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 Mr. Chris Hall.
You might not know the name Chris Hall, but it’s highly likely that you’ll know his voice, as the main man behind the ever-popular Downtime Podcast. If they’re anyone worth talking to in the cycling industry, then there’s either already a podcast with them or they’re waiting in the wings. There’s plenty of chat to catch up on if you’re new to Downtime.
Photos by Rich Baybutt.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I thought I’d ask some riding mates, here’s what they came back with…
“You always try and make people in the group feel welcome. Better rider than you think you are. Prone to over-thinking things. Used to be amazing at eating lots of pizza. Can’t drop off a curb. Empiricist. Wise-cracker. Fashion pioneer. Once got bitten on the bum by a rat. Suffers from jet lag worse than most. Likes a rest day.”
Not sure how helpful that is.
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 gym membership and a mountain bike specific training plan (Strength Factory Complete MTB Programme). Since our daughter was born, I’ve had less time. I don’t get to ride as often as I’d like, so being in the best condition possible when I do ride means that I can do more, I enjoy it more, and I ride better and safer. It’s pretty amazing what you can achieve in a short space of time given the right knowledge and a consistent approach.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
I like to check my tyre pressures before a ride, and I don’t like having mismatched tyre brands front and rear, but I don’t think that’s too unusual… is it?
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Every piece of advice you receive needs to be thought about before you decide if you’re going to take it or not, but if I had to give some advice, I’d say that mountain biking is supposed to be enjoyable. If there is something going on that’s stopping it from being fun for you, then question that and do something about it.
As for what piece of advice people should ignore, well, anything from someone you don’t trust, anything that doesn’t pass your own sense test, or anything that just doesn’t feel right to you. Deep down you know what’s right.
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 is one day that really stands out to me, and that’s a day in Pila with a big group of mates from Uni and from where I grew up. Our guide took us on a hike up to the ridgeline at the very top of the resort, which was incredible to ride and definitely provoked some vertigo in a few of the group. Once you get off the ridgeline you’ve got super fast, open, sweeping trails on the piste and as you get lower you drop into the most amazing loamy, steep rootfest that you’ve ever seen.
I remember whooping and hollering following a good friend down through there. If that wasn’t enough, then we rolled down to a restaurant in town, and sat in the garden with a view of the mountains, some of my best mates, our bikes, one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten (and there have been a lot) and a few beers. Cap that off with the owner of the restaurant insisting we leave by riding our bikes through the busy restaurant while he plays ‘God Save the Queen’ by the Sex Pistols at full blast on the stereo. That day will never be repeated, but it will always stand out in my memory and I wouldn’t change any of it.
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?
Worrying about what other people think. There is a difference between worrying about what others think and caring about others though.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
In most situations, going for a ride fixes that problem. If the motivation I’m lacking is the motivation to ride a bike, then that’s a bit more tricky. That does happen from time to time, but I find if I don’t stress myself about it and just go with it, then it soon passes and I can’t wait to get out again.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
There are lots of things about riding bikes that make me happy, but if I’m picking one then it has to be riding with friends. The buzz that you get in a group at the bottom of a good trail, where everyone is chatting about how they nearly hit that tree, or how they’ve never gone that far off that jump before, or how rad that section is, it’s just the most amazing feeling.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
Maybe that’s too strong of a term for it, but there has been a lot of negativity cropping up in mountain biking in the last year. The massive increase of people using the outdoors has led to clashes between user groups, and that in turn has caused trail closures to riders in some places. There seems to be some hesitation to welcome all the new riders that have picked up our sport over the last year too.
I can see some of the reasons for that, but being welcoming and helping them understand what it means to be a ‘good’ mountain biker in every sense of the word is the best approach. I’ve also seen plenty of hate in forums and comments across the mountain bike world. This becomes especially noticeable when the subject is the diversity of the sport, but it’s there on so many topics.
There seems to be tension between some racers and people making money from riding in other ways, like influencers or YouTubers. To me, it all feels kind of wrong. I’ve always felt that mountain biking was a friendly sport and that’s a big part of why I love it. For a huge percentage, that’s still the case, but it does feel like the undercurrent of negativity is growing. I guess this is all part of the rapid growth that the sport is experiencing, but I’d love it if people took the time to really think about it and try to take a friendly, thoughtful and considered approach to stuff.
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
A full race season, with heaps of fans at all the races. I don’t think I need to explain that one!
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Richard Baybutt from Cotic and Yoann Barelli.
Keep tabs on the Downtime Podcast by heading to 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.