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 none other than Julia MacLean.
Though she’ll likely be the last to tell you, Julia MacLean has quietly racked up a serious skillset that makes her pretty handy both on and off the bike. Whether it’s working as a race technician for Fox, guiding and coaching for GoWhere Scotland on their Mountain Lassies trips, running Scotland’s only suspension service centre or helping make Dunkeld the riding destination it is today, Julia can do it all.
Photos by Connor McLeod.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I would like to think they’d say I’m fun and encouraging… but in reality, they’d probably say “chatty, and I get on surprising well for someone so clumsy.”
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 fitness/strength training program. I was getting really frustrated that no matter how much I rode my bike I didn’t feel my fitness or stamina improving. It’s really satisfying being able to make it up steep, technical climbs now or riding for hours and still having the energy for another lap.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I’m pretty obsessed with trying to keep my feet on the pedals at all times. Taj (my partner) always tells me it’s not a trials competition and I won’t lose points for a dab, but if I don’t ride a trail clean there’s always a tiny part of me that’s disappointed. I need to learn to enjoy a foot plant.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
One piece of advice everyone should hear… Remember you’re doing this because it’s supposed to be fun. If you’re not having fun try doing it differently.
One piece of advice they should ignore… Hang off the back of your bike when you’re going downhill. Someone told me this when I first got a bike 8 years ago and it’s a habit I still have to fight against every time I ride.
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?
There are so many new places to ride and explore I’d rather take that day and spend it experiencing somewhere I’ve never been.
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?
Putting myself down and doubting myself. Luckily, I’ve been surrounded my people who believe in me and encourage me. That has really helped to give me the confidence to do things that scare me.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
This will sound ridiculous, but I usually start by tidying our house. If my surroundings get too chaotic then my brain gets chaotic and I struggle with focus and motivation. I find the process pretty therapeutic.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
I love exhausting myself cycling, pushing and carrying my bike to the top of a rugged hill, enjoying the view, then riding as much as I can of it on the way back down. For me that’s proper mountain biking.
Also, the feeling you get when you ride a corner well. That’s pretty awesome.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
An obvious one (although not industry-specific) would have to be but COVID-19.
Other than that, probably all of Tahnee’s injuries. In fact, all of the injuries in the women’s DH field. There was such a strong field of women at the top and it was really exciting to watch. It has given a few of the other riders a chance to shine and gain confidence though so things will be even better when we finally get back to racing.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
I would like to see people switch off the internet racing and actually ride the trails as they were designed. The corners are the best bit. I don’t understand why so many people are obsessed with cutting them just to get a fast time.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Taj, and Lynne Armstrong.
Keep tabs on Julia’s adventures on her Instagram feed here.
You can catch all our previous Wise Words interviews with the likes of Sven Martin, Manon Carpenter, Ric McLaughlin and plenty more here.