Off the drop with Emma Whitaker
We're super excited to announce that Emma Whitaker will be on our wheels for 2019!
Emma will be touring Europe in her van and ticking off bucket list riding spots all summer long. We interviewed Emma to find out more about her, importantly who Travis was and what makes someone trade in the steady 9-5 for #vanlife.
Name – Emma Whitaker
Age - 24
Ice Breaker! Describe yourself in 3 words
Small, clumsy, messy…
What’s your secret hobby/passion away from the bike?
drawing and photography
What is your earliest cycling memory?
I’m struggling to think of one, I have the memory of a goldfish. I actually didn’t learn to ride a bike till I was maybe 8 or 9. Before that I had a trusty trike!
How did you get into riding?
Being lucky enough to spend summer holidays out in the French Alps, I got taken out by some family friends straight onto the downhill trails – I was hooked straightaway!
First bike & favourite bike?
First bike was a second hand Scott Voltage. My favourite bike was my Giant Glory 2012 with a vivid air shock. It was so playful and I’d never ridden a downhill bike like it since.
If you could ride 1 trail for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m sure this will change over the next few years but right now it would be a trail in the alps that starts at the top of Super Chatel and ends in the valley. It’s an old Bike park trail that walkers have adapted. It has everything from swooping berms to interesting rock gardens, roots as thick as me and steepness to keep you going! There has been days where I’d just ride that non stop!
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 on riding and racing changed, if at all, as the years have gone by?
As a kid I enjoyed racing, the atmosphere and everything that came with it. But as I got older and the idea grew that I could make a living out of this- the pressures got too much and I eventually stopped enjoying it.
I didn’t like all the training, I felt the rides I went on weren’t for fun and if I didn’t do my intervals I wouldn’t get good results. So I took a few years off racing and came back with a new outlook – I don’t care how the group rides, where we ride, how fast we go. As longs as we’re all having fun, that’s all that matters.
What are your thoughts on the progression/current situation of women’s riding and racing? What key things do you think we could all be doing to improve it?
Women’s riding has improved massively over a short time. I remember being 15 and racing with all the senior women because there weren’t enough youths or juniors. Now a days there’s plenty and each have a category which is amazing! But that’s almost a 10 year gap of difference which isn’t a long time.
I think it’s important to still keep pushing for women's riding, you go to some places and it’s still a sausage party which is intimidating for so many women! Just like a guy walking into a nail salon full of women- scary (infact that’d also be terrifying for me but you get the idea) we’ve a long way to go yet and it’s amazing to see all the young girls pushing forward and getting the support needed.
If you could have anyone’s riding style, who's would it be?
Casey Brown, all day every day.
Which events are you most excited about racing or attending this year?
Pass Portes Du Soleil should be good. I’ve ridden the route so many times I think I could do it in my sleep! But it’ll be good to do the actual event – all the cheese included will be a bonus! I’m looking forward to attending the Les Gets world cup too, should be a laugh!
Packing in a steady job to go live in a van and travel Europe is a daunting prospect, what was your biggest fears and did you face any unforeseen issues in the build up?
Not going to lie, Brexit was one. I’d be scared we’d be stuck in the UK forever! So far so good, but who knows what’s to come. We’d been planning it for so long we’d made sure everything was smooth running up to it. So far nothings gone wrong, touch wood…
Where did the idea come from? Has it been a long term dream, or more of an impulse decision?
As a Kid I saw lots of racers vans and privateers and it’s what I wanted to do. I knew that’s what I’d be doing when I grew up. I was lucky enough to get a partner that was happy enough to join me. So Carly and I started saving, eventually got a van kitted it out and here we are. It’s surreal how quickly time went.
Have you got a set itinerary in mind, or just seeing where the road takes you?
We’ve got a couple places to be like the Pass Portes for June/July but apart from that, see what the weathers doing and wherever looks good!
For a trip like this this, where do you begin packing? Did you have any special gear for the trip and what’s the biggest home comfort you’ll miss on the road?
We semi moved into the van in September so all our kit was already in. We downsized A LOT. We’re lucky that we’re the same size so one wardrobe for two people makes life easier. I’m a huge fan of lists so it was my job to list everything we need, stuff we can’t life without and stuff we’d like to have but not important.
Oh and all the spare parts for bikes – that we needed… I definitely miss a shower. I know it’s gross we can’t wash all the time but we find ways – it’s not a necessity but abroad there's plenty of lakes, beach showers and aires we can take advantage off.
For fellow van lovers- tell us a little more about it/him/her? Special mods? Named yet?
His name is Travis, hes a Citroen relay L3H2. Got the standard bed, table sink and small sofa. We’re lucky that we fit in the van width ways to sleep so we saved a tonne of space doing that. Under the bed we’ve got a slide out drawer for the bikes and a bunch of boxes filled with kit and out paddle boards. It’s not perfect, we’re not natural DIY’ers or woodworkers but it’s our home and we built it so it’s pretty special to us.
We always like to end with a good crash story – what’s your worst and how much stuff did you break?!
I have so many! I’ve ruptured my spleen twice, and I’ve still got it! The second time was at National Champs (a year off the bike from the first time I ruptured it) It was my first practice run. I had ridden maybe 3 times that year and my friends pushed me into entering. I came off at a steep bit and crushed my side on a stump ended up with a ruptured spleen, lacerated kidney, broken ribs, punctured lungs some lovely concussion and a 2 week stay in hospital. It was painful to say the least!