Hannah Dines. Welcome to Bike Gob's Big Interview. As we speak, you are parked up in a motorway service station on route to the Para-cycling World Championships in Switzerland. Wawaweewah! Needless to say, Bike Gob is not also there in the motorway service station, just talking to you on the phone, but regardless, let's get straight down to it. Bike Gob has had the pleasure of riding Bike Gob's bike with you a couple of times. You are super fast and Bike Gob finds it hard to keep up with you especially while you are talking. You are good at talking while riding your bike but Bike Gob gets really out of breath and would like a chance to talk to you when not cycling, so thanks for agreeing to Bike Gob’s interview. Bike Gob is dying to ask you lots of questions, so here we go:
BG: Bike Gob has heard that you are an actual proper professional cyclist. Kudos to you! What kind of bike racing do you do?
HD: I'm a para-cyclist with British Cycling. I do the discipline of road racing and time trialling so that's two different races, and my discipline is trike racing.
BG: Cool! Bike Gob really loves your bike and has noticed it has three wheels. Can you tell Bike Gob a bit about it?
HD: I ride a trike - it's kind of like a blown up toddler's tricycle with a lot of differences. It's a racing trike, so it's not made for stability, it's made for speed, so it's like an upright racing bike but you have an extra wheel there. The difference is that I ride it because I have no balance or coordination, so I can't stand and hold a two wheeler upright and then push off from the ground to get it going, but I have enough balance to keep this crazy machine of a trike upright. The trike is stable at rest but as soon as it starts moving it becomes unstable. It's actually kind of unbalanced in design so around corners, down hills and on cambers on the road it's really quite unbalanced. I've given a lot of people tests on it and the first thing they say is oh my goodness it's so different and they also scream a bit! Everybody assumes that the trike is easy to balance - I have a disability, and I ride it because of my disability, but by no means does that make it easier than a two-wheeler. I sometimes get annoyed at the roads because although some are perfectly flat, just a tiny camber that you wouldn't even notice can make things really tricky - a lot of the time I shut my eyes and hope for the best!
My trike, as well as having the third wheel that gives me stability at rest, also has a step through frame and various other alterations that allow me to adapt it specific to my ability. There are only two people in the UK who make custom built trikes like that and my guy is called Geoff Booker. He made it out of light weight steel so it's the lightest trike anywhere.
I've never ridden a two wheeler so it's hard for me to compare, but I've ridden a trike since I was three so that's like second nature to me. I rode a bike before I could walk and only learnt to walk when I was eleven so it's like my wheelchair. My mum would never let me go in a wheelchair, she was like, "go on a bike"!
BG: Your Mum sounds awesome! Does she ride a bike too?
HD: Yeah she does. My mum is more of a commuter than a racer, but she rides in all weathers and I mean all weathers in Glasgow, even when it's properly icy. I've had to dig her up a couple of times because she's come off and really hurt herself when riding in the snow!
BG: Wow! You're hardy ladies! So back to your trike, riding with three wheels must have some differences to riding with two. Are there any barriers that you think people designing roads and cycling infrastructure should consider for people on three wheels?
HD: It's really interesting because when I was younger (I rode my trike since three and I moved to Glasgow when I was four) there was cycling infrastructure around, but it didn't pay any attention to alternative needs. I don't just mean trikes or hand cycles, but also wheelchairs and people who have big mobility scooters. So cycle paths with lock gates always used to be closed, and my Mum had to go and ring up the council to make them give her a key so that she could go and open them to let me enjoy safe paths. But these days I am able bodied enough to go on the roads (when I was little I was too wobbly) and so generally, anywhere a car fits, I fit, which is good. I tend to avoid cycle paths now because of course as you say, I don't fit in them, they are too narrow. Even if I JUST fit in them I don't always ride dead straight and so have no leeway to wobble. I tend to pick routes that don't have cycle paths which is a shame because I'd rather be safer on the roads. I think it is changing though. Para-cycling in Scotland is very underdeveloped and if you go places that have more para-cyclists you tend to have bigger cycle paths, but I guess I just really need to make the government here aware that people like me exist.
BG: So how do you find the other traffic when you are cycling on the roads?
HD: Because I cycle with this lovely club called Glasgow Road Cycling Meetup (GRCM) I pick up a few stragglers behind me (like Steve ha ha only joking!) who say that they stay behind me because cars treat me with a lot of respect. The drivers see that I am wobbly and am cycling a bit weirdly or they are just so scared of the machine I am riding and have never seen one before, so they give me a wide berth. Or maybe they think I'm going to breath fire or something! There are occasions when I've gone further out onto the road because of cambers, where cars HAVE got annoyed because they can't necessarily get around me, but I have an advantage because maybe they see that I have a disability too, and they wait a bit more.
BG: So tell BG more about your GRCM club?
HD: For para-cyclists, training alone is the biggest fear really – they are complete dare devils. If I fall off there is no getting up for like ten minutes. The first year I was with the squad I went out on my own all the time even though I can't fix punctures because my motor function is really bad and your fingers get so cold anyway and also if I do fall off my feet can't unclip, so I really am quite vulnerable as a road user. I really hunted for clubs in Glasgow that I could join in with as I'm really quite slower than the average two wheeler and I found GRMC, who have a range of abilities, and met Steve my road buddy, who now goes out with me every time I want to train. He keeps me safe and also gives me a bit of a challenge as well. I wasn't always as fast as the rest of the GRMC but they are great as they don't ever leave me behind (although they let me leave them behind because I don't ever wait for them he he).
BG: Quite right too Hannah. So um... Bike Gob has noticed that you are younger than Bike Gob. Bike Gob is jealous. What age are you now (if you don't mind Bike Gob asking) and when did you start professional cycling?
HD: Ha ha - I'm not quite at the age that I need to be embarrassed about being asked that question - I am 22! I have been training for two and a half years but actually started out in that time doing race-running.
BG: Uh huh. Bike Gob is jealous. But never mind Bike Gob's age, let's move on. Bike Gob really loves Chris Hoy. He has thighs almost as big as his jaw, although some of his TV adverts are a bit rubbish. Who is your biggest cycling hero and why?
HD: I'm not big into fanning out over people who have all the cameras and all the fame but I especially like one particular cyclist who is also a political activist - her name is Kathryn Bertine. Because there is still a large amount of inequality between female and male cyclists in able bodied cycling, she was one of the main activists that got the first stage in recent history (only last year) for women in the Tour de France. She has also made a really successful film called Half the Road which is really good. I think it is so inspiring that as a professional cyclist she actually put her career on the line, because she was basically saying negative things about the UCI and so ended up not really being able to race for anybody. She did get an honorary place in one of the teams but she is essentially martyring her career for the sport. I'm very lucky as a para-cyclist because right now there is money from UK Sport to big up their female side, of which they previously had none, and now they are taking 40% women to the world champs so it's really turned the tables. I mean I wish it was equal actually, but they've got more women than they did before.
BG: Bike Gob hears you there girl. So... another burning question, do you believe in Unicorn Bike Land?
HD: I would say that Holland exists and functions really well and although they don't share the road there, cyclists have their own road, and cars have their own road, so it's actually a lot safer. I think it can exist because it does exist. There are so many good things that go along with it like health and everything else. I think that eventually when the obesity crisis really hits, cycling is going to be the thing that saves us all. I think there will be a bicycle utopia land.
BG: All hail to that! So Bike Gob was thinking that you can't have much spare time aside from training and uni work. If you ever have spare time, what do you like to do in it?
HD: I'm such a granny! I've just recently finished uni and all I did was study, train, study, train, and sometimes I went out with my friends, but very rarely. I had flat mates and they saw me more than anybody else but even they didn't really get a glimpse! As I'm just finishing now, I'm kind of realising what other things there are in life but I'm quite one dimensional, for now it's all about cycling. I did a degree in physiology, a lab based science about the human body, so it was very time consuming. I really hope to do post graduate study in a field that really interests me (which is looking at how the neuromuscular system adapts to exercise in different neuromuscular disorders), but that is still in conversation as I've not got my grades back yet.
BG: Crikey, top cyclist as well as brains! Bike Gob would like to pick your brains on your thoughts on lycra please.
HD: Gasp! Oh wow I started off in the worst kit possible – I had no education on what you are supposed to wear and when, and as soon as I got lycra I was like, oh my god, my saddle was so happy! Honestly I was in so much less pain, I didn't over heat, I didnt get cold! My favourite brand is ASOS. It's so expensive but it's so worth every penny and my GB kit that I get supplied with is great too.
BG: Do you have a favourite training food you could recommend to help Bike Gob cycle faster?
HD: Before I started using nutrition properly I was concerned that I didn't eat enough protein. British Cycling get sponsored by CNP and actually, even though it is probably very synthetic and perhaps not great for the environment, they are really good for energy. I love the CNP protein flapjacks and that's the truth! Lemon merignue flavour! They also do hydro gels, which although they have a lot of sugar in them, also have a base of coconut water so it's actually really refreshing.
BG: Drooooool. And so, um, what is your most memorable competition so far?
HD: Well I've only been training for two and half years, and with a lot of paralympic disciplines, people who train really hard and are really fit get put up into the international competition really fast as there only enough people to compete against when you go internationally. But generally you have to get to that level as fast as you can before you even get a taste of any competition at all, which is what it's like for me. So this season has been my first ever international season of trike racing for my classification and my gender. I've just been to Italy for a world cup and a European match and I'm now on my way to Switzerland for the world champs. I think the best sporting moment was learning about how to race in a group and being part of a bunch – it was so satisfying to know that I fit it. Other people are as crazy as me with three wheels and we just don't care. We just love going mental with smooth tarmac! They close whole villages for para-cycling races internationally – it's a big deal and they have smooth tarmac and nice routes.
BG: Wow, international competitions would make Bike Gob nervous. Do you get nervous?
HD: It's just about grasping opportunities. I've been very privileged in every area of my life, so I need to take those opportunities because I have such a good support network. I do get really nervous but it depends on the competition. At the start of the season we were told that we'd get picked on a competition by competition basis, so I don't know if i'm going to the next one before I finish the last one. Even if I get a medal I might not be at the standard they want at the time, so I do get really nervous about that. In my first race when I'd never ridden against people before, I felt nervous because I've always been beaten by the two wheelers, but as soon as I have some concrete evidence that I can do OK I guess I can rationalise it a little bit more.
BG: Smashing. And finally, what everyone really wants to know... do you have a favourite bicycling song?
HD: Well you know that song that goes "I like to ride my bicycle"? We go on camps on tour for competitions and somebody keeps singing it but they change it for me to "tricycle" because I get very very happy abroad. The only thing I need in life is good tarmac, flat roads, and sun, and I get that on tour so everybody gets really annoyed that I'm cheerier! I like to ride my tricycle, I like to ride my trike!!!!
Thank you Hannah Dines, you have enlightened Bike Gob no end. You are an eloquent, optimistic, beautiful lady, with super awesome bike skillz, and Bike Gob gives you KUDOS.