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 wisdom comes to you from the man who has Sheffield steel running in his blood, Mr. Nick Hamilton.
Nick Hamilton likes to keep himself busy. Sports engineer, organiser of races big and small, Sheffield’s biggest cheerleader, and one of the architects of a scene that is envied worldwide. There isn’t many things Nick can’t or doesn’t already do…
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I dread to think… although I love my mates, they do talk a lot of shit. They’d probably set me right up and enjoy every minute of it… maybe because that’s what I’d do to them… Quid pro quo and that. It would be some combination of:
Knob head (you’ve got to take the piss, this is Yorkshire after all, deprecation and defamation are second nature). Rum-Pusher (for both rewards and punishments); Race organiser (#DualRules); Bike-breaker (much exaggerated and untrue, may stem from early riding career mistakes); Mountain biker (although all wheels are considered, the big knobbly ones are preferred); Sheffield evangelist (If you’ve got it, flaunt it), Smiler (disarm them at 10 paces), Doer (just make things happen).
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?
E-bike, no question, but as a support vehicle. I’ve got two kids and bikes are my preferred form of transport. We bought a family e-bike, mainly for my wife to use, but I soon found that it was a great enabler.
I could tow my 3 year old lad up hills with a bit of rope, e-bike uplift, and he could enjoy the downhill trails with a massive grin on his face. Or we could roll down the woods to the local skate park and I could pull him back up home where we would have used the car before.
When we added a Mac ride kid seat for our youngest she just loved getting around by bike and was soon pulling brake levers at inopportune moments. Proper family memories.
What really sold us on the idea was when a mate, Mike Kercel who works for Raleigh, lent us one for a week to try out. We were riding along a bike route in Pembrokeshire, me with the eldest on a bike seat on my Santa Cruz, and my wife with the little ‘un in a baby carrier on the e-bike.
It was all going really well, chatting away, enjoying the scenery, then we hit the first hill. As my wife disappeared up it, cackling with laughter as she saw me disappear further and further out of view, we just knew we had to have one. They’re a great leveller and I think enabler is the perfect term; you don’t always need them but sometimes, they make all the difference
Unfortunately the bugger got nicked last week so we’re without at the moment but hopefully that will be rectified soon.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I organise mates races, I don’t think that’s very usual, but should be. It enhances my enjoyment of riding bikes if I get to ride them with other people and adding the element of a race heightens that even further. I love taking a daft idea for a race and making it happen. I’m quite good at organising people and convincing them that its not a bad idea… just a daft one.
We all come out with smiles on our faces, most of the time. The This is Sheffield winter dual series has been running since 2010 and I would love for it to continue long enough that my kids can come and race. Starting at 8pm means their bedtimes have got to get a bit later yet.
Also, I’m a full time Sports Engineer at Sheffield Hallam University, which means that I have a background in mechanical engineering and design. When I’m reading about the latest and greatest innovation in the industry I’ll always have quite a critical eye on the claims that are made and the differences that are inferred… although it never tempers my excitement.
I do wish that more scientific rigour were applied to areas like bike tests to tease out bias and opinion and, as a data geek, more graphs please. Get in touch if you need any advice.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Advice – I harped on for ages about serving a hardtail apprenticeship: that everyone should experience mountain bikes through hardtails to begin with, develop their skills and enjoyment before moving on to a bouncy skill compensator. Now, I’m not sure that is such a good idea, what’s more important is experiencing the fun that bikes can bring to your life in whatever form that takes. Just ride ya bike.
Ignorance – Probably most of it. Peoples’ opinions are subjective and completely affected by their own experiences. If you listen to someone else you’re not going to have a complete picture to make up your own mind from. Just give it a go, what’s the worst that can happen? I’ve always learnt from mistakes, fail early and often.
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?
This is really tough… how do you choose just one day? I was thinking my mate Dave’s 30th in Whistler when his Mrs Carrie arranged a heli drop; or when Piers flew 10 of us out to Hafjel for a decedent descending weekend; or ‘working’ on the Trans Provence and being left at the Col de Champs with the crew at sunrise and witnessing the splendour the followed; or when Dirt had me report on the World Champs and I got to witness Ratboy not braking for that bridge; or going right back to when me, Rod and Ed had an amazing days riding in Brighton with Matt and Dave then got stranded by the London to Brighton bike race and had to wrap our bikes in cardboard to get them on the train.
But as it has to be just one, it was Peaty’s last World Cup race in Andorra in 2016. I was out in France with the family and the stars aligned meaning that I could have a few days riding in Vallnord and be there for the last run of Steve’s world cup career. The riding was brilliant finding loads of off piste trails down the mountain and getting laps in all day.
The combination of asking around and putting the effort in to find new spots was rewarded with gold. It culminated in seeing Steve cross the line for the last time and a dramatic win for Danny Hart. What I would change though, is to not have been there… when I got back to the in laws the next day I found my son razzing around their garden on his balance bike. He’d been on it for a few months but not quite got the knack yet.
Those few days I was away was when he had nailed it, in his grandparents garden, and was zooming down the grassy hills. He’s gone to be a proper shredder with the biggest grin on his face (and mine) when he’s on two wheels… but it would have been amazing to be there for the first time the penny dropped.
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?
Hoarding bike components. I’ve got boxes full of now redundant bike parts and frames that I am too stupid to have either sold when they still had some value or chucked now that they don’t. So its probably not the time but the cash I have wasted. I still have shed loads of pairs of 26” tyres with only my jump bike left to fit them to… It’s not often in need of a set of spikes, mainly as they are banned for winter dual. I’m a hoarder and it’s a very bad habit.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
Do something new or different. I’m a great procrastinator and have inherited the genes from my father, Hamish. However, over the years I’ve realised that its actually just part of my process. If I try to eliminate it too much then the end result is not a rich as it could be. If its wet out and I’m a bit knackered then fettling the really unimportant part on my bike might waste half an hour, but will get my head in the right place to go and have fun for the next couple. If I’d gone straight out I would have been in the wrong frame of mind and not gone to find that old trail I haven’t ridden for years which was wicked!
Equally I’ve learnt not to let it go to far and just to get on with things… just try something… talk to someone about it… have a coffee or a beer and let the mind flow. Inspiration can strike at the most inopportune moments, long may it continue.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
Sharing the ride. I’m much happier riding with others, it’s a social activity for me, and the chat and ‘push’ I gain from companionship is normally way more invigorating than the trail or bike that I’m on. Seeing someone else try a line, or cutty a verge, fires those neurons that get me on it too.
Having a chat with someone up a bastard climb takes my mind off the grind and leaves me surprised that we are already at the top. Coming up with impossible or improbable ideas for new race formats often makes me want to just make them happen. The first sip of a pint at the end of an exhausting adventure tastes much sweeter if you’ve got another glass to cheers it against.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
My win at the first round of this year’s This is Sheffield winter dual series. Although I’m so chuffed to have taken the win (mainly thanks to a coming together with Chris Pearson in the Semi) the result is that I have been riding high in the points for the rest of the season meaning I’m getting fucked over in the seeding. This means I face either Will ‘the destroyer’ Swinden or Dave ‘Berms’ Camus in the first rounds so spend more time in praccy than racing… ahh well.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
Its time to get little kids racing dual… the next generation need to get inspired and trained up!
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Keep it in Sheffield and find out what makes the Steel City tick:
Jon Dallow, Richard Baybutt, Joe Bowman, Oliver Green, Hanna Jonsson, Dave Camus, Craig Evans, Adela Carter, Josh Lewis, Sam McQueen, Annie Last, Chloe Taylor, Jordan Gould, Lucy Follet, James Irwin, Steve Taylor, Rob Jolley, James Petit, Alex Gunn, Henry Norman, Carrie Poole, Si Bowns,, Will Swinden, Gareth Jones, Ben Lowe, Marc Etches, Adrian Smith, Dan Cook, George French, Ed Brazier, James Crossland, Gee Milner and Rob Copeland.