Would your dream destination have anything to do with cycling, Andy?
Yes! It’s Whistler Mountain in Canada. But during the summer time because it’s not for the snow; it’s for the biking.
Whistler has a reputation as the “Mecca” for mountain biking, so it’s a place a lot of mountain-bikers would dream of going to.
Have you been to Canada yet?
No, we’ve generally travelled around the eastern side of the world. It would be lovely to see the Canadian scenery though …
Would you take your own bikes?
Lots of ski resorts have bike-orientated activities in the summer and they’re equipped for it, so you can hire bikes there but it can be expensive.
Are there various levels of difficulty for biking routes?
Yes, the bike routes are generally graded in the same way as for skiing, with a blue or green route being easier than a red or black. There are also cross-country routes for those who aren’t so experienced or for those with families, for example. And then there are the full-on downhill routes – with more of the serious stuff!
Which would you opt for?
Probably both! But I won’t confess to being able to do what they’d class as “difficult” in Canada!
What else makes for a “difficult” classification?
Generally it will be steeper and when it gets to the black runs – I think they even have double black diamond runs – then the track will state that you’ve got to be prepared for a “gap”.
Yes – you’ve got to be confident enough to jump the gap otherwise you could get yourself pretty hurt!
Mind over matter or kamikaze?
Just experience … and much more than I have! You must be completely confident for the terrain. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for 15 to 20 years but only got into it more seriously in the past ten years, since I’ve been working in the shop.
Have you been on any overseas biking trips yet?
Yes, my partner Fi and I have been biking in Lefkada – one of the Greek islands – and also at Morzine in the Alps. And I went to Alpe d’Huez with mates in 2010 for the Megavalanche event. It’s a well-known downhill enduro event that starts at the top of a ski black run on a glacier at 3,200 metres. A fun experience! Last summer, Fi and I went to Wales. We stayed in a lovely self-catering cottage within minutes of the marked trails and bike centres. The Forestry Commission receives grants to make proper marked routes, encouraging tourism. The village pub certainly benefits!
What about when it’s lashing down with rain, Andy? Are you still gung ho about cycling?
Most of the time, yes! Over here, races usually go ahead whatever the weather. But sometimes they have to change the venue if it’s too, too muddy.
How do you feel about wearing helmets?
I’m 100% for it! From experience! I came off my bike and fractured my neck and wearing a helmet definitely saved me. Another time last summer, I fell off the bike off-roading and I probably would have had a few other injuries to deal with if I hadn’t had the helmet on. It’s good to wear gloves too, even for normal riding, so your skin is protected if you do have a fall. For mountain-biking you can also get knee and elbow pads – depending on the level of seriousness.
Do you get a real buzz from biking?
Yes, it’s nice to be out in the fresh air and it’s great exercise; it really makes you feel good. Sometimes at the end of a race, when you’re absolutely … how can I say it … “kaput?” – there’s a feeling you’ve really earned that big breakfast at the Watersplash. And that makes it all worthwhile!