Sharing the Love of Bikes with Isla Short

Dark clouds and heavy bursts of rain dominate the skyline. The Tweed Valley has a foreboding air as we arrive at the trailhead with Scottish XC racer Isla Short.

The weekend just passed saw the Enduro World Series (EWS) take over the area, with fans flocking to watch the world’s fastest racers take on some of Scotland’s most iconic trails.

We are the first riders here since the event wound up the previous evening, with race tape and tire tracks giving glimpses of the buzz of activity that nature now seems determined to wash away.

Every now and again you meet a rider whose pure love for riding a bike shines above all else, even on the darkest and wettest of Scottish days, and Isla is one of those riders.

Isla is best known for her exploits on the World Cross Country circuit, but for her this is home. The Tweed Valley, in south-east Scotland, is where she grew up and crafted her racing skills, spending thousands of hours riding from the dense woodland to the high open hilltops above the valley.

Most people would not enter an Enduro World Series for a bit of fun in their off-season, but Isla did just that.

No such thing as a bad day on the bike

As we descend into the darkness with the trail seemingly now a river, Isla quickly displays the level of skill needed to be at the top end of Cross Country racing, picking up speed and finding grip on even the most minimal XC tires.

It’s impossible not to be impressed as she carves turns and skips over roots, sending up head-high tidal waves of mud, all with a smile that rivals that of the Cheshire cat.

Isla has a quiet confidence about her, a humble approach to racing driven by a deep love of bikes and for Scotland as a whole. A lust for adventure and exploration that keeps her pedals turning.

When the simple pleasure of riding is so deep-rooted, it’s hard to imagine a bad day on the bike. It’s this feeling that Isla has tapped into, and is just one of many reasons she’s making waves at the races, as well as in the puddles on today’s trails.

We are here to spend the next few days riding with Isla and getting an insight into what motivates her to stay at the competitive edge of the world XC scene, and how she’s learned that “enjoying the process” is all part of it. If nothing else, her infectious love of bikes is enough to make anyone reach for that ‘one last climb’.

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