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 come to you from 18 Bikes’ chief and Ride Sheffield stalwart, Si Bowns.

Anyone who has ridden any of the classic Peak District routes will no doubt have found themselves in Hope, and will have wandered in 18 Bikes, where Si Bowns is king. Voted best bike shop at the Singletrack Reader Awards 2019, Si has made the shop more than just a place where bikes are bought and fixed. Si is also instrumental in the Ride Sheffield setup.

How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?

I do a lot of my riding on my tod, but I reckon that folks who I’ve ridden with would describe me as happiest up a hill, plodding across the Peak District. A man with more enthusiasm than skill.

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 commute bike. It’s that nudge to commute much more by bike, without feeling like I’m wearing myself out completely. I don’t want commuting to be my only activity, the e-bike means that I’m fine to gym/mountain bike/whatever on top of the commute miles. I’m a proper e-bike evangelist now, unashamedly.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

I don’t think it’s that unusual, but I go through phases of liking a particular bike or type of riding, then moving on to something else. Sometimes that’s pushed by a new bike, or perhaps a race or event that I want to train for.

I always return to mountain bikes, but I’ve been through phases of loving road riding and CX at various stages. It’s all bikes, but sometimes I need to switch it up to keep my motivation up. I see plenty of folks in the bike trade who are completely jaded by bikes and barely ride which is a huge shame.

What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?

Ride with people who are older than you, younger than you, faster than you and slower than you. You’ll take something from all of them.

Ignore those who say you need the latest and greatest bike or kit. Cheaper components have never been so good, there’s a much quicker trickle down of tech these days. I think we’re in a great place right now. Sure, you can spend big money and get something really special, but mid level bikes and kit are bloody great.

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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?

Too tough to answer that one. Clearly I still need to hunt out that one killer trip.

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?

As a rider, nothing that springs to mind. In work, I’ve wasted time listing every blooming option of bikes/parts on the website. Not worthwhile for a wee shop like ours. Sure, the web’s important, but not as much as the local scene and community.

How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?

Weather helps, but it’s rare that there’s a bike ride that’s not actually enjoyable. Once you’ve got over the initial “heading out of the house” bit and you’re rolling along, it’s all good. Feet, hands and head warm during the winter makes a difference. It can be right to wait until the motivation is there though. Downtime and other hobbies have their place too. A break and then return refreshed and enthusiastic again.

What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?

I grew up in the Peak District and I’m lucky to still be working there, living in Sheffield. That gives me an easy route to escape and be quickly on top of a hill away from it all – whether that’s from work or home. At times, I love this solitude and space. I think that’s my favourite thing about bikes, it’s so easy to escape.

What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?

I think that in general we could simplify a few things. Fewer options, better stock and potentially a cheaper price. Tyres are the worst for this, no doubt.

What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?

I’d like to see the industry supporting riding groups and helping to look after trails. Maintenance, new build, rights of way. We’re pretty buggered if we’re left with nowhere decent to ride. I’m really proud of what we’ve done at Ride Sheffield, something I enjoy putting time into. I hope that we’ll see more companies switching onto this.

The other frustrating thing is how little time the bike trade spends riding together. Several of our brands have moved their dealer events to have much more of a ride focus and I think that works incredibly well, it’s the reason we all work with bikes after all. Then looking the other way, I think that shops should do more riding events with customers too, we’re trying our best there.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Nick’s (Hamilton) done a top job covering the Sheffield side, all of which I’d agree on, so to add to that I’d say Dan Critchlow, Rachel and Doddy at Hope, Martha Gill, Bex Baraona, Nick Craig, Dan Hearn, Mike Sanderson. Any of the crew at Jungle/Santa Cruz UK would be interesting too.

Check out 18 Bikes 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.


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