For today’s post we chat with Friend of FINDRA, Steven Shand who shares his love of exploring Scotland both locally and further afield.
Hi Steven, great to catch up again and welcome to the FINDRA Journal. We’ve met many times before, but maybe you can introduce yourself to those who don’t know who you are.
I’m Steven Shand, I’m based in Central Scotland and in 2003 I founded Shand Cycles which is now a prominent adventure bike company producing handmade bicycles and bicycle frames here in Scotland. As well as my work with Shand, I also run a bikepacking and outdoor gear brand, Wildcat, manufacturing and selling bikepacking and general outdoor equipment. I have 2 young kids and when I’m not corralling them into some sort of order, I’ll be riding my bike, running in the hills or sea kayak touring.
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
The outdoors has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was brought up in a small town in Southern Scotland so the countryside was never far away. I’ve worked in the outdoor industry for pretty much my whole life so as well as using the hills and woods for recreation, they’ve also been a constant in my work life too.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
That’s a tough one and I’m pretty sure whenever I’m asked that question it’ll be the most recent one! And in this instance, that’s definitely true. I’m just back from a kayak camping trip on the West coast of Scotland which was absolutely amazing. Clear blue seas, amazing sunsets, white sandy beaches, seals, otters and freshly picked mussels cooked on an open fire for tea! What’s not to like?
How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
That’s a tricky one. there never seems to be enough time to fit in real life as well as time to play. I think that some of those restrictions can actually be a good thing though. Recently I’ve started to realise there’s loads of stuff close to home that can be really enjoyable. Paddling in a familiar local river or canal gives you a perspective and a viewpoint that you don’t often see. Last year I did loads of hill running in the Trossachs and as long as I’m feeling fit I can get there, up a hill and get back in time for the kids coming home from school!
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
No one contemporary really springs to mind. I do get motivation from reading accounts of some of the early modern explorers. Shackleton obviously, the Finn Otto Nordenskjöld, Amundsen and Scott have amazing stories to tell. The Franklin expedition to chart the North West Passage was insane and if you’re not familiar, definitely worth seeking out the accounts of that. Nansen’s Arctic explorations are also worth reading about.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Definitely. Even if it’s just a half our run through the local fields, no matter how strenuous (or not), I always feel the benefit afterwards.
When did you discover FINDRA?
I’ve been aware of FINDRA for what seems forever. In fact before it was even called FINDRA! Alex launched FINDRA at the same time as we relaunched Shand Cycles and so in the early days we had a lot of things in common and attended many events together. It’s been great to see FINDRA go from strength to strength and to see how Alex has shaped the brand into something that she talked passionately about all those years ago (most often in the pub over a beer or two).
What does being a brand ambassador for FINDRA mean to you?
I believe we all have a passion for the outdoors. A passion to leave only footprints behind us and to look after the world we all live in. Whether it’s by the clothes we wear or the way we live our lives. I’m super proud to be able to be an ambassador for a Scottish company that lives and breathes the same values I believe in.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I think just having the ability to remember that tomorrow’s another day. If you’re having a rough time, just get your head down and get through it. Regroup later and things almost always look better after a good sleep.
On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers?
I think in these times of almost constant social media presence, it’s easy to get sucked into thinking that in order to have an adventure, you need to be somewhere that looks amazing and to be doing something that requires almost superhuman skill or endurance. It’s important to remember that you can have an adventure from your front door and that’s just as valid as the experience that person on Instagram spearfishing in Patagonia is having.
Favourite (fiction) book is probably Icefields by Thomas Wharton. Set at the foot of a Canadian glacier late in the 19th Century it tells the story of a wildflower collector’s experience after falling into a crevasse.
Could be pretty much anything by Scottish poet Norman MacCaig. Although a few weeks ago when visiting the village of Portnahaven on the wonderful Islay, we stumbled late one night on a toad struggling at the foot of some steps. MacCaig’s poem Toad came to mind and I was prompted to go and look it up again that night. His poem A Man In Assynt tells the story of hills that would be familiar to those with experience of Highland landscapes.
FAVOURITE PIECE OF MUSIC
This one is very tricky, I think I have quite a varied taste that bounces around often depending on mood. Right now I’m back on a Dylan vibe and Tangled Up In Blue has always been a bit of a favourite.
Bob Dylan – Tangled Up In Blue