Mountain biking royalty

I had my first cover feature published in Red Bulletin last month, and it was the kind of project I love to work on. I was flown to Malaga in February, with a photographer and creative director, to meet Gee, Dan and Rachel Atherton, three siblings who are at the pinnacle of the daredevil sport of downhill mountain-bike racing. We hung out in their villa, drunk peppermint tea, and talked about what a crazily risky activity it is, and how their extreme hype keeps them going. Then we headed up a nearby mountain to watch them bomb down it.

It’s a conversation that will stick with me for a couple of reasons. First, the dynamic between the three siblings, all in their thirties now, was really beautiful. I’m one of five siblings, and I found it moving the way they all supported each other, with a healthy dose of mocking asides.

Secondly, the way that Gee and Rachel talked about Dan was inspiring. They said that he’s always blazed his own trail, and what’s propelled him is his total self-belief. He sets his sights on an impossible-looking goal, commits to it, and figures everything else out on the fly, rather than focusing on the obstacles right at the start. I know, intellectually, that is what it takes to do something extraordinary, but it’s always galvanising to meet someone who really lives this way—and who is pretty laid-back and unassuming about his achievements at the same time.

Every feature I’ve done for Red Bulletin has stuck with me in this way. Late last year I talked to Ross Edgeley, just a couple of days before he completed his insane swim around mainland Britain, and found the conversation similarly exhilarating.

Last summer, for my first piece for the magazine, I travelled to Camp VC, an all-women motorbike festival in Wales, and met people who are still my friends now. I even took my Compulsory Basic Training, a decision sparked by the women I met, a few weeks ago, so I’m hoping to hire a small 125cc bike for my return to Camp VC in 2019.

I can’t wait to find out where the magazine will send me next.

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