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 to you from Tom Hutton.
One of the UK’s most experienced guides, having guided all over the UK for decades, was MBR’s main man for routes for 19 years and is currently representing mountain biking (through OpenMTB and Cycling-UK) on the Welsh Government’s Access Reform Advisory Group.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I asked my closest riding buddy, Steph, and she said ‘brave and lazy’. I’m sure accident-prone should be in there somewhere too.
What thing or things have you bought in the last year that had the biggest effect on your life as a mountain biker?
Definitely my van. I’ve converted a LWB Transit into an MT- specific camper. It’s made impromptu riding trips easy and cheap and it’s also great to be able to make a hot cuppa while your getting changed at the end of another cold, wet ride.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
Oh, loads… But the one that will probably seem the weirdest to most MTBers is that I really enjoy carrying uphill, if my bike goes on my shoulder then I know I’m on an adventure.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Hear: Put the mountains in your mountain biking. I think all riders should take occasional breaks from bike parks, trail centres and their local woods and head out into the mountains. There really is nothing better than being on your bike in a wild and remote landscape, miles from anywhere or anyone.
Ignore: Well, it’s not really advice but I’d ignore anyone that knocks road riding. It’s fun, especially in a group working together, it’s great for fitness and it’s taught me to love the climbs rather than seeing them as a necessary evil.
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?
In 30 years, with over 20 years working as a route researcher, there really have been so many, but the one that trumps all the others would have to be riding Glen Sligachan, on the Isle of Skye, in April 2015.
It was the last day of the first holiday we’d ever run (now known as the Ultimate Scotland Wild Trail Safari). It was a hot, sunny spring day, some of the group even went for a dip in the sea, the riding was as good as ever, and I was just so stoked that we’d pulled it off, that my idea had actually worked, and that everybody had such a brilliant time. That became the model for our business.
I’d change one thing though. Steph would have been there too, but this was before she’d started out on the guiding path.
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?
Injuries. Not just the big ones, but there have been a few of them, but also the annoying, getting old type ones like back pain, sore knees too.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
If I’m riding with Steph then I don’t need to, I don’t have a choice. She’s a bit of a machine and doesn’t really cut me any slack.
If I’m riding alone or with friends, then I just remember how I felt after breaking my neck back in 2015, when I was lying in a hospital bed not knowing if I’d ever ride again. Right then, I’d have given the world just to be out in the worst possible weather on the worst trail ever… I try to hold on to that feeling.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
I just love being in wild, remote landscapes with great people and my bike. Even more so if the trail ahead’s pointing downhill.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
Dare I say Brexit?
It’s obviously too early to measure any impact it will have, but a lot of our bike parks and trail centres, including Bike Park Wales and Coed y Brenin, were part-funded by the EU. Add to that more restrictive and more complicated European travel and work arrangements, and potential price rises due to increased duties and I don’t think our lot is going to be getting any better.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
The Welsh Government Access Reforms. Whilst it can’t actually happen in the next year, the shape of the changes will be pretty much finalised and if all goes well, we could see some major gains for mountain biking.
I’d also love to see the mountain bike industry in the UK start to get involved in trail advocacy and access. At the moment, mountain biking is represented both at local and national levels by groups of volunteers like OpenMTB and Peak District MTB.
It’s great to see money going into racing at all levels, but I really think it’s time the manufacturers, distributors and importers also put a few pounds into developing and maintaining access. After all, we all need somewhere to ride the bikes once we’ve bought them. .
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Emyr Davies, Kie Foster, Chris Gibbs, Andrew Nelson and Adrian Bradley.