encouraging people to improve and gives them confidence in what they can achieve. Gets excited when others combat fears or achieve goals. Stubborn. Won’t listen to advice even when she knows she should. Can be blunt but you’ll never have to wonder what she really thinks. Loves riding bikes, climbing and spending time outdoors.
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. I bought them a year ago when I first started working for Dirt School as we all use them for coaching. I really hated them for the first 3 months, but they have transformed my riding for the better. I’ll still always love riding clipped in, but flat pedals do wonders for your technique.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
The harder the riding conditions, the more I enjoy it, the muddier and slicker the better. I think most people prefer riding in the dry.
I’m also addicted to tracking my heart rate 24/7 so I can see how stressed my body is and know when I need to rest and let myself recover. If my watch runs out of battery or I forget my Garmin on a ride, well that’s just stressful.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Advice: Bend your elbows.
Also, often people think you improve as a mountain biker by going to ride harder and harder trails and end up dabbing their way down them. I don’t think that’s very beneficial at all, its just survival. You need to practice your skills on trails you can ride, get better at riding those trails smoother and, in more control, build your confidence up and then take yourself onto something harder when you have a good chance of riding it cleanly. Then repeat the process. You don’t get better at riding by riding trails that are too hard for you, you get better by practising skills. I think you have a much better chance of improving your skills when you’re not in an intimidating environment.
Ignore: I often hear riders telling each other to ‘just get your weight back’. Apart from doing a manual, I don’t think there’s ever really a time where you want to get your weight back in the way we all think of it anyway. Even in steep chutes your elbows should still be bent with weight on your front wheel, that’s where all your traction comes from. As soon as you ‘get your weight back’ and lock your arms out, you’re no longer in control of the bike. Of course, your hips do move back slightly when it gets steeper, but you should never be hanging off the back of your bike.
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 have so many days I would love to go back and re-ride without changing anything at all. So, for a more interesting answer, I would go back to practice day of the Innerleithen round of the Scottish Enduro Series in August 2017.
I was leading the series at the time and the red mist definitely came over me. Looking back on it, I wasn’t riding in control that year and was constantly pushing on. Without going into too much detail, I ended up having a massive crash and knocking myself out, resulting in a 3-month long recovery from a severe concussion. It made me realise that riding like that and taking chances just isn’t worth it. I still enjoy racing, but my approach to it is quite different these days.
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?
Trying to give riding advice to my SPD-hopping other-half, Neil. It always ends up in a heated discussion. I don’t think things like that generally work very well between partners. I’ll just book him a session with Andy in the future.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
I generally only really lack motivation over the winter when it’s cold and wet outside, so I either make plans with friends so I can’t bail (and I always enjoy it once I’m out anyway), or, I get on the turbo trainer. I was raised in the Middle East so I do struggle with the cold and I love the turbo so it’s the perfect solution.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
Riding in trains with friends. Socialising on the climbs whilst enjoying being outside and taking turns to lead the descents. It’s even better when you’re all of a similar speed and can push each other on.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
It’s technically more than a year ago now, but local rider and all-round lovely guy, Pete Lloyd, broke his neck after clipping a pedal riding the last bit of trail home that day and is now paralysed from the neck down. I would love to be able to erase that. However, he’s recently been getting back out in the hills with his Quadrix buggy and it’s super inspiring.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
I would love to see the women’s riding scene in the Tweed Valley and beyond continue to grow. More women challenging themselves on more technical terrain would be amazing. I’ve recently launched women’s specific courses through Dirt School with the aim of creating a super mellow, relaxed learning environment where folk can come along to learn new skills and build their confidence. I think the group dynamic is quite different when it’s women-only, everyone encourages each other and pushes each other on and there’s never any pressure.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
My good friend & training buddy Nicki Moore, who’s super-fast, slightly crazy and is also European Continental Enduro Series Women’s Masters Champion.
Dirt School’s top coach, Andy Barlow for some sound riding advice as long as you can put up with his terrible jokes.
Pete Lloyd for some wise words on dealing with injury and living your life to the full.
Ed Shoote from welovemountains.net for all things bike packing all over the world. He’s also involved in the Tweed Valley Bike Park project.