FINDRA & 5 things I learnt about mountain biking in Glentress…without riding a bike
My trip to FINDRA Outdoor Apparel HQ and flagship store in Innerleithen to meet the team behind the brand and local riders left no time to ride, but here’s why I will be returning with my bike!
FINDRA Outdoor Apparel is one of my favourite cycling garment brands. I’ve reviewed the kit before, but this was the first time I had gone ‘behind the scenes’ at brand HQ, where I had been invited to speak about how to deal with fear when mountain biking.
FINDRA was founded by Scottish fashion designer and keen mountain biker Alexandra Feechan because she was aware that there was little available for women who ride to wear. Her subsequent – and award winning – range of top quality tops, beanies, neck and arm warmers stands out for its use of colour and cut. The garments are crafted in merino wool, renown for its warmth, breathability, durability and comfort.
FINDRA also have awesome mtb shorts – not only do they look great, but they’re really durable. I’ve ridden miles in mine (they’re the same as the ones Lee Craigie is wearing in the image above) and they’re still going strong. Findra bobble hats are not only super cute, but also knitted by a real Scottish nana. You don’t get much more authentic than that!
Following on from the brand’s success with mountain bikers, Alex is widening the reach to appeal to adventure loving hikers, horse riders, skiers and boarders. She has enlisted an awe inspiring bunch of brand ambassadors to help spread the word including Emily Chappell and Lee Craigie from The Adventure Syndicate and survival expert Meg Hine, whose book inspired my original post on mountain biking and fear (and which was the reason I was invited up to Scotland to speak).
My flying visit didn’t allow time to ride, but by taking the trip and talking to local riders I met at the talk, I gleaned quite a lot about riding at Glentress and Innerleithen. I look forward to returning, this time with my bike!!
This is what I discovered:
- It’s closer than you think – even when you live in Surrey!
From the Surrey Hills trails where I live and ride, you can fly from Gatwick (half an hour drive) to Edinburgh (an hour and a half flight) and then transfer in an hour to the world famous Glentress Forest trail centre. If all goes to plan, you could have (early) breakfast in Surrey and be on the trails in Scotland by lunchtime!
- Glentress Forest has 60km of trails from green to black level, and you can hire a bike there too – but book ahead, and be warned that smaller sized bikes appear to be quite scarce!!! Innerleithen – six miles down the road – is renown for its downhill riding so you can easily make a weekend of riding in the area.
- There is also lots of reasonably priced local accommodation – I stayed here and it was great, a spa hotel, and something called a ‘Scottish Breakfast’ – no need to ask if that is sufficiently calorific to fuel a morning on the trails.
- No mountain bike ride is complete without a trip to a great café, and there is an awesome one in Innerleithen – No. 1 Peebles Road (almost opposite the FINDRA store!). I will be making their field mushroom and grilled haloumi on toast for the rest of my life. Possibly every day.
- There is a great community of riders here. Those who came out to hear my talk were particularly amazing a) because they sat and listened to me and b) because the discussion that followed was so interesting and in-depth. It was really moving to hear others’ stories of what caused their fear, and how they dealt with it, as well as to hear from confident, competent riders who wanted to encourage others to feel the same.
Finally this from audience member Ruby made the whole trip extra special. She posted it two days after the talk (note: kudos to Ruby for riding some rather damp looking North Shore on her very first ride!!)
Btw, I will be discussing mental health and cycling on a panel at Look Mum No Hands in London on November 7th. If you’re in or near London, do come along! Details here.
Findra Outdoor Apparel is available online and at 83 High Street, Innerleithen, EH44 6HD.
Cycling: defy self-doubt
How to tap into the best version of yourself and get the most from every bike ride.
I recently went to a talk by life coach Bonnie Rasmussen from Rise on how to get the most out of taking part in a sport’s event. It was hosted by Lululemon and Bonnie focussed on running. I was particularly interested in what she told us about self-awareness, and here I have shared some of her ideas over to cycling. I hope you will find them inspiring.
When it comes to riding we all have our strengths and our weaknesses: I don’t know anyone who doesn’t struggle with some aspects of their riding skills. You may love riding downhill but get intimidated by climbs (or vice versa), a particular technical section may remind you of falling off, or you might just believe that you simply cant ride a trail, no matter how many skills sessions you’ve signed up for, nor how often your friends tell you it’s actually quite easy. If you are competing, you might believe you cant win, or that someone deserves to win more than you. Or you just be fighting the fear of coming last, or the often held but rarely admitted fear that no one will like you if you mess up.
A ride will always be unpredictable and can throw up challenges at any point (isn’t this one of the reasons why we love our bikes?). Knowing that you have resources within that you can tap into quickly and effectively can mean the difference between a pulling a great ride out of the bag when you feel challenged, and going home with your tail between your legs.
Increasing self-awareness enables you to use your mind, body and state (your feelings and mood) to your advantage. It’s not difficult, but you do have to practice if you want to be able to switch into a more positive mode effortlessly.
Make it a priority before you start the ride: you check your bike is ride-worthy so why not make sure your self-awareness is too.
So let’s break it down:
What you’re thinking affects your body: for example a funny thought will make you laugh whilst a phobia increases your heart rate). Focussing on positive, confident thoughts will benefit your physical performance and affirmations that you repeat as you ride can be really helpful. Here are a few to in inspire you:
I am strong
Fast and flowing
I can do this
Relax and breathe (one of my favourites)
I am nailing this
I deserve this (I used to use this one when my children were small and I felt guilty about exercising).
Please do share your any that work for you in the comment section below!
Adopt the posture of a strong, focussed and confident person – relax your arms, wrists and face, breathe and have a soft gaze – and you will ride like one. This is easier said than done, of course, when you’re heading for the edge of a huge, rooty drop-off – but it’s so effective that’s it worth persevering.
Feeling calm, light and focused is always going to be preferable – and more enjoyable – to feeling nervous and distracted from the task at hand. If it helps, visualise someone or something that personifies that state:
I tell myself to ride as if I was a very nonchalant Kate Moss – by which I mean self-contained, relaxed and not terribly bothered what anyone else thinks.
I am aware that this sounds a little unusual – but it works for me!
It’s also worth taking a moment to experience gratitude for the opportunity to ride, no matter how well you do. When all is said and done, being able to get out there and love the experience is what really matters.
Photo credit: Adele Mitchell.