OFF THE DROP | DOM FERRIS
We are super excited to announce that Dom from Trash Free Trails is now riding on a lovely set of XCwide's. Dom is one of the founding members of Trash free Trails a charity working tirelessly to keep our trails and areas of natural beauty just that. We caught up for him for a quick chat here is what he had to say.
Name – Dom Ferris
Age – 40!
Ice Breaker! Describe yourself in 3 words – Compelled, emotional, worrier (not warrior sadly!)
What’s your secret hobby/passion away from the bike? I’m not the best with secrets as I tend to leak feelings all over the place, much to my family and friends’ amusement/embarrassment, so I don’t think I have one! I’ve lived in Cornwall for 15 years and I’ve worked for the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage for 10 of those years, so the ocean and coastal environment is very important to me. I surf as much as I cycle but that’s not so interesting. I guess the fact that I’m a ‘retro rubbish’ or ‘vintage litter’ nerd is fairly unusual! I like hunting for and collecting things like bottles, crisp and confectionary wrappers that (because plastic takes so long to break down) have been preserved in the dunes or underwater. The oldest I’ve found is a Golden Wonder crisp packet from 1967. As I say, full NERD!
What is your earliest cycling memory?
Oh man, there’s so many vying for a mention. I really want to tell the story about me and my oldest buddy Rob Leighton playing Top Gun (I was Ice Man) on our bikes for an entire summer but I guess my first memory was Christmas 1983 and the unwrapping of my first real bike, a bright red BMX with all the racing pads a boy could ever need! Sadly it’s a bittersweet memory as my Dad got really pissed off with me for not being able to ride it (I was 3 or 4) and that’s my overriding memory (I also found out later in life that my Grandad had bought from a chap in a pub for £30 and it was almost certainly stolen!). Hell of a bike though!
How did you get into riding?
If by riding you mean mountain biking then it was kind of a natural thing. I grew up in this little village in Mid Wales called Meifod, it was surrounded on 3 sides by these beautiful big, wooded hills and we just started taking our bikes up there when we were about 10 years old. It was all downhill from there, ah I’m sorry! Actually sadly for my coolness, I quickly found out that I was far better at going uphill than down and began racing XC when I was 11.
First bike & favourite bike?
My first ‘proper’ MTB was a glorious metallic grey and blue Pro-Flex 550 with a Girven elastomer flex stem. It was 1992 I think, we bought it from Dave Mellors in Shrewsbury (now Trailhead!) and it was DEFINITELY one of the greatest moments of my life. Earlier that week I came down for breakfast and on the table was £450 in cash from my grandad (he didn’t believe in inheritances!). We had decided on a GT Karakorum but as soon as I walked in the shop it was Pro-Flex love at first sight and as ALL cyclists know we simply couldn’t afford to pay the extra £100, haha! Despite the fact that it weighed almost as much as my skinny self I raced that for my two best XC seasons and took loads of Casio KOMs on my local Mid Wales trails to boot.
So, for a long time, no bike could get anywhere near replacing the Pro-Flex and I mean NOWHERE! Until the Cotic Solaris Max came into my life. I could write page after page about why that is but I guess the abridged version is; that when you reach out to a company for support and they respond in such a caring and understanding way by almost instantly giving you a bike that; enables you to achieve the dream of a lifetime and ride over 2000km (and up 200,000ft) in Oregon, Washington, Tibet and Nepal. Literally becomes a companion, one that, every time I ride, eases my challenges with depression and anxiety. Just this weekend got me on the podium at a Welsh Enduro Series event. Then I believe that the Pro-Flex is happy to hand over the mantle of my favourite bike!
If you could ride 1 trail for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Oh man, such a tricky one! Do you go childhood, adventure, full bananas gnar or the daily bread? It’s between 3 I think; my straight of the office door Cornish coast path cliff ride, the incredible Elan Valley loop in Mid-Wales or the mind-boggling Plains of Abraham trail up and across the eerily beautiful volcanic blast zone of Mt St Helens in Washington. Can I go with 3?
So many riders these days are turning their backs on racing and finding new and exciting ways to express themselves and their sponsors on the bike via social media. How has your perception of riding and racing changed, if at all, as the years have gone by?
Yeah, I love it! The rise of the soul riders, it echoes the way surfing has re-evolved in the last 15 years! Rat Boy is a great example of this.
Like everything it’s horses for courses and the more lights in which we can show how wonderful it is to ride bikes the better I say. Be you a jean shorted bike packer, a body armoured gap smasher or an old school Ned Overend worshipping XC whippet we all just love riding bikes at the end of the day.
I still love the process and buzz of racing but if I had to choose I’d go for epic ride solitude. There are many reasons for this but a growing one is that I can’t really go to a race without getting upset at the amount of single-use plastic waste and litter that’s used in the event villages and dropped on the trails by my fellow competitors.
If I’m honest I’m often pretty angry for the whole weekend at the sheer volume of it and, perhaps even more, at the current lack of acknowledgment, apathy by many event organisers. So, I apologise in advance but I’m going to vent a little here.
For me there’s no debate. If you are going to put an event on that utilises natural, outdoor spaces the very first and most important thing that you must consider, plan for and put into action is how you are going to have an as little negative impact on the immediate and wider environment that you are using for commercial gain.
Far too often this is seen as an annoyance an afterthought, a “If we have time to…”;
- …damage the environment by providing drinking water (a basic human right by the way)
- …ensure that we recycle properly (especially when we’re selling bottled water, cans of Coke and celebratory beer!)
- …not give out mounds of pointless tat as prizes
- …ask riders not to leave piles of Costa cups where their Transporter was or High 5 gel sachets at the top of stage 4 of a 10 km lap!!!!!
If you haven’t got time to do these (and plenty more besides), you haven’t got time to run an event. Full stop.
And you multiply all this by a factor of about 1 million for events like Rampage and World Cup Downhill.
This is why riders who give a monkey-like Rat Boy are breaking away. Because the capitalists have taken over and woe betides anyone who questions what a sponsor wants! Phew!!! Rant over.
If you could have anyone’s riding style, who's would it be?
A combination of Jason McRoys effortless class and Jolanda Neff’s joyful commitment please.
Which events are or were you most excited about racing or attending this year?
I’ve had pretty intense year from a few angles and haven’t done as much racing as I was hoping to (I turned 40 in February and was hoping to make waves in the Vets category! Haha). You guys gave me these awesome XC wheels because I told you I was going to do some marathon races and I haven’t done one yet! I’m sorry I owe you!!
I’ve been absolutely loving watching the UCI XCO World Cup this season and I’m hoping to go and watch and ride two weekends in Europe next summer.
XC is the new Enduro and I’m gunning for 2020! So watch this space…….:)
So what is Trash free trails and how did it come about?
Trash Free Trails is a rider led, community-focused non-profit organisation.
We exist to protect our trails and the wild places they take us to and we’re starting with litter (AKA -Plastic Pollution!)
Our mission is to reduce plastic pollution on our trails and wild places by 75% by 2025. We will do this by creating an equal and opposite increase in positive awareness and action within the trail user community (and riding bikes together of course!).
How did it come about?...
I could spout loads of stats, but the truth is that I couldn’t handle the sheer scale of littering that I was witnessing on our trails.
It seemed that not a mile could pass without seeing casually discarded plastic bottles (which take 450-1000 years to break down), sweet wrappers, gel sachets, cable ties and inner tubes. Wherever I rode I couldn’t escape it and I certainly couldn’t ignore it.
In short I was pissed off, but however much I enjoyed the trailside rants I soon came to realise that if I really cared that much then I actually needed to do something about it.
Mahatma Gandhi (a keen cyclist himself) had it right when he said that you have to; “be the change you want to see in the world.”
And so, in January 2017, Trash Free Trails was born.
Fast forward to today and I know have an equal partner (a fine and bloody funny chap called Ben Gaby) and we’re supported by a feral freelance designer/adventure called Ellie Ewart and a ramshackle bunch of 30 permanent regional volunteers called the A-TEAM.
And we’ve got big plans…
What is R.A.D?
Everyone loves an acronym right?! So, R.A.D is ours. On a more serious note, we’re deep into an era of sound bites and short attention spans so we have to try our best to capture that attention and ‘present’ ourselves and our aims to people in an engaging and purposeful way. In short people want to know what we’re about and what we want from them. This is where R.A.D comes in…
Through our R.A.D solutions program, we aim to create positive change within the trail user community from grassroots to governance. Starting with a massive reduction in the amount of litter on our trails.
- R – Fostering and celebrating RIDER’S RESPONSIBILITY
- A – Creating and supporting AWARENESS & ACTION
- D – Working with industry to DESIGN & DEVELOP more sustainable products and events.
What simple things can an everyday rider do to help the cause?
We’re super proud to say that more and more people are getting in touch with a version of that question every day and our answer is always the same.
Start simply, recognise that every small, positive act DOES make a difference and take your time getting to know the issue and how you’d like to tackle it.
We've put together a step by step 'The 5 Stages to Trash Free Trails' tool-kit, which (you can find it on our website here https://www.trashfreetrails.org/open-source) we hope will give people the freedom to get cracking and begin their 'ride' as part of the Trash Free Trails team!
Here’s ‘STAGE 1’ to get the wheels rolling…
STAGE 1: INDIVIDUAL ACTION - #JOINTHETRASHMOB
- ALWAYS - #packitoutpackitin
- TAKE 10 FOR THE TRAILS - Do a #minitrailclean every time you ride
- THE USUAL SUSPECTS - Report what you find #stateofthetrails
- FROM SOFA TO START LINE BE A - #plasticfreeride
The best moment you have achieved through Trash Free Trails?
Although having meetings with STRAVA, Trek Bicycles and Forestry England (watch these spaces!) is really encouraging and getting messages of support from Rat Bob and Darren ‘Bearclaw’ Berrecloth is super cool it’s got to be delivering our first ever Trail Clean Tour this spring in partnership with Trek Bicycles!
The simple fact that 282 riders, runners and roamers of all ages joined us to remove 77 sacks of plastic pollution (that’s over 350 Kgs!!) from 6 of the UK’s most iconic (and well looked after by the way) trail centers was incredibly motivating. These guys welcomed us to their trails and donated their precious time to pick-up 844 bags of dog poo and count and record the brands of 644 plastic bottles (141 of which were Lucozade bottles and) 744 plastic wrappers.
Ben, Ellie and I spoke to each and every one of these incredible people, we shared toil and tea together and as we reluctantly drove away from the sun-dappled shores of Coniston Water after the final event in Grizedale Forest we knew we were onto something!
(and don’t even get me started on our A-TEAM! I well up with pride every time I think about their support! Get to know these guys here https://www.trashfreetrails.org/r-a-d)
So as gels and similar plastic-wrapped foods are an easy thing to drop and cause litter should we all be sticking to the trusty banana, or are than any other great energy snacks that you would recommend that you don't have to worry about falling out of your pocket?
We want to be really clear about the fact that we’re not here to preach at anyone or play the blame and shame game! I flew completely around the world last year and I bloody love a packet of crisps, so I’m super wary of being a hypocrite.
All we’re saying that the very least we can do is not actively damage our trails and wild places. Start with that promise and see where you get to…
A good place to start is asking whether you really need the things you consume or are they more of a want? Now there’s nothing wrong with a bit of ‘wanty wanty’ every now and then but I definitely get pissed off when people try to tell me that they “need” a gel on a 10km blue loop ride, or that they “need” to buy a 6 pack of Lucozade when there’s a perfectly excellent tap 5 yards away! The first step is to acknowledge it to yourself.
So, I guess I’m throwing it back at people again. We all know how pointless single-use plastic is, how much damage it does when it escapes into our environment. The coolest thing is that by going to your local plastic-free shop and putting together the ultimate custom-made trail mix (in your upcycled cereal pouch no less), making a bomber sandwich or just gloating at your gel sucking friends as they get the maltodextrin poo's on the way home from a big ride you may begin to realize that it’s actually not a sacrifice after all!
Have you ever slipper on a banana skin? Metaphorically many times, mostly of my own dropping!
Final question. If you could find a way to strap anything to your bike, what would it be? My old springer spaniel Robert Ferris (AKA Bob). He passed away a few years ago but was the funniest (and foulest) animal ever to walk the earth!
Hope you guys enjoyed what Dom had to say and we thank him very much for his time.