This issue, the Wessex Scene interviewed Rob Collier, Cross Country Captain for the University’s Mountain Biking Club on the thrills of bike racing come rain, storm or snow and running one of Southampton’s most adventurous societies…
What about if you face adverse weather?
We’re not put off by most weather conditions; unless it’s a thunderstorm and torrential rain we will happily go out riding. We went for a couple of rides in January when it was snowing; it was really fun to ride in and a completely different feel.
Does the club range from beginners to experts?
Some of the committee members have been riding since before University but some members have only started since coming to Uni. We usually split the club up into different riding groups and go at different paces so that we don’t push anyone above their limits. The main aim of the club is that everyone who comes has a good time. We make sure that all speeds and abilities are catered for. People improve hugely over the year if they put in a bit of time and effort.
Does the club work on a circuit so that you’re always working towards competitions?
There’s no pressure to compete in this society but if you want to, there is the opportunity to do so. There are local races in the Southern counties for Cross Country (XC) called The Gorrick Series and the Student Nationals held in Scotland which a large proportion of our club attended last March. For Downhill Racing (DH), there’s the UK Bike Park series. BUCS caters for both types of biking, CX and DH.
I’m guessing your own bike is essential. What models would you recommend for people wanting to get involved?
Look at well-established brands such as Giant or Specialized as they have a range of bikes for any budget and don’t rule out second hand models either.
What is the difference between cross country and downhill racing?
The aim of a DH race is to go as fast as possible down a hill, and is thought of as the more dangerous of the two types. It requires much more protective gear including full face helmets and bikes with larger amounts of suspension with races usually lasting a couple of minutes. Cross country races are usually longer than an hour through routes which very across gradients. The bikes used are lighter as well. Downhill is more of a sprint and cross country is more of an endurance event.
Where are the club’s favourite places to train?
Locally, we go to Lord’s Wood but on a wider scale, Swinley Forest is a good location for XC and Rogate is ideal for DH. We also travel to Wales sometimes, to Afan where they have purpose-built tracks to give us more variety and different routes to try from our usual ones.
What is the worst injury you’ve ever had?
Personally, touch wood, I’ve never had an injury but others in the club have experienced injuries such as broken wrists and collarbones. They’re both quite common injuries because they are the impact areas when you crash.
What first made you interested in this sport above any others?
I love the outdoors so this is a perfect way to experience more of it and it offers a wide range of skill and fitness. I try and stick to a training regime as well so that I’ll ride more than the two sessions each week as well as spend time in the gym, and do other physical activities to maintain fitness.
What are your ambitions in terms of how far you will get with biking?
I would like to become an overall more competent rider and compete at higher levels of cross country.
What would be your advice for people wanting to get involved with your society?
If you have a bike, a helmet and a sense of adventure then come along to the concourse at 2pm on a Wednesday or Sunday and we’ll meet you there.