“I love the freedom, the adventure, the camaraderie and the ground you can cover.” This week we’re chatting to e-mtbiker Hilary Shaw. Hils is a VIP in the Surrey Hills mountain biking community as she makes the legendary cheese straws that sell out each weekend in the village shop. And when she’s not serving cyclists (or David Beckham!)? It’s time to plan the next electric adventure!”
Hey Hilary - Tell everybody where you are based and what you do!
I live and work in Peaslake in the Surrey Hills (the epi-centre for mountain biking in the South East of England!) and, on my days off, I love riding my e-bike in the local hills.
I work part-time in the Peaslake Village Stores where I make the famous cheese straws that have legendary status amongst the local mountain biking community. Our shop is the hub of the village and we also provide a good selection of home made provisions for locals and visitors (including the occasional celebrity!) alike.
How long has the outdoors been part of your life?
Since I left corporate life when I was 28, which was after I embarked on a mad overland trip to Africa.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
I’ve had so many adventures in life and still so many to come, however if I have to select one that changed my life then it would have to be my overland trip through, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, and Zaire. It was there that I saw what real adventure was - and had a near death experience along the way!
We’d travelled to the Okavango Delta in Botswana for a four-day camping trip without tents (just mosquito nets!) and I decided to take some photographs around the campsite, but as I walked out of the camp I came across a lone bull elephant.
I was so excited by the prospect of taking some close up photos so moved in nearer. However the elephant got wind of my presence and did a couple of mini charges at me. Instead of retreating I stupidly moved in closer - a huge mistake as the elephant was now really annoyed and did a full on charge.
Full of adrenaline and fear I made a run for it and the elephant made chase after me. At one point all that was standing between me and him was a large termite hill! Suddenly shots were being fired into the air as the camp guides had realised something was wrong which, thank God, made the elephant turn and run off so I could get to safety.
If it hadn’t have been for the quick thinking guides I think the outcome would have been pretty grim. It was very frightening but that near brush with death made me realise that nature is king and not something to ever take for granted and, most importantly, I was in the elephants natural habitat not him in mine.
On that trip I also learnt that the less people had, the more they danced and the more they smiled. I took what I learnt from this and when I came back I jacked in my corporate job and started my own mobile car valeting business. It made me feel if they could do without things then so could I.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities such as work and family?
Luckily my son is a bit older now so his needs and the time constraints on me (although still very much there) have lessened which has freed up ‘me’ time.
However when I first moved to the area I was five months pregnant and, not knowing a soul and due to pregnancy complications, I didn’t get out about and kept myself to myself. Once my son was born and I got into the swing of motherhood (no easy task) I started mountain biking. My fitness was nonexistent and even walking up a hill was like conquering the north face of the Eiger.
But as time moved on getting out on Saturday mornings became a regular fixture in my ‘me’ diary. I looked forward to getting out on my bike and cycling with my friends; it was like a mobile therapy centre on wheels.
I have worked hard to try to get the balance right between work, my family and our home. Sometimes things go badly wrong, however I find the main reason for things getting really out of control is when I don’t have enough active or outdoor time. Being outdoors helps clear my mind and resets my mental ‘to do’ list button.
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
There isn’t one person in particular although I am so lucky to have a likeminded husband who shares a big love of the outdoors. We both ride, camp, walk, surf, ski, garden etc. Although it sounds a bit of a cliché it’s been my family and friends who have instilled my love of the outdoors and this has never been so important since I had a child of my own. I want him to grow up and see the great outdoors as just that - ‘great’, but I also want him growing up respecting his surroundings.
Do you find that spending time in the outdoors has a positive impact on your well being and mental health?
Most definitely, if I don’t get outdoors my mind turns to jelly and I become sloth like. I hate the impact that not being active or out in nature has on me. It gives me freedom to think: I especially like going out on my own with my lovely Boxer dog Rowley and I mentally solve many problems whilst out enjoying the great outdoors.
What is it about e-mountain biking that you love?
I love the freedom, the adventure, the camaraderie and the ground you can cover. I adore the seasons and have ridden in all weathers - it adds to the mystery and fun of the day if you don’t know what you’re going to face.
I also love the bike itself. I started out on fully rigid bike and boy did I feel every bump. Then I upgraded to a hardtail, thus giving my forearms some respite, then onto full suspension bikes. However now I’m in my mid-fifties my health has taken a few knocks so I’ve moved onto an E-bike. It was a case of either do nothing and stop doing something I enjoy, or go electric.
It turned out to be one of my better decisions and I have no regrets there. I get the freedom to travel bigger distances with my friends, safe in the knowledge when the terrain needs that extra puff, I have my trusty steed to help. I have a Canyon Spectral-On - known to me as Monkey. After every ride it gets a full clean down and check over. I pride myself with keeping it in tip top condition ready for the next adventure.
I really enjoy cycling in the Surrey Hills as there are so many trails and coffee stops (a must on my weekly ride with my friends in the Tuesday Wheelers!). We also like to cycle further afield and have enjoyed the wilds of North and South Wales, Somerset, The Lake District, Scotland… the list goes on and extends to the French Alps and the Sierra Nevada in Spain. Mountain biking along dry river beds with my husband by my side was a massive highlight. Thankfully we had a great guide to help us navigate the terrain.
All in all mountain biking for me is simply pure joy and an e-bike is the best way for me to explore the great outdoors.
When did you discover FINDRA?
Through my friend Adele, who works for the brand.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?Stop competing and just enjoy yourself - it’s not all about the winning it’s the taking part, the journey and just being part of a team.
How would you inspire our followers to get outdoors more?
There’s a whole life out there waiting to be discovered! Start by going outside your home especially at night and just listen - and I mean really listen - it’s amazing the sounds you can pick up if you just stop still. Circular bike or walking routes are fantastic (with watering holes factored in as a must!).
And get out with your friends - it’s the best free therapy around and you feel great when you get home.
Ultimately the outdoors is a great way to get endorphined up! (I don’t think endorphined is a word - but I love it anyway!!).
The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
I love this novel because it shows how closely we’re all ‘unknowingly’ interconnected - five degrees of separation - and how the actions of one person can shape or change another person’s journey.
Favourite Recipe:Mary Berry’s Very Best Chocolate Cake
It’s a bit like the Ronseal advert - it turns out exactly like it says in the recipe and gives the impression you are a better baker than you actually are!Favourite Poem Warning by Jenny Joseph
To me it conjures up that life shouldn’t be taken too seriously and is for living, not saving for special occasions that may never happen. Be bold and stop worrying what people think.
Beautiful Day by U2
OMG that is such a hard one to answer! I love music, but the music I love the most is the music that inspires me to get out there and do something with purpose. So if I had to pick one then it would be ‘Beautiful Day’ by U2
To me this song conjures up that nothing should be taken for granted. Get out there and no matter what is going on or how bad things get, it is still a beautiful day. It inspires me to achieve, if I happen to listen to this whilst outdoors then you can bet your bottom dollar that my pace will significantly increase!!!