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    Beyond The Rainbow

    Specialized Soil Searching: Manon Carpenter

    "… Manon’s love for riding penetrated the layers of all these accolades, “fleeting moments,” as she puts it. Her passion for two wheels was forged in the bedrock, the very core of pure, mindful mountain biking."

    It’s spring 2020. The bluebells are firing on all cylinders and decorate the ancient woodlands and mystical valleys of Southern Wales in natural robes of royalty. The hour is about to turn golden and unveils the rolling green hills in all their glory. Manon sets out on a “lockdown isolation ride” to reset and escape. A conscious, deliberate endeavor to get lost … within her permissible, designated area of lockdown jurisdiction, of course.

    It’s there at the top of the hill, as the sun sinks into the horizon, that Manon has what you might call a moment of enlightenment. She reflects on everything mountain biking has allowed her to experience but simultaneously can’t help but feel conflicted. The thought of people being deprived of that same experience just because they are unable to locate the right trails on a map or have received fines for being on the wrong trails left Manon indignant. She was determined to gain a deeper understanding of her environment, but more specifically, why it seems like drawing water from a stone to get trails sanctioned and opened to mountain bikers in her area, and ultimately, the greater UK.

    Fortunately, for the mountain biking community, Manon is used to finding her way through the tape, literally. She spent her youthful riding career chasing the rainbow stripes on the international downhill race circuit. In 2011, Manon became Junior UCI Downhill World Champion as well as Junior UCI Mountain Bike World Cup overall winner. In 2014, she became double world champion by winning the UCI World Cup Mountain Bike Downhill Series overall and the UCI Mountain Bike World Championship. That same year, Manon was named Elite Cyclist of the Year at the USN Welsh Cycling Awards.

    However, it’s apparent that Manon’s love for riding penetrated the layers of all these accolades, “fleeting moments,” as she puts it. Her passion for two wheels was forged in the bedrock, the very core of pure, mindful mountain biking.

    In 2017, Manon dropped the proverbial mic and retired from racing to pursue her other passion—geology. In her own words, “I’ve always been inspired by the natural world. I thought about marine biology and zoology but ended up with … rocks (chuckling).” She immersed herself in her studies, learning about how our planet has shaped and shifted throughout history. “It’s pretty cool what our earth can do and how long it’s been doing it,” claims Manon, but not oblivious to our impact.

    The key, reckons Manon, is not attempting to eliminate our impact but rather to manage it. This is especially true if mountain biking is to have a seat at the environmental stewardship and activism table. The trails we create and maintain will help preserve our planet and celebrate the privilege of being outside in the woods.

    Manon and a group of fine like-minded folks are actively engaging in and inspiring dialogue between riding communities, trail builders, environmentalists, scientists, and land managers. The ultimate result hopefully is a genuine connection, mutual understanding, and realization that we all have a role to play in using our tools, skills, and passion to protect our natural spaces. To move away from a sense of entitlement to a sense of belonging.

    As mountain bikers, we can count our lucky stars to have people like Manon in our corner to show the world that mountain bikers are not just a bunch of dirty, adrenaline-seeking assholes who want to tear the place up but a rather delightful bunch indeed.