Mountain Bike Magazine SANI - Autumn 2018 - Page 90

Nikki Haywood has a flippin’ cool job. As the owner of Trail Angels, she gets to share her passion for mountain biking by riding with like-minded women every day, teaching them the valuable skills she’s learnt along the way. By Liza West n 2006, I began the ultimate mountain biking adventure. The Cape Epic had always been on my bucket list, and when the opportunity arose to enter, I grabbed it. My partner and I stuck to a six- month training program, which included a few skills clinics, and in March 2007 we were on the start line ready for the ride of our lives. On Day 2 my partner sadly had to pull out of the race due to an injury, and I spent the next six days trying to just make the cut off. I became good friends with the sweeper who encouraged me every day to get over that finish line. In those eight days, I learnt 90 | MTB | mtb angels many life lessons: • Just when you think you can’t go on, you can • Positive self talk is immensely helpful, don’t let the negative demons invade your head • Don’t sweat the small stuff • Perseverance leads to improvement • Commitment gets results • Practice makes perfect • In order to grow and improve, you have to fail I went on to complete another four Cape Epics, many Sani2Cs and W2Ws, and over the years I realised that there weren’t enough women on bikes and I wanted to do something about that. I wanted to give back to this wonderful sport that I had benefitted so much from. So in 2012 I ventured out with a handful of ladies who’d expressed some interest in improving skills and confidence, and the Trail Angels was born. Fast forward five years and we now have over 120 active members. Those life lessons I learnt from Epic I’ve witnessed first-hand with the ladies that I work with on a daily basis. The physical side of riding a bike is one thing but seeing the positive changes – emotional wellbeing, confidence, self-esteem and self belief – has been very rewarding. Women generally love belonging to a group. By being HELL OF AN ANGEL part of Trail Angels, our ladies wear their pretty cycling kit with pride while they experience the most amazing encouragement from other women. They are never intimidated or discouraged to try new challenges, they are all there to get fitter, learn new skills and how to really get the most enjoyment from their bikes. They feel no pressure from the ride leaders or the members and we provide an environment for them to improve at their own pace. We are now regularly recognised at events and it’s so great to bring a feminine aspect to this amazing sport. The queries I get most often, are things like, “I have an old bike, can I join?” or “I haven’t ridden a bike in 20 years, can I join?” or “I’m really unfit, can I join?” The answer is always yes! Trail Angels welcomes all women – we have 10 rides a week that cater for beginners right through to the advanced riders (think dedicated skills days where we concentrate on upskilling as well as outrides to the Stellenbosch, Elgin and Durbanville areas). We also offer bike fix workshops (to teach them how to sort technical issues on their bikes while out on the trails), training rides for big races, as well as local and international tours. We have a host of sponsors and free access to the Uitsig Bike Park thanks to Chris Nixon’s big heart and passion for the sport. Our Stellenbosch franchise started