Wise Words is our new interview series talking to some of mountain biking’s most switched on people.
Wise Words is where 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 is back with a bang and this week’s wisdom is coming to you from Andy Barlow.
Andy Barlow is a former member of The Clan, cross country pinner, and current lead coach at Tweed Valley coaching setup Dirt School who will be celebrating a decade in business this year. There will be few people in Scotland, and maybe even the UK, that have helped coach as many people to become better riders as Andy.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
Probably that I drink too much coffee.
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?
A power meter for my road bike. It’s completely changed the way I ride and train. Most riders gauge their effort on their perceived exertion or heart rate. Power is always reliable, so it’s a much more reliable metric to work with. I’ve been doing it wrong for years!
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
Loads. I’ve been riding for over twenty years so I have lots of bad habits. I’m very aware of a disconnect at my shoulders for balance. Nowadays you should keep your riding position relatively neutral and low, and use your knees and hips to balance. It’s hard to change when you’ve been doing it wrong for half your life.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Definitely bend your elbows more and never keep your weight back. Oh, and learn to manual. You won’t regret it.
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 hardly ever ride my mountain bike for fun nowadays, but last year Baller persuaded me to head out with him one evening after we’d had a meeting. I left my bag in the van, wore a t-shirt, and I clipped in. It was amazing.
I’m so used to being responsible for a group that it was so refreshing to just blast around the forest with no kit bag or plan. I set a PB on a couple of trails and I couldn’t believe that neither of us crashed. I need to do that more in 2019.
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?
I don’t think a person should be afraid of making mistakes. That’s how we learn after all. As long as you try to better yourself as you go through life then you’ll always be making progress.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
I hang out with friends or family. Dirt School work is brilliant, but it can be exhausting always being active and sociable. I love going for a road ride with friends or having dinner with my wife. Even just having lunch with my folks can be enough to put things into perspective.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
Identifying a particular aspect of another rider’s technique, and working out how to apply it to my own riding. I’m a kinaesthetic learner, so I have to feel it for myself to be able to understand it and communicate it properly.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
I don’t know if I’d erase anything. We could get into a weird Butterfly Effect and never be the same again.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
A new wheel size would be nice. I don’t think it’s confusing enough for people yet.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
BASE Student Tom Wilson, Laughland Enduro Scholarship rider Polly Henderson, and Dirt School coach Joe Flanagan.
Check out everything Dirt School-related over on their website here.
You can catch all our previous Wise Words interviews with the likes of Sven Martin, Manon Carpenter, Ric McLaughlin and plenty more here.