There are few people on the UK mountain bike scene that are admired, respected and adored in equal measure as trails riding superstar Martyn Ashton. He was at the forefront of UK trials riding for most of the 90s and 2000s, taking the title of BikeTrial World Champion in Japan in 1995. Since his accident in 2013 on the Animal Bike Tour which left him paralysed from the waist down, Martyn has enjoyed a change in career as lead presenter on GMBN’s YouTube channel. His positive attitude towards everything he does continues to be an inspiration to many and he still tries to be as active on a bike as he possibly can be, which is where the idea for his latest video comes from as we found out when we caught up with him recently.
MBUK: The last time we saw you in MBUK was just over a year ago when you rode with us at BikePark Wales on your adaptive bike. And not long after we saw you in that incredible video riding the downhill course at Fort William, which was a pretty emotional and uplifting experience for everyone (see bottom of page). What have you been focussing on since?
Martyn: Well I’ve just been out to Whistler with the GMBN team, making loads of vids for the channel with them and generally experiencing the bike park. It’s the first time I’ve been there and it was amazing! A real eye opener for me being in an environment like that where everything is just set up and so geared towards mountain biking. I loved it.
We were also working on a new video (below) which basically tells the story of what it’s like and what it takes for me to go riding. It follows how hard it is, and what a process is involved in actually getting me on a bike – it takes time y’know? I raced the Fox Air DH there so it’s following me doing that. I’m hoping that people who know me and my story will be interested in that side of things. It’s totally different from the other videos I’ve done and is away from the pressures that come with those other video, which is nice! There’s not that expectation of getting so many million views with this. I’m just hoping people will be interested and want to watch it and enjoy it.
MBUK: So as a newbie to Whistler what did you think of the experience?
I fell in love with the place instantly. It’s a weird vibe there, very different to anything you experience over here. There’s just something else going on there. You see people who are into mountain biking and riding there just because it feels right, you know? It’s not about the riding to get fit or for anything like that – it’s simply for the love of riding. I guess it’s a bit like surfing in that respect or the vibe you get around snowboarding. And the whole town is just so focussed on it. I mean just imagine living somewhere like that and being lucky enough to have that as a place to ride near you. That’s the lottery of where we all end up being I guess. You see the kids queuing up to ride there, and it’s just brilliant. That’s the lifestyle they lead – they’re just outdoors the whole time, riding the bikepark and some of them, they are so good! It kinda makes you wonder how come the UK actually produces so many great mountain bikers, despite not having something like that on the doorstep. I think our riders do amazingly well considering!
MBUK: Do we get close to anything like that here. Or should we be trying?
It’s such a difficult thing to do or replicate here. The weather plays a part I guess. It’s nicer and warmer over there, than some of the weather we have to face here, so you can’t really do much about that. I suppose Fort William and the vibe around there comes close and BikePark Wales is certainly somewhere I’d go and people go just for the love of it like that.
MBUK: Mountain biking feels like it’s in a good place right now. What’s particularly standing out for you in the mountain biking world at the moment?
Martyn: Definitely the rise of Annie Last. It’s great to see how well she’s progressed in the the cross-country. I remember watching world cups back when Caroline Alexander was getting close to the podiums back in the 90s. And to see a British woman in XC doing something so well after all this time is awesome. I’m really pleased for her.
I’ve also been watching the DH World Champs of course. I thought it was a bit weird. I’m not convinced Cairns is a downhill World Champs track, I’m not sure it was back in the day either. Sure there are amazing views from the top and it gets tricky in the woods but then it’s deep and dark in there and the crowds just aren’t in there, close to the action. I think it would have been amazing if Mick Hannah had won on home soil, that’s the sort of thing that could have made it a classic. It was great that he was on the podium but it just didn’t quite work for me, you know?
Oh, I also watched an EWS live while we were out at Whistler and that was kind of hard to follow. I kinda knew what was going on but there were people who were watching who you could tell were getting lost in what was happening. I think they need some sort of rolling update, a bit like in golf you know where the scoreboard changes out on the course, so you can immediately see a certain rider’s impact on times and positions. It needs a little help from a spectator point of view.
Martyn was talking to MBUK ahead of his Q&A session at the Cycle Show in late September. Below is the video that went on general release there charting his entry into the Fox Air DH, during the 2017 Crankworx festival at Whistler BikePark, Canada.
The Cycle Show is at the NEC this weekend, the 22-24 September and you can book tickets here.
Danny is the Editor in Chief of Mountain Biking UK Magazine. He has been at the helm for over 10 years and in that time has seen some significant changes in the bikes we ride, the kit we use and the places we go to do it. He's a firm believer that we still all ride bikes for the same reasons we ever did - to have the most amount of fun possible.