Wise Words | Jess Stone.

Wise Words is our 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 Jess Stone.

Jess Stone is one of a long line of riders to graduate from the academy of Tracy Moseley’s tutelage, a former top ten World Cup downhiller turned coach, she proved she’s got the speed and the fitness to win Enduro World Series stages, even if she blows up her finger in the process.

Photo by Dave Price.

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

They would probably say I’m a joker, always laughing and telling dad jokes or puns. Probably say I’m a smooth criminal on the bike.

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?

Nothing I’ve bought but my sister bought me a smart trainer last year so I spent a bit of time on Zwift for a few months over the winter. I was skeptical at first but it was absolutely brilliant, I was properly hooked. As I work in the week, it was hard to get out afterwards when it was dark and miserable, so when I wasn’t feeling as motivated or weather was poor I would jump on Zwift.

I ended up doing the Festive 500 on it which was hard going. Also with being in lockdown over that period as well, it was nice to be able to virtually ride with friends and call them up and chat and ride. I’d obviously prefer to be outside, but under the circumstances it was great. It’s especially handy now since breaking my finger to keep up the fitness.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

I recently noticed when I’m racing (because I’ve now usually got a GoPro on), when I’m on the start line about to set off I puff out a couple of times and slap the sides of my quads a couple of times. I have no idea why I do it. I gain nothing from it I’ve just seemed to have myself into a routine. I must look so weird doing it. You’ll notice it on my YouTube race videos now.

Photo by ALC Photography.

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

Have fun. Session trails. Be a kid and play on the trails, do the same corner a few times. I always stop and repeat a section if I’ve not quite got it, until I’ve got it right. So many people focus on smashing out the miles but you have to dedicate just as much time to the skills as well.

The only thing I can think of right now with regards to what to ignore… The most frequent one I hear (probably more tuned into it being a coach). This advice is usually offered when someone is nervous about riding steep stuff … “ahh it’s fine, just get your weight back!” It’s really not good advice and it’s quite dangerous actually. I’ve seen it happen so many times, that person goes down, weight right back, stiff as anything and either can’t turn, front wheel washes out or they get thrown over the bars the moment they hit any kind of step in the trail. If you are nervous, invest in yourself get a coach and trust me it’ll unlock so much for you.

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?

My first ever EWS in Innerleithen of course. Hell yes I’d go back to that in a second. It was so cool for me, for so long I’ve worked hard because I believed I could be up there at the top of the sport but for it to never happen on a world level in DH, I often doubted myself. So to be leading my first ever World Enduro by 8 seconds and win a stage (the same stage I broke my finger on) was somewhat surreal but also a relief.

I guess the moral of the story is to never doubt yourself and always believe in yourself, at some point your time will come. It’s a shame I couldn’t finish the race from snapping my finger in half so I would change that bit if I could go back.

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?

I definitely regret putting pressure on myself to win races when I was racing downhill, I wish I had given up that need to succeed a long time ago and just enjoy the sport for what it is. I don’t think I really realised or understood at the time but the pressure I put on myself was immense. Winning races was not an ego thing, it was about securing sponsorship so that I could get the support I needed and also win the prize money so that I could pay race entries and pay for expenses to get to the races.

Also all I dreamt of was to put on that GB jersey at a World Championships and that meant hitting the criteria at World Cups. What it meant was, when I didn’t win or get that top 10 at the World Cups it was stressful because I’d then worry about the impact of not having that result or the prize money. The funny thing is I always hit the criteria after the selection was made. So frustrating.

In the end, it took all the joy out of racing and bike riding for me and I took a break. I have however, learned a lot from that and I now approach my races in a much different and mature way. I am not focused on the result, but on what I have to do to get there, and if it means I get beat, then so be it. It really doesn’t matter it’s bike racing, I love it and I want to have fun.

Photo by ALC Photography.

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

I remind myself why I’m doing what I’m doing and that’s usually enough. However, making plans with friends and sticking to them absolutely helps. I like to try and say yes to invites to ride with friends as while I may not be wholly enthusiastic at the time or even when I wake up to go, it always ends up being an absolute belter of a day and lifts me for the rest of the week. If I am lacking inspiration, I do something different, like taking my beautiful dogs for a walk up a munro, SUPing or wild dipping, anything. For me, variety is absolutely the spice of life.

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

To name just one, probably having fun with friends and meeting new ones. I get a real buzz from everyone’s energy and stoke. I am at my most happiest shredding a rad trail with a good crew laughing hard, scaring ourselves, cheering and finishing the ride with a good beer. I also love meeting new people through the sport, we are such a rad bunch aren’t we.

Photo by Digital Downhill.

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

Easy one… COVID. Just for all the obvious reasons.

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

Next year, I’d like to do a bit more with the youngsters I’ve taken under my wing to help them progress and get better. Help build the next generation of racer/riders. I have some ideas I’d like to try and put into action. I just need time which is hard when you have to juggle work, life and training.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Marc Beaumont and Helen Gaskell. These two really inspired me when I started riding and they are both super interesting awesome people.

You can keep tabs on Jess’ racing exploits 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.