Wise Words | Fiona Finnie.

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 Fiona Finnie.

Based in the Cairngorms National Park, Fiona Finnie is part British Cycling L2 coach, part BC L3 guide, one of the triumvirate behind the womens-only Limitlass festival.

Photo by Thomas Salway.

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

According to my friend Megan: “Always up for a 2-wheeled adventure and passionate about helping others explore the world of mountain biking. Kind, thoughtful, empathetic, a good listener, understanding and just generally one of the best people you’ll ever meet.” Aww, thanks Megan.

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 gravel bike. I got my Rocky Mountain Solo last summer and it has been amazing, especially while recovering from injury. It allowed me to start building some fitness back and still get out into the mountains, without necessarily going up them. I’ve done a couple of bikepacking trips on it now and I’m loving mixing that up with the mountain biking.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

Hmmm, I’m not sure. I never ride without glasses or some form of eye wear though and I always, always have good snacks.

Photo by Ed Smith.

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

Show up. Don’t stress about being too slow or not skilled enough to tackle all the features on a ride. Who cares? Your friends will wait, and you’ll get fitter in the process. Ride what you can, don’t stress about the rest. The same goes for racing. You may never feel fully prepared, but if you want to race, show up (especially if you’re a woman) and embrace the journey of learning and enjoying it all.

Ignore things that make you feel bad. Whether it’s social media, negative people, or whatever, it’s just not worth your energy and time. Focus on the positive and leave the rest behind.

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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 mountain bike ride was in 2016. It was a women’s led ride in Aviemore, organised by my local bike shop. There were over 100 women there, all far cooler and more capable than me on my borrowed bike, wearing gym gear. I was buzzing that day, and felt so inspired. I bought my own bike a couple of weeks later and haven’t looked back. Re-riding that day would serve as a good reminder of how far I’ve come personally, as well as being a testament to the power of shared experiences. Despite the fact I was totally clueless back then, I wouldn’t change a thing.

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?

Being scared to ask questions. I used to feel embarrassed if I didn’t know stuff, like how to fix something, and that stopped me from learning. When I was doing the training for my Level 3 Leadership qualification, I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and ask for help, especially with the trailside repairs side of things. It turns out it’s not that scary and that people are usually really willing to help and share their knowledge.

Photo by Thomas Salway.

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

I’m generally a pretty motivated person, and I have learned to be patient with myself when I’m not feeling it, as I know it will come back. A solo blast on the bike with the headphones in is usually a good way to reset. I love a good organise too, nothing makes me happier than a tidy tool box and organised kit.

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

Without a doubt, the thing about riding bikes that I gain the most happiness from is the places my bike takes me. I’ve been up Munros, seen beautiful lochs and ventured to remote and wild corners of Scotland, all places I would likely never had accessed without my bike. I love the pace you travel at on a bike, fast enough to cover a good amount of distance, but slow enough that you can take it all in.

Photo by Hannah Bailey.

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

I’m not sure it counts as ‘cycling history’, but I’d love to erase breaking my ankle last July. Ten months on and I still have a long rode of rehab ahead. Despite it being horrible in every way, some positive things have come out of being injured. It has motivated me to become even fitter and stronger than before, and I’ve gained a deeper appreciation of how important mountain biking is for my well-being.

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

I would like to see more event organisers making a deliberate effort to increase women’s participation. I think a percentage of places should be set aside for women, to help address the gender imbalance at events and create a more inclusive environment. The Highland Trail 550, who achieved a 50/50 gender split this year, is a great example of how successful this can be and the positive impact it can have.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Vedangi Kulkarni, Anna Riddell, Katie Wooster.

You can keep tabs on Fiona’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.

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