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Marking the start of our exciting new interview series, ‘in the HOTSEAT’, where YOU get to ask the questions that matter, we caught up with globe trotting adventurer Hannah Barnes to find out more about her life, racing and what drives her to explore. All the questions from this interview were raised by you, our awesome readers!

Hannah started racing in 2005 and since then has competed in 10 hour endurance races, national XC races, enduro races, adventure races, downhill races, and off-road triathlons! Now riding a Yeti SB66c for Silverfish UK she will be racing in the 2014 Enduro World Series, and looking to enjoy some local Scottish Enduro events. But Hannah is more than a racer, she is an adventurer, and it only takes a quick look at her blog to see that her true passions lie in exploring the world with her bike. Having just returned from an epic trip to New Zealand, Hannah sat down to answer your questions.

What’s been going on in New Zealand?

I have been in NZ the last two months, exploring the place for the first time and getting in lots of warm weather riding on new trails, and getting fit before the season starts! I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to go there! I’m already planning on going back! They have incredible riding, a relaxed pace of life, a small population, beautiful scenery, great cafe’s and coffee… it’s perfect!

So what are your plans for the season?

The EWS, and some races at home such as the Tour de Ben Nevis and the Bluegrass Enduro in Glencoe.

You seem to be doing a lot of ambassadorial work these days, are you shifting your focus from racing to adventuring?

Not especially, I’m doing the same as I’ve always been doing, a bit of everything – riding, racing, travelling. I’ve always loved an adventure, so that isn’t anything new. When I was 15 my family and I sailed around the World. Then when I was 18 I lived in Alaska, training racing sled dogs! As I’ve gained more support from sponsors, I’ve been doing more ambassadorial work and media work as that comes hand in hand with it. It’s not enough to just turn up to races. If you want to represent sponsors and the sport properly, and make a living from it, you need to do the rest too.

Will you be focusing on the EWS this year or attending some of the smaller one off events like the Megavalanche?

I’ll definitely do smaller races too! Although I don’t think the Megavalanche is ‘smaller’ haha, it’s gnarly! I won’t do the Mega this year as the dates clash with an EWS event, but I’ll do other events alongside the EWS. One race I’ve entered which I’ll probably regret, is the World Solo 24 hour Championships!

What happened at the Dodzy (Dodzy Memorial Enduro)?

I just didn’t go fast enough! The trails were gnarly, slick, super technical, and it was pretty scary to push yourself on those tracks. Lot’s of people didn’t even race after a daunting practice day. It was the beginning of the NZ trip, and the last thing I wanted was an injury, so I was a bit conservative on race day. Hat’s off to the girls who pinned it, the tracks were hard!

How important do you think social media is to sponsored riders?

I think it is very important for sponsored riders, some more than others. If you are winning World Cups I don’t think it’s as important as for the riders who aren’t on podiums at every race and need to gain exposure and represent their sponsors in other ways. Some riders are paid to win races, for other riders their value is in exposure and representing in other ways. Hans Ray hasn’t competed for years, but he’s still ‘pro’.

What are your thoughts on women’s specific bikes, most of the changes like narrower bars and shorter top tubes seem to be going against the trends of bike development?

I’ve never ridden a women’s specific bike so I don’t know how they ride compared to the standard versions. It does make sense for the geometry to be altered slightly according to a women’s build, ie. shorter top tube, narrower bars, narrower grips, lighter tubing etc.

What is the one thing you always pack in your bag?

It probably should be a tube and pump, but for me the most important thing to take is a bit of food!

What’s your favourite thing about van life and where is the best place that your van has taken you?

It’s hard to think of the best singular thing! It’s the whole package that is appealing. Being self sufficient with everything you need – bikes, a bed, cooking equipment etc. means you can head off to lovely quiet places and just ride bikes, swim in lakes, and just live quite simply!

If you hadn’t discovered mountain biking, what sport would be doing instead?

Before I started riding I was into quite a few sports. I have always loved competing and being really fit. I raced sailing dinghy’s all over the UK during high school. During University I was really into Rock Climbing, ‘training’ indoors at the local wall then going to Spain on sport climbing trips. I also ran a lot. Dad and I would go running together all the time, and I was obsessed with trying to always get my own time around a loop by the house down to under an hour, no matter what the weather! Dad and I did a mountain marathon together when I was 18 (two days running up and down hills, and camping over night), we won our class and came 2nd in the mens class. We also did the Scottish Island Yacht Race a few times, a 3 day sailing and running race around the Scottish Islands. I love sailing, and the adventure it brings. It can get pretty wild, and you can sail to remote places you could never reach any other way! I went to the Caribbean to crew on a French-Canadian boat (an Open 40) in the Heineken Regatta, a pretty full on top-end racing yacht with everyone screaming instructions in French! I’ve also skied since I was really young, and love to ski when I can! Mum and Dad have always had adventurous active lives, so I’ve grown up around it. I started riding bikes age 18, doing cross-country, then also off-road triathlon, now I am focused on Enduro.

If I hadn’t discovered mountain biking, I’m not sure what sport I would be doing right now! It is heavily dictated by where you choose to live, or move to. Surfing and skiing really appeal. I’m sure I’ll get into both in the future. Life is too short to only enjoy one sport, the places it brings you and the people you meet! I’m generally happy as long as I’m outside, doing something active whether it’s riding bikes, swimming in the sea, skiing in the mountains, and with fun and interesting people.

I was curious as to how you developed such a passion for mountain biking?

When I was younger, I knew I wanted to throw myself into one sport and train for one thing. I just didn’t know which one! I tried a few sports, but nothing really stuck. When I got introduced to mountain biking through my brother Joe (Canyon Rider Joe Barnes), I loved it right away and it just went on from there!

My 7 year daughter wants know how you got over being scared going down big hills?

I still get scared! The hills just get bigger and steeper, so it’s always challenging!

When you were starting out and holding down full time work how did you find time and motivation to push yourself to train everyday come rain or shine?

I was actually more motivated than ever when I had a full time job, and was fully committed to training. I considered work a ‘rest’ time, and would ride or run to work and back, then do yoga and stretch in the evening whilst watching something on TV, then have an early night. Because of the 12 hour shifts in the hospital if I didn’t ride to work then I didn’t get any exercise in that day, so I incorporated it into the working day. On day’s off I just rode my bike, went running, swimming, yoga… I did hill running or XC races at weekends, and mid week also did open water swim sessions and drills in the pool with the local club. I was either working or training. Now it’s much more of a grey area between ‘work’ and training. The difference now is that everything is now very public with tweets, instagram, facebook, and then interviews, video’s etc. Then the e-mails to sponsors etc. and organisation that goes with being a ‘professional’. It is effectively like running your own business. I feel busier now, not because I am necessarily, but because there’s a lot of things to think about other than just the clean cut ‘turn up to work/exercise’ that I had before. Now, it’s more important than ever to be organised, and write lists and a day ‘plan’!

I would love to know what you do training wise for enduro! I’m just getting started, and you have been a huge inspiration when it comes to women riding bikes!

Thanks! I mostly just ride my SB66c around the trails with some intervals thrown in for good measure, which is the bulk of it. I also road ride, do yoga, a bit of running, swimming and also some gym in the winter. I don’t have a structured programme, I do what I feel like and what I feel I need to do.

If I was getting started, I’d recommend doing some skills based stuff and some downhill. That’s what I didn’t do, I just got mega fit and did XC! In Enduro the best riders have world cup level downhill skills plus XC fitness and stamina. It’s easier to get fitness later on, speed and skills are harder to get. But the main thing is to just get out there and enjoy riding your bike!

What do you get most out of MTB? Fitness, inner peace, life experience, other?

I love just riding my bike! It feels great to ride a lovely trail in the woods or up a big mountain with big views and an endless trail. Going on a quick blast around the local woods, a big adventure with friends, or a road ride to a nice little cafe… I love just riding bikes and the freedom, travel, fitness and adventure it brings with it.

Which female rider present and/or past is your idol?

Tracey Moseley, because she’s absolutely lovely, flat out pinned in every discipline she races, and still so dedicated and focused after so many years at the top. Anka Martin, for also being lovely, having a sweet adventurous lifestyle, and also being a flat out racer!

If you could choose three people to ride with who would it be, riders or not, alive or dead?

Barack Obama, Earnest Shackleton, Beyonce.

Who has the better Van? You or your brother?

Haha! That has to be Joe, as I don’t have one right now! I sold mine before I went to NZ, so I’m on the lookout for a new bigger one to fit in more bikes and a bigger subby! Joe’s new Hymer is pretty gangster, with two double beds, an oven, giant windscreen, and lightening bolts on the side! I don’t think mine will be as cool as that! I’ll pimp it out though, so it will still be pretty sweet.

How different is the Orange Five and the Yeti SB 66. What are the pros and cons from each bike?

Both great bikes for different reasons. Orange is reliable, simple and does the job. My SB66c however, is in a different league. It’s carbon, 4lb lighter, and feels awesome to ride, especially on the really technical stuff!

How do you like to set your suspension for specific types of courses.

I don’t really touch my suspension settings myself. I do the most basic thing of altering shock and suspension psi. However, once I’ve set it up initially I don’t tend to touch it. I don’t know enough about it, so it would be pointless me altering it without knowing what I’m doing. When I see the Fox guys at races, they usually service my forks and help me with my set-up, which is awesome.

Fantastic, cheers for your time Hannah and best of luck for 2014!

To find out more about Hannah and follow her adventures check out her blog at: www.hannahbarnes.co.uk

Find out who is next in the HOTSEAT and ask your questions on the ENDURO Magazine Facebook page

Interview: Trev Worsey Photos: Hannah Barnes

Read the original interview on EnduroMTB here

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