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 Aoife Glass.
Aoife Glass is a freelance chameleon these days but has successfully navigated jobs such as Women’s Editor at BikeRadar and has written for the likes of Red Bull, MBUK, Cycling Plus and Total Womens’ Cycling, then kicked off lockdown with her Silverstrange sessions that kept more than a few entertained.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
Partial to the colour purple. Tendency to giggle madly when riding in horrific weather conditions. Apologises frequently. Loves riding in wild, empty places. Will point out interesting geological features to anyone she’s riding with.
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 industry?
It’s not bike-related, but I have to say my iPad Pro has been super handy for freelance life. It’s small and light enough to make carting it around the place or stowing it in a riding pack easy, and it means I can set up and work pretty much anywhere there’s WiFi. It’s so nice not being tethered to a desk or office, and I work so much better this way.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I have a terrible habit of overthinking things, and then freaking myself out when the riding gets technical and I’m feeling self conscious. So, to distract myself, I’ll sing to myself (though ideally without anyone around to hear me). My go-to song is Greenday’s Basket Case sung in a lounge jazz swing style.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
With the exception of things like ‘always wear a helmet’, be cautious of anyone who tells you mountain biking is one particular thing or another, or that you must use X particular product, or that you have to race if you’re into mountain biking and so on.
Mountain biking can be whatever you want it to be, so take your time, try things out, find your way, and most of all make sure you’re having fun – that’s the only true way to know you’re doing it ‘right’.
If you could go back and re-ride one day from your life so far, what would it be? Would I change anything?
The rides that come to mind are all special because they’re the perfect combination of being in an incredible place, in the company of someone fab, and where my riding just came together.
A prime example is a ride I did with Amanda Wishart from Singletrack Magazine a couple of years ago. We rode Into the Mystic and Lord of the Squirrels in Whistler. The climb went on forever, it was hot and dusty and the views were incredible. I kept singing as we went up as I had bear paranoia.
We had a picnic lunch at the top looking out over a clear view of mountain after mountain, the high alpine meadow at the top was purple with thousands of blooming lupins and the air was thick with the scent. I’ve never ridden as well as I did on the descent; everything just came together, like that mythical flow state that people talk about. I think we both might still be buzzing from that day.
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?
Trying to change myself to fit in. I felt like I had to be a svelte, gung-ho, competitive, one-of-the-lads person. Ah, good old impostor syndrome. It was quite a long while before I realised that really just being myself and having faith in my knowledge and abilities was enough.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking motivation?
I’m a big fan of having a reset trail or two to hand. These are trails that probably aren’t particularly hard or technical, but have plenty of flow and are a lot of fun. When I’m feeling a bit down, or I’ve had an off and am feeling nervey, I’ll head to one of these and ride with no pressure and no expectations.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
I absolutely love being out in nature, and being completely immersed in it – or, as the case often is in the UK, submerged in it. There’s something about getting out there under your own steam. I love being in the middle of a forest and smelling that earthy mulchy smell and drinking in the incredible green of the moss and the sound of the wind in the leaves of the trees.
Or out on a mountain side, wind stealing your breath, with a huge climb behind you and a vast descent before you and the big wide open sky above you. I love spotting the seasons change or catching a glimpse of wildlife in its natural habitat. I can’t get enough.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
Covid-19 hasn’t been a whole lot of fun from a racing perspective, has it? But looking for the sliver of a silver lining it has meant that loads more people have discovered cycling, mountain biking, and the sheer muddy joy that can be found messing about on bikes.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world next year?
I want to see the bike industry acknowledge the fact that it has a problem with racism, and take concrete steps and ideally make a concerted and coordinated effort to ensure mountain biking really is welcoming, supportive and representative of and for everyone. I’m part of it, and I know I need to learn more, listen more, act more and work harder.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
There are so many amazing women in the bike biz it’d be cool to hear from (Wise Words has made great inroads already). How about Ayesha McGowan, Brooklyn Bell, Amanda Wishart, Emily Chappell or Polly Clark?
Keep tabs on Aoife’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.