Wise Words | Martin Astley.

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 Mr. Martin Astley.

If you’ve happened across Martin Astley then you’ll know doubt know as co-founder and director of Bikepark Wales. Before being part of the team that brought arguably the best bike park in the UK, Martin was at the sharp end of the pack at the Maxiavalanche races, ran the Kona demo setup in Canada and was marketing manager for Hotlines. A man of many talents.

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

I’m not sure I’d like to hear what they would say… I think they would probably use a lot of adjectives such as “determined, focused and motivated” but I’d like to hope they might hint at the fact that I love a bit of toilet humour and a good laugh too. I’m sure they would also say that I love riding bikes.

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?

First up it has to be the Kids Ride Shotgun seat. I have had so much fun with my two young boys during lockdown on that thing, it has created lots of smiles and great memories as well as hopefully a life loving bikes for bikes for Ben and Josh.

The second thing has to be waterproof riding trousers. I’ve been riding bikes for 25 years, why have I only just cottoned on to this one? Total game changer for winter riding.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

I ride both clips and flats and don’t really have a preference? I also like riding alone, not all the time but I’d say 80% of my riding is done solo and I like it that way. I’m not exactly patient and I don’t like faff. Actually I should have answered that to question 1, my friends would definitely say I have a low faff tolerance.

Photo by James Vincent

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

Everyone should hear:

Don’t believe everything you are told, take time to forge your own opinions about people, companies, riding styles, products, whatever really. The internet era has meant everyone has a voice, don’t aimlessly follow, be your own person and create your own informed opinions. You may well find that you happen to love something your best friend hates and that’s perfectly OK.

Everyone should ignore:

I’m not sure really, see above. I like to listen and take snippets of information from various sources to form an opinion, if you don’t take anything you are told as gospel, can there really be bad advice?

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?

Man that’s really tough. I’ve been incredibly blessed and have ridden in some of the most amazing places with some awesome people so that’s a tough call.

Built On Baggies

One that really jumps out though would be August 2007, I’d been working for Kona in Canada that summer and I was running their booth at Crankworx Whistler, looking after the riders, running demo’s etc. It was the day of the Canadian open DH and Fabian Barel and Tracy Mosely both won the race. I’d been telling them about this amazing trail that at the time wasn’t that well known (it is now).

Fab and Tracy finished their race runs and were right away like “let’s go!” It was a bit of an epic to ride this trail at the time with a hike-a-bike of about an hour plus a load more faff and they were both keen to get straight at it after their race runs. The trail was epic, all my best friends were there, the weather was perfect and Tracy and Fab were so stoked to ride the trail, it was just perfect. We finished with beers and what ended up being a very funny and late night.

This was just before I came back to the UK to start my “career” and that ride will always be a perfect snapshot of what was an amazing summer of bikes and buddies.

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?

Social media, I find it has just become such a negative place. If I didn’t need to be on it for work I wouldn’t use it anymore.

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

I’m lucky to be someone who very rarely lacks motivation. I guess when I do I try to look beyond whatever the immediate barrier is that’s stopping me from acting (I’m tired, it’s raining etc) and look toward the reward on the other side (the buzz of a great ride, being fitter, success etc).

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

Wow, so many things. I think it would have to be escape though. I tend to get quite stressed and riding my bike is the one reliable thing that can help nine times out of ten. Riding my bike is the only way I can reliably experience “flow state” where I am thinking of nothing other than my immediate surroundings. Calming a busy mind and getting a physical sense of well-being from exercise is very valuable to me.

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

Coronavirus would be the obvious answer, it has been a huge kick in the balls for the world. A lot of the cycling industry has faired pretty well from it but it has been absolutely crippling for us at BikePark Wales. We were closed for 4 months with no income at all and are now closed again, likely for a long time.

A lot of people seem to think we are some mega corp but we are just a small business and this has hit us really, really hard. We will survive but it’s frustrating as we are in the midst of so many exciting developments, many of which will now be delayed for years as we recover.

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

A fast move to become a more sustainable industry. Coronavirus is the clear and present danger but we must not lose sight of the immediate action that is required now to preserve this amazing planet. As riders we all have an affinity for the natural world, we need to be considering everything we do and how we can reduce our impact. This is a big focus for me right now with an aim to being the world’s first carbon neutral bike park.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Your very own Ben Plenge is a great guy who has led an interesting life, also my good buddy Tom Hey, he’s an ex pat living in NZ and now builds trails for a living including Crankworx slopestyle courses (he still guinea pigs everything he builds at knocking on 40 years old) and has built lines for Brandon Semenuk edits and many of the world’s best riders.

You can catch all our previous Wise Words interviews with the likes of Sven Martin, Manon Carpenter, Ric McLaughlin and plenty more here.