LOUISE Tommy Wilkin­son meets FER­GU­SON up with scot­land’s Louise Fer­gu­son IS FLIP­PING and dis­cov­ers just how big her ap­petite is AWE­SOME! for ad­ven­tures on two wheels

Mountain Biking UK - - LOUISE FERGUSON - Words & Pics Tommy Wilkin­son

The first thing to strike me about Louise Fer­gu­son was the jux­ta­po­si­tion be­tween off-bike Louise and on-bike Louise. To say that I was a lit­tle taken aback when this quiet and unas­sum­ing young rider started send­ing ev­ery jump on the Fort Wil­liam 4X track would be an un­der­state­ment. The de­sire to im­prove and sim­ply do more with her bike is some­thing that’s led Louise to ex­plore her na­tive Scot­land with an in­sa­tiable ap­petite. Her old Volk­swa­gen Polo can be seen up and down the coun­try as she races en­duro in Dunkeld, per­fects back­flips at Unit 23 Skatepark in Glas­gow, does laps of the Al­nwick pump track or goes on ex­ploratory mis­sions into the Cairn­gorms. I went rid­ing with Louise near her home in Fort Wil­liam to find out what makes her tick.

Na­ture’s play­ground

The moun­tains around Fort Wil­liam pro­vide a per­fect play­ground to hone your rid­ing skills in, as well as some in­cred­i­ble scenery. As we hike up above Eilean Do­nan Cas­tle in Kin­tail, an hour-and-a-half up the road, the weather is change­able, but there’s no grum­bling. Lead­ing the way is Louise’s flat­mate Mark Clark, a moun­tain bike guide. Once we reach the sad­dle and set down our film­ing equip­ment, Louise wastes no time get­ting on her bike. It’s clear to see why she ex­cels on the steep ter­rain at en­duro races as she rails turns and pops over loose rocks with a care­free aban­don that comes from nat­u­ral flair.

Rock­ing up at races not know­ing any­one would be in­tim­i­dat­ing for some, but Louise has earned a swathe of fans on the well-loved No Fuss Events cir­cuit by sim­ply rolling up her sleeves and crack­ing on. “The Scot­tish race scene is in­cred­i­bly wel­com­ing,” she says. “I found my first few races chal­leng­ing but also strangely ad­dic­tive.” While Scot­land is still her main stomp­ing ground, a re­cent three­week bikepack­ing odyssey through the Rocky Moun­tains sparked a drive to see more via her bi­cy­cle and helped di­rect Louise to­wards the sort of life she’d like to live. “My friends and I thought the trip would tie in with our val­ues – sim­ply us, our bikes, wildlife and a lot of ped­alling,” she ex­plains. “It proved to be a fan­tas­tic way to ex­pe­ri­ence a new part of the world and test our re­solve. The fu­ture def­i­nitely holds more bik­ing ad­ven­tures!”

... and the crowd goes wild!

With a de­sire to see the world, race en­duro and down­hill and try her hand at ‘speed and style’ events, Louise is keen to com­pete in the Crankworx se­ries, but doesn’t want to be pi­geon­holed into one type of rid­ing. “I like to push my­self on the bike and rac­ing is a big part of that, but the main aim is to just ride my bike!” she says. “Very lit­tle beats rid­ing bikes with good com­pany. We’re be­yond lucky to have these ex­pe­ri­ences and I’m go­ing to do this for as long as I can.” With sup­port from her spon­sors, Louise bal­ances rid­ing with work­ing as a life­guard and at the Ben Ne­vis Vis­i­tor Cen­tre, but ul­ti­mately she’d like to do it full time.

As the day draws on, we’re sent a video of Louise land­ing her first back­flip on a dou­ble, at the Air Maiden women’s event at Glen­tress. High up in the moun­tains, with a heavy storm mak­ing its way to­wards us, it’s hard not to get stoked on rid­ing bikes as we watch her set both wheels down in near per­fect form, to an in­fec­tious roar from the crowd. With the stoke high, Louise and Mark set off in a train to­wards the bot­tom in the now tor­ren­tial rain, still play­ing with the ter­rain as they snake their bikes over boul­ders, streams and wa­ter bars. Part of a new school that doesn’t care about im­age, trends or what’s cur­rently in fash­ion, Louise just has a love of rid­ing bikes, in any en­vi­ron­ment and in any style. With this men­tal­ity, I’ve got a feel­ing we’ll be see­ing a lot more of her.

At home in the moun­tains

There’s no bet­ter place than Fort Wil­liam if you have a love of UK moun­tains, and Louise knows how to make the most of them across all sea­sons. The Ne­vis range is both a sum­mer and win­ter haunt, but it’s the trails sur­round­ing it that see the most ac­tion. The

CIC path that leads to the north face of Ben Ne­vis is a favourite, as are some lesser-known gems just out of town. It’s here, in the shoul­der sea­son, when bad weather is likely but rid­ing still comes first, that you can see how much Louise wants to keep rid­ing her bike in the moun­tains, even with snow fall­ing.

Racer at heart

Louise has had less time to race this year be­cause she’s been busy com­plet­ing her dis­ser­ta­tion at the Univer­sity of the High­lands and Is­lands. It’s some­thing that re­mains close to her heart though, and she’s still man­aged to notch up wins in her cat­e­gory at two Scot­tish En­duro Se­ries rounds and the wild Naughty Northum­brian En­duro, plus third place in the Scot­tish Down­hill Cham­pi­onships. When on track, Louise def­i­nitely wants to win, but it doesn’t make or break her week­end, with fun be­ing the pri­or­ity at all times.

Pro­gres­sion

Pro­gres­sion plays a key part in the en­joy­ment Louise gets from rid­ing too, as shown dur­ing a re­cent road­trip with her De­scent World team­mate Skinny Mick (Michael Eas­ton) and friends. Rid­ing one of Scot­land’s new­est jump lines, Louise cleared the whole lot in one day, send­ing the 30ft dou­bles with se­ri­ous style, be­fore de­cid­ing to try to back­flip a 15ft hipped dou­ble. We all headed up with her, ap­pre­hen­sive but con­fi­dent. Af­ter five run-ins, Louise ro­tated per­fectly over this cheesewedge-lipped gap. Ro­tat­ing slightly in the air, she just tapped the land­ing enough to knock her off. A fail, but oh so close on her first at­tempt!

“I like to push my­self and rac­ing is a big part of that, but the main aim is to just ride my bike!”

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