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 come to you from none other than Helen Gaskell.
Helen Gaskell has an Elite downhill career stretching back to the late 90s, peaking in the mid-2000s with a string of podiums kicked off by a silver at the Sierra Nevada World Champs. Since hanging up her downhill boots, she’s taken to be annoyingly fast at enduro too. Helen’s also a qualified coach and runs her own business, MTB Insurance.
Photos by Matty Waudby.
How would your closest riding buddies describe you to someone who has never met you?
I asked a couple of my friends to see what they would say, it was interesting to know that one thinks I faff a lot with bike set up (not sure I agree) then the rest said, born racer, smooth, laid back and always buzzing for an adventure and not that keen on map reading.
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?
I have just recently bought an old Land Rover 4×4 which is mega for getting to riding spots especially if it snows. I have also upgraded to a better surfboard so it’s helping me stand up a lot easier now, I love surfing, it’s incredibly hard but I love the challenge.
What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?
Pretty soft suspension set up and I run a steep head angle on my bikes.
I also name a track after who I have ridden it with rather than the correct Strava names, it can get very confusing for friends.
What piece of advice do you think every mountain bike rider should hear? And what piece should they ignore?
Life is for living, be a yes man/woman/human, go ride your bike everywhere and anywhere with your friends/partners/kids. Also get a e-bike and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
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?
Oh this is hard, I don’t like to regret things, everything happens for a reason but I would love to go back to racing at Fort William DH World Cup and just miss that hole that sent me flying over the bars in to the bracken on the side of the track, I was so close to winning and wanted to so badly.
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 used to worry about what people think too much, I have got loads better at not giving a f*ck.
How do you motivate yourself when you’re struggling or lacking inspiration?
I always think back to when I was injured with a rubbish back injury, I couldn’t ride for over a year, and I think how lucky I am now to be able to ride so get your lazy ass out the door.
What single and specific thing about riding bicycles do you gain the most happiness from?
I love being outside in the woods or mountains with my partner Lucy, my dog Travis and riding friends and just riding sick steep tracks, the best things in life are free and riding gives you this feeling like nothing else can.
What single thing would you like to erase from cycling history from the last year?
Mullets (the hairstyle).
What single thing would you like to make happen in the cycling world in the next year?
I have set some big-ish personal goals that I want to make happen in 2023, I also want to continue helping fellow riders with all the grown-up things that you have to do in life, if you need my help fire over a message at my business MTB Insurance.
Who else should we ask these questions to?
Lucy Bell and Georgia Leslie.
You can keep tabs on Helen’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.