Wise Words | Ian Warby.

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 Ian Warby.

Ian Warby has offered coaching at Aston Hill for a quarter of a century, helped develop first Forestry Commission dedicated mountain bike centre in the UK on Aston Hill, led Nationally on mountain biking at the cycling organisation CTC (Now Cycling UK) from 2007 through to 2014, developed the CTC Mountain Bike Skills Instructor Award, he also established and trained a UK wide network of mountain bike skills instructors and skills coaches. He now runs Firecrest MTB which, amongst other things, rolls out British Cycling’s Youth Development Programme.

Photos by Neil Hawkins.

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

Fun, fast (hopefully), full of energy and passion for all things MTB.

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?

It has to be adding to my Freelap Timing System. For riders of all ages and experience time is the true test and being able to calibrate chronological time and a riders perceived time must be one of the most interesting things to do and to see happen as a coach.

I don’t use it on all the courses I run but as a rider develops it becomes an essential tool from a coaching perspective and the insight it brings has a huge effect on a riders speed and confidence.

What unusual habits do you have as a bike rider?

I think a lot about my cadence and pedaling efficiency. It’s the old XC racer in me, I’m sure.

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

We all look down. It’s looking down less often and for less time that’s the key. Bouncing your eyes down the trail like a bouncy ball, looking for the nearest high point to you in elevation as far down the trail as you can see it (a posh way to describe looking up as I tell my clients) is the essential. Don’t beat yourself up if you look down, just look up more.

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Move your weight back… The modern mountain bikes geometry now puts us in the right place. We are all riding very different bikes to the ones we did back in the 90’s and 00’s but the advice seems to have stayed the same for some. Stay tall and then you’ll stay centered and the bike will feel balanced underneath 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?

There are so many rides that I would love to do again, but I think I’d go back and ride any of the rides I did as a teenager with my friends in Wendover Woods back in the early 90’s. I’d love to be able to help my young self with my technical skills too. I used to be OK technically, but if I’d known what I know now that would have made a real difference.

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?

Memorizing mountain bike trails. If only I’d realized that I could just read them like you do a book. I thought that I had to remember everything about the trail, whereas now I just forget that I’ve ridden that trail and read it afresh each time. The trail will have evolved, and I’ll probably be going faster, trying to remember everything about that trail is impossible but reading it again and staying in the moment makes a real difference.

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

Videos are always good, these days with YouTube there always something there to get you motivated to get out for a ride. Working with the riders on my Young Rider Development Programme is good too. They are so keen to hit the trails, and they learn so fast, that reminds you why you love mountain biking.

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

The freedom it brings.

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

Any crashes where someone has had a life-changing injury.

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

Get everyone who tried mountain biking during the pandemic and when we were in lockdown to try it again now the restrictions are lifted. They didn’t get the full flavour of all the bike parks and amazing places to ride as they were closed or riders were limited in terms of travel during the pandemic. If you had good riding on your doorstep you were fine if you didn’t then you should probably go out and try it again. We have some amazing places to ride in the UK and you shouldn’t turn your back on mountain biking until you’ve tried them.

Who else should we ask these questions to?

Andy Ayres and Jordan Williams.

You can keep tabs on Ian’s adventures on his 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.