Climber, mountain biker, surfer and all-round outdoors enthusiast, Jenny Collett, spends most of the year outside thanks to her job as an outdoor pursuits instructor. When she’s not coaching or teaching, the MTB enthusiast is snatching some time to head to the mountains and trails on her bike.
Jenny is a former downhill competitor and has also ridden in some of MTB’s most epic events, including the Megavalanche, which starts on the snowy summit of Alpe d’Huez. Her love of riding has landed her an ambassador role for e-bike brand, Lapierre, so I threw some questions her way about her riding, e-bikes and coaching.
#1. Tell me about what you do for your day job – it sounds pretty varied!
I’m a self-employed outdoor pursuits instructor and have been for about 15 years. I coach and instruct anything from mountain biking to Canoeing to Archery to Axe Throwing to Duke of Edinburgh.
#2. What’s does a typical day involve?
Although it can be seasonal, it’s a fulltime job and my hours can be long with a lot of time staying away from home, especially if I’m on expeditions. Although, as most people want coaching at the weekend, it means I get some time off during the week to relax at home, potter in the garden (I love plants) or go out and ride, climb or surf just for myself.
#3. You had a pretty bad bike spill a year ago. Did this affect you mentally as well as physically?
Yeah, I broke my collarbone and knocked myself out pretty badly. I went off a drop and I don’t remember the rest. My collarbone healed really well and I wasn’t out of action for longer than a month. The worst thing was the concussion and referred pain from my collarbone. The longest thing to ‘heal’ was my fear. Every time I rode for about a year afterwards I was worried I’d do it again. I’m OK now but I’m still aware of the consequences of failure lurking in the back of my mind. However, staying strong physically helps me stay strong mentally.
#4. You’ve ridden in some cool events including the Megavalanche – how was that?
Mega was… mega! Such an amazing experience that I was so unprepared for. My sister had raced it a few times and I had been persuaded to enter without really knowing what I was getting in for. It was back in 2012 and my first ever race. Can I put that down to being young and naïve? My qualifier went well and so did the start of my race. I was fast off the start line and got ahead of the masses but had a few crashes which meant I was overtaken a fair few times. Great experience and I’ve been talking about doing it again soon.
#5. Are you still racing MTB?
Unfortunately, I’ve not raced for a couple of years due to injury or work commitments but I hope to change that in the near future. I have always raced DH (downhill) but would like to train for some enduros now too.
#6. Which MTB events are on your wishlist for the future?
Malvern Classics and ArdRock as standard and of course Megavalanche! Top of the wish-list has to be the Andes Pacifico though. I would absolutely love to do this. What an adventure.
#7. You teach riders of all ages and abilities – in your experience what have you found to be the biggest barrier against women taking up MTB?
Their home life commitments and the people they ride with… probably predominantly their partners. I hesitated to say that but I believe it to be true. So many of the women I meet got into riding because their partner rides. When they start they’re already behind and continue to stay that way. Riding with people who are better than you doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll catch-up and get as good as them. When you’re always pushing yourself, you don’t always have time to learn and progress.
#8. What are the biggest mistakes beginners make when they take up MTB?
Anything from saddle height to pedal position to lifting the bike any other time than into the back of their van.
#9. During your travels have you found many underrated or little-known MTB destinations?
I’ve ridden all around Europe and love it all, but as far as little-known I could say my local trails here in the UK. I moved from North Wales to Shrewsbury two years ago; before then, it was just a place I drove passed to get somewhere else. However, I’m still discovering the epic trails to be found on The Long Mynd and surrounding areas.
#10. You’re an ambassador for Lapierre. How did this come about?
I had a message from Gareth (Gareth Davies – Brand Manager for Lapierre in the UK) asking if I knew anyone that would be interested in being an ambassador and I replied, “Yeah. Me.” and that was that. I’ve loved riding my Lapierre Zesty mtb, Overvolt ebike and CrossHill gravel bike.
#11. When people find out you ride an electric bike, are they surprised?
E-MTB seems to be widely known now and the surprise is more the fact that it’s an e-bike than an e-MTB, I think. I like to announce it proudly and see their reaction. Unfortunately, there’s a certain stereotype that people believe come with e-bikes. I often get the classic “that’s cheating!” as I ride past. I just reply, “I ain’t racing” and give them a big grin as I ride past because I am enjoying the up as well as the down.
#12. Did you have any preconceived ideas about e-bikes before you started riding them?
To be honest, no – not at all. I’d just never thought about them but was very excited when the opportunity came around.
#13. How often do you ride your e-bike and what have you found it best for?
Not as much as I’d like but with my crazy season of work slowly quietening down, I plan to a lot more. I love using it for exploration days on unknown territory. I ride the Lapierre Overvolt AM900i – amazing bike and so much fun.
#14. What’s a typical week of training look like for you Monday-Sunday – do you ever gym it?
It’s so varied. No day, week or month is ever the same. Although my work is active, it’s not active for me. Especially when I’m coaching, it’s a lot of time stood around. I have never been to a gym in my life. The outside world is my gym. I have climbed for as long as I can remember and I find that to be a great all-rounder and I’ve never suffered arm pump when downhilling as a result. I am a strong believer in multi-sports being so much better for the body. I also love time in the sea surfing or SUP-ing all year round when I can. And then there’s riding. Riding is life.
#15. What are you favourite items of kit for a day out on the MTB?
One of my favourite items of kit has to be my Sweet Protection Bushwhacker helmet. It has a great fit and I’ve nutted the floor more times than I care to admit. (I always replace my helmet if it’s had a hard hit). Other items include my bottle holder which I prefer so much more than a reservoir these days, my velcro strap for strapping a spare tube to my bike frame, my iPhone for taking photos and using OS Maps, a bag of nuts and my Fibrax tyre lever. Oh, and I always pack a super lightweight waterproof, just in case!
#16. What’s on the horizon for you in the rest of 2018?
Now that I have a bit more free time, I plan on riding a lot more. I got into bike packing this year too so I have some trips planned. Watch this space…
You can follow Jenny via her social media: www.instagram.com/angrykitten510.
To find out more about Lapierre bikes visit www.lapierre-bikes.co.uk.