A few weeks back now we introduced Christine Fox as the newest addition to team DMBinS in a move from her role within Scottish Cycling. Christine is the Mountain Bike Leadership Development Officer.

We asked her to explain her work plan and the other elements of her role and why she is a super fit for the team –

So Christine, what you up to then?

Well, officially my job title is Mountain Bike Leadership Development Officer. With an overarching remit to take the lead on the development of the British Mountain Bike Leadership Awards in and for Scotland. What that means is close collaborative working relationships with those developing the Awards in British Cycling but with the unique requirements and landscape (physically and politically) of Scotland, at the fore.

There is lots of other stuff administratively and communication wise, a load of folk I work alongside like our amazing tutor pool and some of the fantastic leaders out there alongside schools, colleges, University folk, enthusiastic riders, businesses within this community and not forgetting other adventure sport people too, UK wide.

I do like to be busy and this is such an exciting area to work in that there are lots of things I’d like to do but the current focus in terms of Leadership development is a new foundation level award. We have a centre specific Level 1 award, the exceptionally popular Level 2 award and the highly technical, remote operating level 3 award.

But with the current Level 1 award being centre specific and so not as accessible, we were missing a foundation, grass roots award. It is this, that in collaboration with British Cycling, our providers alongside specialists in Leadership in the Outdoors that we are currently developing.

I get so excited at the potential for this award, for schools and colleges, for clubs and individuals alike that to keep this concise is going to be a wee bit of a challenge for me. The fundamental principle behind this award is to create something that enables us to deliver excellent leaders; rider centred and motivated to enthuse, based on a simple, accessible framework of vision, support and challenge. Leadership principles that while grounded in some really hefty academic research (on transformational leadership for those of you interested in that aspect) and evidenced across a number of other outdoor adventure sports, just feel right!

Our new and aspiring leaders are in an amazing yet slightly scary position; for many of those they lead it will be their first introduction to mountain biking and while our leader at this level may not necessarily be the most experienced mountain biker, they are in a position of great influence over their novice riders who may or may not come back as a result of their experience. We are not taking that lightly in the development of this award.

The new award was due to be piloted in September and rolled out shortly afterwards but that may now be delayed as a result of Covid 19.

Your role within team DMBinS has other elements and requirements that help progress the aims of the Scottish MTB Strategy – can you explain further?

Alongside development of the Awards I also have a remit for promotion of them and for me that is about increasing access. We have been in a great position in the past where we have had additional funding to allow us to offer bursaries for those working with underrepresented groups but in the last year we focused in on women in leadership. Women are underrepresented in the industry and for many, this seems to be routed in confidence. Fear of not being able to keep up with the group on training, fear that they can’t ride well enough, fix a bike quickly enough and so on.

I had a suspicion that there was a misconception around these Awards, that they were being perceived as harder than they actually are. With the wonderful Emma Holgate of Glenmore Lodge (Scotland’s only female MTB Leadership Tutor) and Aneela McKenna of Go-Where Scotland we delivered two successful weekends last year under the project title Rider2Leader. These weekends were a way of giving highly capable enthusiastic women the confidence to take the steps required to be a mountain bike leader.

Check out our little video.  We are hoping to run more of these in the future.

Recently I have also begun to investigate how we can develop a project where we utilise mountain biking to improve the mental health of young adults. It has been fantastic to learn about the successful pilot delivered in 2018 with DMBinS, Edinburgh Napier University and NHS Borders Social and Health Car Partnership. 

We are firm believers in the outdoors as a way to help mitigate against those experiencing mental ill-health and it has been fascinating to learn about how the pilot combined mountain biking with therapy on the trails. It is really interesting to learn how that feeling of flow alongside the super level of focus and commitment needed when riding trails has evidence based mental health benefits – this makes sense to us and we hope to be able to get a project underway that takes this further and provides us with a further evidence base of mountain biking’s benefits.

Final word from the Head of DMBinS – Graeme McLean “The team at DMBinS is expanding, highlighting the growth and passion across Scotland for mountain biking and how funders are realising its many benefits – including health of the nation, the sport and our contribution to the economy.

Having Christine coming into team DMBinS from another department in Scottish Cycling to further develop the Leadership awards with British Cycling will be crucial in reaching our mission of 2m trips to our countryside on a mountain bike by 2025. We will only achieve this target if we can introduce new people to our sport and provide them with amazing, appropriate and awesome experiences. To achieve this we need to develop a workforce of skilled and knowledgeable people.

It is also crucial that we ensure that the awards are developed taking into account our unique landscape in Scotland and our fantastic access legislation, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

For the mountain biking and mental health project, we were really close to securing funding from Comic Relief in 2019 – we got from 300 applicants to the last 12 and narrowly missed out on funding – which we were gutted about. However we aren’t giving up, and we are really excited that we have got funding from Scottish Cycling and sportscotland for Christine to develop new proposals working with Edinburgh Napier University and health boards across Scotland – we are convinced we can build on our pilot and enable mountain biking to help many more people recover from periods of mental ill-health.

Please have another look at our cool wee film to support the Mountain Biking and Mental Health Pilot.