Pro Chat: Manon Carpenter

Desperately waiting for Spring, we caught with UK mountainbike Manon Carpenter to find out more about her love-affaire with her bike and steal some tips for season preparation

Interview by Anna Langer

I love this time of year when most of the hard winter training is over with and I’ve got the whole season of racing to look forward to.

Hey Manon, Spring seems to be a bit late this year - have you been riding much yet?

Yeah it’s crazy! I was lucky enough to escape for a couple of weeks to Spain and Italy in March for a team training and testing camp, where we pretty much spent the whole time riding. I have also had my fair share of wintery rides at home, -5 degrees on the top of a mountain covered in snow with gale force winds biting your face off was really not what I was expecting from March!! I’m definitely looking forward to a bit of warmer weather and not having chapped hands from cold bike rides for once!

Where are you looking forward to riding the most?

After a long few months in the gym it was great to spend so much time having fun on my bike in Spain and Italy feeling the benefits! The whole Madison Saracen team went out so it was perfect to have the guys to chase down and push myself to go that little bit faster. I love this time of year when most of the hard winter training is over with and I’ve got the whole season of racing to look forward to. I can’t wait to go racing again!

Pro Chat: Manon Carpenter

Do you have a favourite track/riding area?

I do love going to Fort William in Scotland each year, where they hold the UK’s only World Cup Round. It’s my kind of track and there’s an amazing vibe up there when thousands of Brits turn up to cheer you on, it gives you goose bumps. I didn’t get to go there last year as I injured myself the weekend before so I’m twice as excited to go this year! Aside from that we get to go to so many beautiful places around the world it’s hard to pick out one place, but I think Italy and South Africa are two places I always look forward to going to. For the awesome views and seeing a different way of living!

Do you do a lot to stay fit during winter or do you just start preparing yourself again in Spring?

I never really stop during winter I just go through different phases I guess. Once the season finishes in September I’ll spend a month or two having fun going out and riding all sorts of bikes. It’s nice to be able to plan some time for myself and I’ll go away to different places to ride and enjoy some time off, I love getting the BMX out again or riding Dirt Jumps and Motocross. Then come December it’s time to start training again and getting strong and fit for the season. I find January and February are very training focussed and I don’t find time for much else, then this time of year the bike starts coming out a lot more and the fun starts again!

Pro Chat: Manon Carpenter

Thank you! It was funny the way that edit came about, I’d just got home from a cheeky week snowboarding and gone out for a relaxed ride with friends at Afan Bike Park where I bumped into the Cognation guys. Initially they just wanted a quick interview but my easy afternoon’s ride quickly turned into a full on filming session until it pretty much got dark! Liam was really excited and had this idea in his head for the intro and by the next afternoon everything had been shot and we had The Fourteenth edit. I loved how spontaneous it had been and how easily everything fell into place, I do enjoy filming and it makes you try a little bit harder than usual as there’s a camera there. It can be a bitch pushing your bike back up the hill time after time to get the right shot though and I am always scared before a video goes out, especially one like that, as you never know how it’s going to go down!

Are you gonna do some more in the future?

Yeah well I do actually have a new edit coming out today that’s part of a four episode pre-season series by my team Madison Saracen. It’s a short but sweet video of me riding a local DH track all shot in a day in freezing cold conditions! Then I have another edit on my cross country bike that will come out mid-season and should be a pretty epic video, and then possibly another one with Liam so yeah – there’s a few in the pipeline!! Haha. Shooting with Liam depends how well my first race next weekend goes... So we’ll see...

I do find filming strange how everyone gets to see ‘you’ and I’d usually avoid it but it is good to show guys and girls that we can do it too.

Do you prefer filming over competing?

No, there’s nothing quite like the nerves you get at the top of the hill before your race run and the rush you feel at the bottom whether you’ve won or got a bit loose on the way down trying to win! I do find filming strange how everyone gets to see ‘you’ and I’d usually avoid it but it is good to show guys and girls that we can do it too. I went out to Malaga in Spain for a month last November and we made a video whilst I was there which I really liked because it showed that you can have fun on all sorts of bikes and I loved how it captured the feel of my time there... Kind of like a photo album but in video!

What are the pros and cons of both?

Pros of racing for me are the obvious adrenaline rush you get from it and how good it makes you feel when you do well. You have to push yourself as hard as you can in training and during a race weekend and I thrive on that kind of work ethic. Whatever I do I want to do it well... This brings me onto the cons of racing, once winter training starts and I have my week set out I get pretty OCD about sticking to it and getting the training done. Which is a great thing in terms of training it’s just after having a few months of fun it’s hard to give it up and get my head down in the gym. You know it will pay off massively come summer time though.

Pros of filming I would say are pushing your boundaries, similar to racing. Obviously you want to look good on camera so you ride as hard and as fast as you can. Something I learnt whilst filming last autumn was that if I hit something way faster than I think I should, getting a bit wild will look awesome on camera and I’ll normally be able to deal with whatever happens out of shot! Cons I guess would be that it takes up time. At this time of year time filming is time that could be spent training, and filming wears you out. There are a few things I’ve had planned for a while but it’s just finding the time to do it, I’d feel guilty all day if I missed a day of training for a photoshoot or for filming!

Pro Chat: Manon Carpenter

Why aren't there more bike videos out there?

There have always been lots of videos of guys riding bikes but finally there are some more edits featuring girls popping up... and they’re rad! I think for ages the feeling has been that girls can’t ride fast or well enough to look good on camera and girls are scared of getting slammed in website comments but there have been some awesome edits up recently and you can see that people are genuinely surprised by how well some girls can ride. It’s awesome!

Do you have the feeling that's gonna grow even more in the future?

Yeah definitely, it’s started already. I know just from myself that there will be more cool edits in the future and I’m sure there will be from other girls as well. That’s the other good thing about videos, we can show everyone that we can shred too! I love watching snowboarding and skiing edits where girls are sending it for miles and I want it to be the same on bikes!

Don’t be afraid to have a go. I’ve noticed so many girls that won’t have a go at something not because they are afraid of hurting themselves but because they are afraid what others might think

What's the ultimate tip for biking / cycling girls? Maybe something you wish someone had told you in earlier years?

I think one thing I’ve learnt is don’t be afraid to have a go. I’ve noticed so many girls that won’t have a go at something not because they are afraid of hurting themselves but because they are afraid what others might think. Get on and have a go, everyone starts somewhere! Also, if you’re riding as a lifestyle choice have fun and enjoy every minute of it... If you’re riding to race, get skills and get strong!

Anything else you'd like to get off your chest?

Just to say thank you to everyone involved in creating and running our Madison Saracen race team and that I can’t wait for this season to get started!! Oh, and girls find a bike and have a go... I bet you’ll like it!

Pro Chat: Manon Carpenter