Aoife Glass is a popular mountain bike journalist and host of Spindrift, a podcast that shares the stories of active people, their lives and their adventures. She lives in the Forest of Dean and takes full advantage of the wonderful trails there!It’s the eve of Bike Week – the annual celebration of everything that’s wonderful about cycling. We celebrate by catching up with Aoife Glass, mountain bike journalist and host of Spindrift, a podcast that shares the stories of active people, their lives and their adventures.
Hey Aoife, tell everybody where are you based and what you do!
I live in the Forest of Dean, where there are plenty of amazing MTB and gravel trails right on my doorstep. I’m a freelance writer, editor and podcaster; I used to be the women’s editor for BikeRadar, and before that the Deputy Editor of Total Women’s Cycling, so I’m all about increasing representation and support for women in cycling. I now write for a few different websites and magazines, but my favourite work is my podcast – Spindrift – which is all about sharing the stories of interesting people, their lives and their adventures. And I’m also working towards a degree in Environmental Law and Sustainable Development, because I want to ensure that the beautiful environments I get to experience by bike are valued and protected.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
While I was never sporty as a child in the traditional sense (I used to bunk off PE all the time) I always loved adventures and being outdoors and would wander around the woods near my granny’s house making pretend camps. I got into snowboarding when I was at University and that was my first taste of mountain adventure. Then, in my very late twenties, I started commuting to work by bike on my brother’s old MTB, and the rest is, as they say, history. I loved being able to cover distances under my own steam, stop and look at amazing views, watch the seasons change day-by-day – it was all magical, and cycling has had my heart ever since.
What has been your favourite trip or adventure?
I’ve had some amazing adventures which have mostly been made amazing by the people I’ve shared them with, but the one I’m most longing to recreate at the moment is mountain biking and wild camping in the Scottish Highlands a few years ago. It was in the Torridon region, and it involved a long ride, followed by a long hike-a-bike, up to a high pass.
We camped for the night, and it was my first proper wild camp – it was thrilling! Then in the morning, we packed everything up and rode down the mountain and home to breakfast and a refreshing dip in the loch. I’d love to do more bikepacking and wild camping in the future.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
With difficulty, since I’m very bad at giving myself enough time to do other things! While I love freelance work, I’m terrible for sitting down first thing in the morning and then working through ‘till the evening. It’s not great, so for 2021 I’m making a concerted effort to get out on my bike or for a walk every day, even if it’s just for 30 minutes. Once I’ve left the house, I’m in heaven, so to make it easier getting out the door I try to have everything to hand so I’m not scrabbling ‘round trying to find shorts and gloves and glasses.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
I was lucky enough to work at the Natural History Museum in London as one of my earlier jobs, and I made a great group of friends there who were all up for adventures of all kinds, so I’d say they were my inspiration. Each of them has particular passions and expertise, like Mike who’d take us walking through the Lake District or Paul who was a brilliant skier. But what everyone there had in common was an enthusiasm for bringing other people along for the adventure and introducing them to the experiences you could have outdoors, without being patronising or arrogant or elitist – we all just had a lot of fun!
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Absolutely, and it’s why I need to make more of an effort to get out regularly. I have anxiety that often manifests in a range of physical ways, like breathing difficulties or digestive issues and other ‘fun’ things. But when I’m out riding, all my whizzing brain energy is focussed entirely on the trail and the environment I’m riding in and it leaves no room for stressful thoughts, so even though it’s physically hard work, mentally, I come back feeling rested. It’s not a complete cure, but it does certainly help me manage it.
What is it about cycling specifically that you love?
There is so much I love about cycling. I love the sense that my own body can carry me distances over roads or trails, and I can get from A to B myself. I love those wonderful mountain bike rides where everything comes together and you’re flying down the trail almost faster than your brain can consciously follow, breathless and totally alive. I love the friends I’ve met and the communities that have welcomed me through bikes. I could go on, and on, and on . . .
When did you discover FINDRA?
I first met Alex, FINDRA’s founder, years ago at Eurobike when I was working at Total Women’s Cycling. Eurobike is a huge bike industry trade show, and Alex was there with the newly formed FINDRA range. Both myself and Kirsty, the editor, were really excited to see bike kit designed for women that was so different from the limited offerings available elsewhere. Kit that used natural materials, that didn’t just look like the usual lycra jerseys, and that had a unique approach to design, manufacturing and marketing.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Everyone learns at their own pace, in their own way, and there’s no ‘right’ way of learning. I’m quite a cautious rider and don’t particularly want to break myself, and I used to feel a bit rubbish about how much longer it took me to progress since I didn’t like just throwing speed at features and obstacles. But now I’m quite content to just enjoy riding, and if I’m feeling confident I’ll do a feature, if I’m not, that’s okay, I’ll do it another day. I’m not racing, it isn’t a competition, and it’s supposed to be fun.
What do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more?
You don’t need the latest bike or high tech kit to go out and ride; any bike that works is a great bike, will carry you far, take you adventures and give you amazing experiences and memories.
Thanks Aoife it was good to chat with you!
PODCAST OF THE WEEK
I write for a few different websites and magazines, but my favourite work is my podcast – Spindrift – which is all about sharing the stories of active people, their lives and their adventures.
Each week, Spindrift is joined by a different guest from the world of cycling, from pro-riders to industry insiders & from community advocates to everyday adventurers.
To access the podcast visit the Spindrift website here:
TRAIL OF THE WEEK
Forest of Dean
I started volunteering with my local trail crew in 2020 (the Dean Trail Volunteers in the Forest of Dean) and it’s given me a new found appreciation of the work that goes into building and maintaining the mountain bike trails we ride.
It’s physical work, so it’s great for getting a sweat on (who needs a gym?!) and the sense of satisfaction you get when you complete a section of trail or fix something up is immense. There’s one drain I’ve dug that I insist on pointing out to everyone I’m riding with! It engenders a sense of custodianship and pride; I want to care for the trails, to make them nice for people to ride, and to ensure others have a good time riding here.
Also, the digs are great fun and there’s wonderful camaraderie. I’d highly recommend giving up a few hours to joining a local dig – you won’t regret it!
Visit the Trailforks website or Forestry England Cannop Cycle Centre for an overview of Forrest of Dean trails:
I love art, and after a long hiatus I’ve started dabbling again with things like gouache and linocut printing. But one artist whose work just consistently blows my mind is Sam Gare.
She’s co-founder of the Wilderness Arts Collective and she paints the most amazing mountain scapes. The way she captures the sense of space, the light falling on rocks or trees or snow, the character of the mountains – it’s just incredible.
I’ll never be as good as her, but I love just looking at her work – I feel like she captures how I feel when I’m in those environments.
To see more mountain art from Same Gare visit her website:
MUSIC OF THE WEEK
Basket Case by Green Day
I feel like I should choose something epic or artsy here, but in reality, the piece of music I most associate with mountain biking is the song Basket Case by Green Day, but not for the reasons you’re probably thinking – it doesn’t have anything much to do with the lyrics!
When I get nervous, I sing myself down trails. In this case, my go-to song is Basket Case, but I sing it in a sort-of jazz/swing style – if you know Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox band, then that kinda thing.
I don’t know whether the singing means I’m breathing and not holding my breath, or just that it takes a bit of my mind off what I’m doing, but it definitely works!