Olivia Smedley’s Life-Changing Mountain Bike Ride

Like most kids, my dad taught me to ride a bike at a young age, but as I got older and found other interests, I stopped riding. About a year ago, I was reintroduced to the sport by my friend Sam. She invited me to a local trail center, Haldon Forest near Exeter, and took me straight onto the red-graded trail. I thought nothing of it – I was completely oblivious to the different grades of trails. My thought was, “How hard can it be? Surely when you know how to ride a bike, it’s all pretty straightforward.”

I soon discovered that mountain biking was a bit different than the paths my dad took me on as a kid. The 6-mile trail was filled with rocky, technical sections and steep downhills which terrified me. I was struggling to keep my balance on the rental bike with no idea how to change the gears. It was definitely a jump in at the deep end, but I wasn’t discouraged – in fact, I wanted more! Each obstacle was a challenge that I wanted to conquer and I was determined to learn how to mountain bike. I’ll never forget that day… it opened up a whole new world I didn’t know existed. 

Getting into mountain biking has definitely been life-changing for me. Being out in nature makes me stronger mentally and ready for the challenges life presents. Obviously, there are many sports that you could do outside, but I feel mountain biking offers something unique. For every punishing climb, there is a gravity-assisted reward awaiting you on the other side.

As a school teacher, my job can be very overwhelming. When I get on my mountain bike, it is my escape. When you are flying along on the bike with the wind howling in your ears and rain lashing down on your face (or rays of sunshine if you’re lucky), you definitely feel alive! You are living in the moment with not a care in the world. I think biking could benefit many people in this same way and that is why I hope to inspire more women to hop on two wheels and get pedaling.

With the opportunity the Liv Trail Squad has given me, my ultimate goal is to successfully complete the Cape Epic in South Africa next year. I have never taken part in an event of this scale before (or even close), so it will be an amazing personal challenge for me to take on. In the short term, I have entered a local event called the ‘Tour de Moor’. It is a 52 km loop of Dartmoor in Devon that I hope to complete as part of my training for the Cape Epic.

As I embark on this journey, I’ll be sharing videos and stories of my rides and training to show that you don’t always have to be the best to feel great! Stay tuned!

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