The learning curve – Louise Ferguson
Words: Louise Ferguson Images: Poole, Ferguson, The Hand.
There’s no guidebook for success in life and figuring it all out is just part of the fun, which means there’s no wrong way to do it. So when I started thinking about stuff I’ve learned this year, it proved to be difficult but it was quite nice to just sit down and think about what’s taken place.
Reflecting did eventually bring a few topics to mind; 2018 has shown me that uni is hard work but achievable, backflips are sore but not impossible and the Descent World team are a beautiful bunch of humans but ultimately as mad as cats.
The pure enjoyment of riding will always comes first in my list of priorities because chasing friends downs trails and pedalling round the woods won’t ever get old. However this year has invited me to look at biking in a different light and learn more about the industry. Joining the team has been a massive help in this sense, firstly to find my feet and secondly to give some well needed direction.
Sponsorship, financial security, same thing right?
Not really.The physical items are undeniably beneficial, less money spent on kit means more disposable cash for racing and less time working. So naturally it’s sought after but biking doesn’t pay the bills unless you know the industry and your worth within the industry.
As the Wilko (AKA Tommy Wilkinson) says ‘nothing is for free’ and it’s true. I now believe it’s more about knowing the value of everything, including yourself and the illusion of confidence more than just riding your bike. Confidence ties in with value, knowing your own value means being confident in what you can offer to brands in return for support. A little bit of confidence goes a long way and asking really is the best thing to do. I think it’s often cheeky, awkward and/or intimidating but that’s the only way someone knows what you need. No one can read minds. Personally I’m terrible for confidence and speaking my mind but slowly I’m learning to be more unreserved thanks to light encouragement. (Ed- relentless pestering! 🙂 )
Physical items aside, a big part of the team support this year has been the intangible aspects. Having someone believe in you as a rider and willing to help has been invaluable. Being able to access a wealth of knowledge and experience has been helpful especially for races, offering advice with understanding and making sure I avoid obvious mistakes. Learning how to race makes a big difference but before this year I didn’t have any real understanding of racing craft.
With racing comes crashing. Everyone crashes but this year I’ve had more injuries than previous and although it’s good to push it, the consequences aren’t always ideal. I missed a few races and quite a bit of riding but it’s been great to learn from the process and take positives from all this ‘experience’ to be better. So far I’ve been thinking about holding off on the sketchy backflips and learning some other tricks with some solid guidance from youtube and dark winter nights for the skateparks.
Myself and a few friends visited America for a month to attempt the Colorado trail this year. The logistics of planning this trip was an amazing challenge. We learnt the complexities involved in taking bikes overseas and gained a taste for self supported bikepacking. Organisation was key to the trip success and time management played a big part too. Trying to juggle studying for my degree, riding and working throughout the year really tested my resolve but just showed me what’s possible. There will be plenty more bike trips in the future.
The biggest learning curve for me has been social media. I was surprised to see how much the mountain bike industry depends on social media but I’ve come to realise the importance of this and have been trying to promote brands for the first time. Making good content appears to be key. It’s easy to see the reach influencers have on social media but how they do it is a mystery to me . The amount of time dedicated to this must be substantial. (Ed – We’ll be touching on the reality of this thought and the BUMMER theory presented by Jaron Lanier in a separate post – and how social media posting is more about regular rather than good content)
Drawing the line between riding socially and then pursuing more is tricky. In one sense it’s all about passion for riding and then the other side is a series of business deals.
Either way, I want to keep riding as something that I love doing and being part of a team that cultivates that is really important to me. That’s why I’ve loved being in the Descent World family.