Known for her big smile and enthusiasm for pushing hard, Isla has been into cycling since her early years. She began racing nationals aged 14 and has gone on to represent Scotland at the Commonwealth Games and Great Britain at the World Champs. For 2023, Isla is on the Ghost Factory Racing team, alongside four other world-class women.


Who is Isla Short?

A Scottish cross-country racer for Ghost Factory Racing. First and foremost I love bikes, the mountains and my homeland.

What are you known for?

Riding up hills fast. If the trail is steep, I can go down pretty quickly, too. I leave the flat corners and berms to others!

Describe a typical day...

Every day starts with porridge, that’s non-negotiable. Training can be riding, running or ‘gymming’. At the moment, my afternoons are spent cleaning myself up, because Scotland in the winter is a mess. Otherwise, it’s all the exciting unseen bits of being a pro athlete – logistics, media, planning. I try to spend frequent time away, in my kayak or out with the dogs somewhere.

First bike?

My sister’s old Trek. I kept stealing it on camping holidays so my parents finally gave it to me.

When was the last time you were really stoked?

Earlier this year, when I went to South Africa with my team. It was the first time I’ve been able to train with a group of girls who
can push me in the way I need. It’s new for me to have wheels to follow like this, and I’m enjoying it so much!

Who’s your favourite person/people to ride with?

It doesn’t get better than getting out into the hills with my boyfriend, Scott. We share the same love for bikes and feel fulfilled by similar things. I miss riding with the Ghost girls, though – training is 10 times easier when we do it together.

Any unusual bike set-up preferences?

For the first time ever, probably not! I just run a super-short, negative-rise stem.

Favourite bike component?

Electronic shifting! I never thought I’d prefer it, but it’s so easy, especially in the cold.

Worst MTB trend?

The Cyclepassion calendar [now-defunct publication that got top female racers to pose semi-naked ~ ed]. WTF.

Interests outside of MTB?

Hill walking, kayaking, swimming, my dogs, running – anything that gets me into the wild!

If you could only ride one spot, where would it be?

The Tweed Valley, obviously.

Scariest thing you’ve done on a bike?

Last autumn, I hit some big jumps (for me) after a huge crash on a gap. I wanted to remove the fear as soon as possible, so I did a jump line I’ll probably never do again. I’m OK with that.

One thing no one knows about you?

I’m an open book. Most people know too much about me!

What simple things make you happy?

The things that I find simple, as someone of privilege, may not be simple to others. I like the sunshine, the smell of grass in the summer, and porridge in the mornings, of course!

Biggest ride of your life?

I’ve done a few ‘biggest rides’ around the Tweed Valley. This winter, I did one where my friends bailed after 80km, it was dark and raining, so I put my earphones in, switched my lights on and disappeared into type-two paradise. So good! My biggest achievement continues to be my fifth-place finish at the Leogang World Cup in 2020. I’ll forever know that I was ‘good enough’ because of that ride.

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What’s your biggest weakness?

I don’t like the word weakness. Operating in a high-pressure environment for much of the year doesn’t suit me and I have to work really hard on that to stay happy and perform well.

Treasured possession?

A necklace my sister bought me, made from pounamu, a stone found in New Zealand. She lives there and I don’t see her often, but she’s my best friend and I wear the stone every day so that I can pretend she’s closer.

If you weren’t a pro rider, what would you be doing?

I’d like to go back to uni and finish a degree. It’s taken me a long time to figure out what I’m passionate about, but I want to do something within sociology, so I can try to help the world be better, in a small way.

This article was originally published in MBUK 420

Words: Rachel Bennet


Photo: Andreas Dobslaff