9th March 2018
#WOMENDURANCE | 2 | NAOMI
We very often build up a personal relationship with our customers, the first communications instantly break down barriers because we are often talking about the customers physical dimensions and this can move on to back pain, injuries, struggles to raise the cash for their dream bike and the races and adventures that they have planned.
This is a really important side of Mason for me, I love to know where my creations are going in the world and where they are carrying people. It’s incredible how many Mason owners report back that their new bike has had a significant impact on their riding and sometimes inspired and encouraged real change in their lives.
I’ve always admired the more ‘left field’ and independent spirits in life, not so much the rebels but more the people who choose to go their own way, who are driven by something different, have an aversion to ‘normal’ and an open minded feeling of wonder at the world.
So, when I feel a real connection made with a new Mason owner, it is inevitably one of those types as above. Recently, it’s been really striking how we keep noticing the incredible rides, races and adventures of the women that own our bikes. We haven’t been deliberately looking but it’s just been impossible not to be enthralled by what these people are doing.
I’ve wanted to write something to highlight these impressive endeavours for a while and then ‘International Women’s Day’ arrived, so I was spurred into action and contacted 5 female Mason owners with some Q’s.
The idea was to run them all in the blog post you see here but once I started reading I was blown away by the emotion, honesty and integrity in the writing and didn’t want to edit out a single word. So, we are going to run them all in full, starting today and posting 1 a day for the 5 days following International Women’s Day.
Naomi Freireich had a storming 2017 with Wins at the Strathpuffer, Glacier360 and National 24 Hour championships.
We first caught up with her when Gore Apparel called up and asked to borrow a Bokeh for an upcoming shoot. It turned out that Naomi and pro explorer Ness Knight were planning a coast 2 coast ride across Scotland and the shoot would take place along the way.
Naomi loved the ride, fell in love with the Bokeh and shortly after decided she would leave her job and devote her 2018 to riding and adventure. So, of course we sent the Bokeh straight back up to Scotland! She has some big things planned.
So, here are Naomi’s honest, open and inspirational answers to my 6 #Womendurance questions;
IMAGES COURTESY OF NAOMI FREIREICH / CHARLIE LEES
1. Please describe your Mason bike : ]
I ride the deliciously orange Bokeh Rival 1x. Its build is 'off the shelf' right now but I've just been given a set of Lauf Grit forks to try out for my upcoming ride on the Silk Road. I fell in love with this bike when the kind guys at Mason leant me it to ride a Coast to Coast trail in Scotland from Ullapool to Ardgay. The route is part of the Highland Trail 550, and ideally suited to a hardtail, with a lot of loose, rocky sections, but the Bokeh was incredible over even the most technical terrain on the route while still chewing up the tarmac miles with ease. That's when I knew it was the bike for me!
2. Why did you first get into cycling and what drives you to do the type of riding that you do?
I first got into cycling 8 years ago. I'd just come out of a very difficult and damaging relationship, and cycling gave me the space to be by myself, invest in my own wellbeing and recover. As I got better and rode as much for enjoyment as for mental wellbeing I found that the longer I spent on a bike, pushing myself to go further and ride for longer, the more I found I was capable of just keeping going. Friends I had met through the bike club at my work were entering the Strathpuffer race one year and I decided to have a go. It turned out that pushing myself through extremes of temperature, exhaustion and other hardships was something I was actually quite good at, and it all grew from there. I have found passion in doing something that I love and that I can develop mastery in.
3. We are noticing more and more Women riding ultra-endurance races and expeditions, we've recently seen female Mason riders heading off all over the world and competing in very testing rides. Do you think more women are now doing these rides, or is it that we are just noticing them more?
I think it's probably a bit of both. I know a lot of strong, independent women who have been doing this for years. We've always been there, and women are built for endurance so it stands to reason we'd excel in the sport. But what has changed is the public's perception of what a woman should be. There are so many women standing up now and fighting back against stereotypes, prejudices and inequalities that the world can't help but notice that these extraordinary individuals have always been there, just quietly doing their thing. And this change in society, while perhaps slower than we'd like, is also helping to form the lives of a new generation of women. Women who don't need to be pigeon-holed as tomboyish or unfeminine. Women who can just do what they enjoy and be accepted for it, and it's amazing to be part of the older generation who have paved the way for this to happen by just doing.
4. 'Adventure Riding' and 'Bike Packing' seems to be exploding right now, many riders are discovering what lies either side of the roads that they have been riding for years! I'm often encouraging people to head out into the unknown, get a bit lost and 'discover their inner caveman/woman'! But our lives are increasingly busy and a proper adventure needs time, so how do you manage to fit your essential riding into your busy lives?
I had an interesting conversation/debate with a friend of mine about what constitutes an 'ordinary' person (bear with me here, I'm getting to the point). I maintained that I was ordinary: I am a project manager, a mum of two and stepmum of two more, with the associated housework: I have the kind of busy life that most women can relate to. All of these things I fit my training around (and not 'around my training', this distinction is important to me). I didn't start out with the abilities I have. I have become the 'athlete' I am through hard work and determination, ingenuity and commitment. My friend argues that my drive and my physical predisposition (if I have one) make me far from ordinary. The crux of the matter is though, that if you want to seek mastery (and you can be 'ordinary' and seek mastery) you need to put in the effort. And it's not always easy: effort seldom is. I'll train early so I am done before I have breakfast with my kids, I'll do my strength work on the rug in front of the fire and a good tv show with my kids so that we can share that family time. They even join me sometimes! I'll mix up my work commutes to add in training rides, hills, reps, longer rides, to minimise the amount of additional time these things take out of my day, and when my kids are with their dad I'll devote my spare time to getting out and doing as much riding outside as I can. Ultimately, I'm a mum first and it's important to me that what could be deemed my potentially selfish endeavour of adventure riding doesn't impact my kids. Plus if I didn't work I couldn't afford to enjoy the sport I do, so there's always a balance. At the same time though, my kids know what I do and love it and are proud of me, so there's definitely something in it for them too. I like being a strong female role model for them.
5. Describe that 'Take your breath away moment' that you have experienced when riding, racing or adventuring.
I've had a couple of adventures up munros (they're mountains over 3000ft in Scotland). I've carried (mostly) my bike up, bivvied overnight with spectacular views and a stunning sense of remoteness, woken with the dawn to breathtaking sunrises, shared the hillside with hares and owls, eaten breakfast and then ridden back down again. And in the summer, a mini adventure like that can be squeezed in between leaving work one day and arriving the next. What still surprises me is just how beautiful Scotland is, and yet how little of it most people who live here actually see. From Edinburgh, I can be in the Highlands within a little over an hour and yet it feels like there aren't people around for days.
6. Modern life puts all sorts of pressures on us, riding is undoubtedly good for us physically but can you describe how it helps you mentally? Would you mind sharing something in particular that riding has helped you through or helped shape things for the better?
I touched on it a little earlier, and have spoken in detail about it in the past. Thankfully I am fully recovered and have moved on from what was a very destructive relationship. Unnoticed by me although seen by those who loved me, I went from a confident 20-something with the world at her feet, to becoming a shell of a person, bruised by years of emotional (and ultimately physical) abuse and with such low self esteem that I spiralled into depression. I started cycling when I left the relationship. At first it got me out, it helped me to rekindle friendships and make new ones and gave me a bit of head space. It got me through my lowest points and gave me a way of escaping from feelings of self-doubt, loss and anger. I would get an amazing sense of wellbeing and achievement and valuable endorphins which helped combat my depression and gave me the energy to start rebuilding my life. While it's probably over-dramatic to say that cycling saved my life, it definitely helped me manage my mental health and as I grew stronger I developed a love of the sport so much deeper than if I had come to it well. If not life-saving, it was definitely life-changing. That's why I feel really privileged to be able to volunteer for InnerCycle, a charity aiming to help those with mental health concerns through cycling. I hope that, with my passion for cycling and the experience of what it gave me and how it helped me recover, I can help others do the same. I'm a strong believer of paying it forward.
Stay tuned to Naomi's victories and epic-adventures on her blog here. We're especially excited to follow her Silk Road Mountain Race preparation and even more so to watch her dot during the race. We're proud to be supporting her as a #MASONite.
Next up in our #Womendurance series is #MASONite Annaleena Piel Linnå, the Ultra-Viking and definitive free-spirit.