Wise Words | Katie May.

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 Katie May.

Comfortably at the sharp end of the womens’ Scottish enduro scene, Katie May is also co-founder of the womens-only MTB festival Limitlass, as well as co-founder for Deeside MTB, a guiding company based in the north east of Scotland, and a qualified level 3 guide.

Photo by 57 Media.

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

They’d probably just describe me as small (I’m only 5ft). I did ask Fee (one third of the Limitlass trio) and she said ‘small but mighty’, so I guess I wasn’t wrong.

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?

My little pupper Bidean. He’s a cocker spaniel and has taken to trail dog life like a dream. It’s the absolute best seeing him fleeing down the hillside in front of me (and yes, he should be behind, but we can’t win every ride).

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

If I’m on a ride and something on my bike isn’t quite right, I generally won’t fix it until the ride is finished so people don’t have to wait for me. For example, I let too much air out my tyre recently and instead of pumping it back up to an appropriate pressure I left it semi-flat.

Or the other day I realized my bars were squint and I refused to take the time to fix them. In my head, I’ll suffer for the ‘greater good’ of the ride rather than hold people up.

Photo by Michael Salt.

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

I was taught to ride with the ‘just lean back’ philosophy. Sorry Dad, you’ve taught me many good things but that was not one of them. Maybe that advice was from his 90s XC days but thankfully neither of us ‘just lean back’ anymore.

The best piece of advice I received, which transformed my riding, was to get low into features. This is particularly revolutionary when you’re only 5ft.

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?

One of the best days on my bike was in the Aosta Valley. It’s a bit ridiculous because I hardly rode my bike at all. It was a massive hike-a-bike and then I was too nervous to ride some of the features down. We climbed up to a col over 3000m with the most jaw-dropping alpine scenery.

The climb was so steep at one point there was a ladder, sickening trying to hold on to your bike and climb a ladder, but what an incredible experience. One thing I’d change? I wish I could have ridden all the features the whole way down, maybe that’s a challenge for another year…

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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?

The first thing that pops into my head is Instagram. I’m a sucker for just scrolling when I really shouldn’t be. It has given me some amazing opportunities though and is a great way of building a community, so isn’t all bad.

Photo by Michael Salt.

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

I tell myself to go for just one lap. If after one lap I’m still not feeling it, then no pressure I can stop, but usually I’m enjoying it and my mojo has returned by then.

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

Progression. Oh, the buzz you get when you nail a skill or a feature. How good is that feeling. I’m not very good at pushing myself to ride things that scare me so when my brain naturally ‘unlocks’ something for me, it’s incredible. Even more so when shared with friends or when you see that buzz in someone else you’re riding with or guiding.

Does it have to be a single thing? I get a lot of happiness from those moments when the world is putting on a show for you. Be it riding in ‘golden hour’, or glimpsing across at epic mountain vistas, or riding as the sun streams through the pine forests around home. Being immersed in nature is amazing.

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

The reduction in the number of bike races from diverse locations across Scotland. Give us more Dunkeld and Laggan, or Dunoon and Ballo, or even places we’ve not raced before. Yes, the Tweed Valley is great but there’s so much good riding elsewhere in Scotland which would be really cool to race and showcase.

Photo by Michael Salt.

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

I’m terrible at answering single thing questions. Two things.

One, British Cycling officially recognising Enduro as a discipline. Come on.

And two, I want to see more people racing. Particularly women. I think there’s a lot of imposter syndrome putting us off racing but it’s just a cracking ride out with friends. It’s okay to come last. It’s okay to walk your bike when it’s too scary to ride. Find a lite race, find a grassroots race, and just give it a go.

Oh, and more time to plan Limitlass events, obviously.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Chris Redmond (the legend behind Tarland Trails), Claire Bennett and Bex Baraona.

You can keep tabs on Katie’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.