If you’re a social media regular you may have noticed recent posts by a new account called ‘The MTB Colour Collective’, which is a new UK based movement aimed at celebrating and increasing the participation of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds within mountain biking. Its founding members include mountain bikers and prominent champions of diversity in the outdoors, Aneela McKenna and Phil Young.
We’re a community group focused on celebrating and increasing participation of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds within Mountain Biking. We aim to develop pathways by establishing a visible and representative network of leaders, mentors and fellow riders from diverse backgrounds, to encourage new communities to try the sport.MTB Colour Collective
On a recent video call, the founding members of the Colour Collective were talking about how they’d come to discover mountain biking, what they love about it, and some of the misconceptions they’d encountered when explaining to their non-riding friends what they do for fun.
To celebrate the official launch of the Colour Collective, we’ve gathered together some of their stories. From these, we hope you’ll see that not all mountain bike rides are in the mountains, and that there are many different ways to enjoy the sport we call ‘mountain biking’.
1. Justin Yates
I started mountain biking 7 years ago. The only reason I found it is due to my passion for adrenaline sports. I’ve always been involved with extreme sports – Motor Racing, I used to build and race Kit Cars and then moved into Superbikes which I raced at a high club level. It was through Superbikes that I found mountain bikes as a way of fitness. After six months of riding them, I fell in love with the sport.
It was so accessible that I could do it every day and get my much-needed adrenaline kick more often.
After two years of MTB I retired from Superbikes and started racing mountain bikes. The main drive for me is adrenaline and technology, I’m fortunate enough to have a good job that allows me to experiment with bikes and try new trends. It’s all about the next 1 second of speed I can find from the trail.
During my time mountain biking I have been accepted into a community and it gives many benefits other than speed.The social side of mountain biking is just as rewarding. You can be at the top of a mountain and the next person you bump into is instantly your friend and you’ll probably end up riding down with them…..Not many sports are like that. Another benefit for me is my mental wellbeing, having a stressful job is only possible by being about to get out and ride – this can be solo or with a group.
The importance of getting outside is critical to feeling good and mountain biking gives me this in bundles.
Bottom line from me – try it: it’s welcoming, it’s fun, its rewarding, it’s awesome.
2. Jo Shwe
Mountain biking was a pre-requisite to a lasting partnership with my other half, however I was not as good as I had made out at the beginning, and remember being quite scared on the blue at Sherwood Pines! Fast forward four years and many crashes later, I am lucky enough to have ridden all across the UK and in France experiencing natural and bike park style riding with both my partner and step daughter, it’s very much a family affair and although I do not have a preference type of riding, the thrill of riding downhill on terrain that is challenging always gives me a mad rush of exhilaration, and always will.
My passion for mountain biking and my desire to offer broader opportunities for the young people I teach at Evolve Academy in Wakefield was the catalyst to working with Trash Free Trails and pioneering the TrashMob Academy education scheme. Through mountain biking, I continue to connect young people with nature and help them to become environmental stewards of their outside spaces. With the honour of being the Chairlady of Yorkshire Trail Collective, and ambassador for Cotic bikes, I have been empowered as a women of colour to not only lead a team of mountain bike enthusiasts in driving for change, but I am able to share my passion and drive for diversity and inclusivity within a bike company, who show true allyship within the community of colour. It is a very privileged position to be in.
MTB colour collective, has become my hub and space to have open and safe discussions surrounding people of colour accessing and enjoying mountain biking. It has grown into a group of amazing people who simply love their bikes and long to support the community of colour alongside one another.
Mountain biking for me is truly a vehicle for positivity, connection and change, both metaphorically and literally. I intend to qualify as a Mountain bike leader, to further enable me to reach the wider unrepresented community, showing that people of colour can belong on mountain bikes, and to share the connection that mountain biking can bring to your inner soul and well being.
3. Jasmin Rachel Patel
Despite being an outdoorsy, athletic kid, I rarely spent time alone in the outdoors when I was younger. I was easily spooked and had been through enough crap at school that I diligently avoided being caught anywhere without a friend or familiar adult close by.
It wasn’t until, around my 31st birthday, Leeds Urban Bike Park opened their woodland trail and in turn opened up mountain biking as both a local and solo activity for me. For the next couple of months you could often find me after work, racing the sunset, lapping the trail until it truly became too dark to ride.
At some point when I was too busy thinking about how to get round that corner faster, or how to pump through those bumps smoother, I forgot to be afraid. I became happy on my own, whether I was frittering away time session-ing the same lines over and over or smashing out “fitness laps” as fast as I could. Instead of feeling anxious about being alone, I found a quiet confidence and contentment which gradually leaked into the rest of my life. Mountain biking taught me to be totally at ease, both in my surroundings and in my own skin.
4. Kirsty Pallas
I’m pretty new to mountain biking, I only started in February after lockdowns encouraged me to get on my bike to explore more locally, and decided I needed to upgrade from the one I got when I was 13. Before I thought biking looked cool, but would prefer to be rock climbing, or just used a bike to get to climbs. But now I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it! When I’m climbing I get caught up with worrying about performance or if I’m doing better than last time, but on the bike I can just enjoy the activity for its own sake. I like that you can get off and walk round the hard or scary bit and there’s no judgement – or you can give it a bash with all the support from others.
While I’d like to do some longer distance rides through the Scottish Highlands, so far I’m obsessed with going downhill, whether that’s at trail centres or natural routes. I love reading the trail, planning a line, moving my body in the right way, and trying to do it all at speed. I’m hoping to add some MTB qualifications to my skills soon, but I’m in no hurry since it’s so much fun to practice!
5. Manveet Kaur Dhaliwal
I tried mountain biking a few years ago but was put off by my experience. On a wet and miserable day I found myself dragging a bike up a hill to ride down a path. It just didn’t make sense how this could be fun. Fast forward to March 2020 lockdown and I tried again. This time I was properly introduced to a mountain bike and appropriate trails. I realised the difference an effective and knowledgeable leader could make. I was able to discover the type of riding I enjoyed; fast, fun and flowy trails with the occasional steep technical. Enduro, downhill, dirt jump, trail centres and bike parks; I love it all. I found racing to be a way to meet other riders and it was great to see people competing at elite level or just for fun. For me, there’s no better feeling than noticing my confidence increase and being able to attempt features I wouldn’t have dreamt of doing when I first started. My aim is to become a qualified MTB leader and use my experiences to show others how great it is.
6. Waheed Hassan
“Come and play football with us, call yourself a real British Asian” shouted the others from the top deck of the yellow college bus. Little did my buddies know that I didn’t want to be the next Imran Khan or Waqar Younis. My passion was mountain biking and all I enjoyed was listening to Queen’s, ‘I want to ride my bicycle ’ or Bohemian Rhapsody’s Bismillah on my Sony Walkman and racing in to campus on my reliant Marin Bobcat. I knew then I was never going to ‘bend it like Beckham’ or be the next Mohamed Salah, but may be, just may be, I could SEND IT like Steve Peat one day!
My name is Waheed Hassan; I live in Lancashire and have been mountain biking for 25 years. From what started in the Pentlands, pootling around blue trails, I now have the freedom to be more devilish and play locally at Rivington or go north or south of the Pennines and within 40 minutes, be in the lap of the Lakes or the Peak District. I love the peace and tranquility that mountain biking brings to me and I get a spiritual connection knowing that’s where I can forget all my worries. Mountain biking for me has not only helped me mentally but it has opened up a network where I have connected with like-minded people. More recently I have made new friends through the MTB Colour Collective. I guess the only colour that is missing now from my riding is a yellow college bus to overtake downhill on the trails. Then again, I guess there are enough obstacles to avoid.
7. Vedangi Kulkarni
From marshalling at a DH race for the very first time in 2017 to learning how to actually ride mountain bikes (i.e.- not sitting on the saddle on downhills, leaning into the berms to get better grip, not skipping past the rough stuff, etc) in 2019 to now feeling confident on and falling in love with rough, rocky and rooty tracks and getting around to learning how to pump and jump properly, knowingly or unknowingly, I’ve been involved in mountain biking for a while now.
Every time I’d go to a race – to marshal or to just look around – I’d feel curious about what goes behind the scenes of organising these events. Earlier this year, whilst sitting on the couch with my partner, who had just been back from a MTB coaching session with Jay Williamson, he told me about a mountain biking accident that had happened involving the Jay’s girlfriend, Casey Gemma. She had suffered a spinal cord injury and was told that she’s unlikely to walk again. I couldn’t stop crying. I could see every single person that I know who rides bikes, including myself, face that on any given day, through no fault of their own. I looked up and read every single thing that I could possibly get my hands on to learn more about spinal cord injuries, to know more about where they are with the research at the moment. And all of that played a part in the decision to organise a mountain biking race where adapted bikes are welcome to race along with the other bikes, in an effort to raise funds for Wings For Life and Casey’s recovery fundraiser. It took place on 7th November 2021 at Gawton Gravity Hub and, quite excitingly, we were overbooked in advance of race day.
I am passionate about encouraging people to up-level their skills and build confidence on bikes. I truly believe that this is a key element in increasing female participation in mountain biking races. Along with organising mountain bike races and events supporting my passions, I am also working towards getting my mountain bike leader qualifications.
8. Manny Bashah
I’m a 52 year old MTB rider/BMX coach. I started riding mountain bikes in 2002, after giving up smoking and trying to get healthy. I used to ride BMX back in the 80s a lot and mountain biking was the natural progression from that. I ride because it’s kept me sane, stress relief and good for the soul. Best thing about it is the community, I’ve made some amazing friends from all walks of life and meeting inspirational people along the way. Riding goals are to stay on my bike as much as possible and support my son on his mountain bike journey. When I was growing up, my parents couldn’t really afford to take me to places to ride so I am trying to give him what I never had – different times back then as my father was first generation immigrant and establishing himself and family in the UK.
I set up a BMX track in Pendle Lancashire, after badgering the council for four and half years, and in 2016 I established a club there. I now have 120 kids on the books, and regularly coach 60 kids on Saturday morning. I’m a Level 2 BMX Coach, hopefully going for my MTB qualification.
I’m also an advocate for Papyrus, who are the charity involved in the prevention of Young Suicide in the UK.
I would love to see more people of colour in MTB so that others may be inspired to try it. It’s an awesome sport, with the best community and lots of friends made.
9. Jolly Shash
Two years ago a painful knee injury found me struggling to find a low impact sport I would enjoy. An aversion to road cycling and swimming found me googling ‘mountain bike’ at work. Within hours my first MTB, a mint green Fuji, was mine. Those first rides on trails near home were tentative, slow and I’ll admit very scary. The carefree childhood ease of being pushed and told to keep pedalling isn’t in my memory bank. I’m from a Bangladeshi family of four sisters where none of us played sport or exercised, it just wasn’t acceptable or encouraged, meaning I didn’t learn to ride until my mid twenties. I’m fortunate my partner is a competitive cyclist, and with his encouragement and patience I slowly started to increase my mileage and started riding further afield.
Fast forward to the start of the COVID 19 pandemic and like everyone who could get out I relished the daily exercise of riding my bike. It was my tonic to escape. I noticed how quickly my shoulders relaxed, my breathing slowed and troubles eased, winding my way round local trails in Epping Forest. I always ride solo and recently I’ve felt isolated and wanted to be part of a community. I answered a call by diversity in sport advocate Aneela McKenna, to establish the MTB Colour Collective and through that I was lucky enough to be invited to join a ride alongside 130 women with the FNY Collective in Glentress Scotland. It was my first ride on graded trails and I rode well out of my comfort zone (including steep rocky sections on a black!). At first I panicked as I struggled to maintain the smooth pace of the other riders but throughout the day everyone from experienced riders to coaches to newbies shared their tips and stories with me. They all had one thing in common: passion for riding and an indomitable spirit. It was one of the most empowering, supportive experiences I’ve ever had. If I think too hard about it I regret not riding sooner. But you can make up for lost time..and whilst I can’t promise I’ll be ripping up black trails anytime soon, I know one thing and that is my sport is MTB and I’ll be a rider for life.
Maybe you’ve read these stories and thought ‘They’re like me’, ‘I’m like them’, or ‘I want to be like them’? Whatever bikes they ride, and wherever they’re riding, these riders share common tales of finding joy in mountain biking, of stress release and escape, and of growing confidence. If that sounds like something you’d like to experience, grab a bike and head out into your nearest patch of countryside, woodland trails or even canal towpath. Once you start exploring, who knows where the trail may take you?
If you’d like the support of other riders and the chance to meet other people of colour who are into mountain biking, then check out the MTB Colour Collective who can be found here:
The MTB Colour Collective is hoping to provide supported opportunities and events for people of colour to experience mountain biking in a range of settings and locations. If you’re a brand, organisation or qualified coach or ride leader who would be interested in supporting such initiatives, please get in touch with Aneela MeKenna.