Beth ChalmersBeth Chalmers is a photographer and videographer based in Oban, Scotland. She is happiest when on a bike, rock face or in a bog.
Nina Yves-Cameron is a downhill racer from Fort William, Scotland. At 18 years-old, she has a number of UK podiums to her name and has already competed in the British Cycling Dirt Crit Races, the Highland Hardline series, Scottish and UK National downhill series, as well as well as making her debut in a number of rounds at the UCI World Series last year. Earlier this year, Nina starred alongside fellow downhill rider Katy Curd in a TV ad for highstreet bank Lloyds, riding alongside the iconic black horses that the brand is synonymous with.
During this year’s UCI Downhill World Championships, Beth Chalmers caught up with Nina to chat about the place where she learned to ride, how growing up in the Highlands has shaped her as a rider, and her final year of racing as a Junior before moving into Elites.
Where did it all begin for you with bikes?
I started biking in my home town, Fort William, in my back garden on a wee balance bike that my parents gave me at the age of three.
When I was around the age of six, I joined an after-school bike club run by parents from my primary school. Then a year or so later I joined the local bike club, the West Highland Wheelers, and started attending the kids club on a Saturday morning. From there, I gradually gained more confidence and skill. With thanks to some local legends who coached at the club, Steve Bradley and Alastair Maclennan, I was encouraged to start racing.
How do you think learning to ride in Lochaber has shaped you as a mountain biker?
Learning to ride In Lochaber, I think made me love biking the way I do now as there are so many places to ride a trail and lots of people to go biking with. Having the world cup at Nevis Range was really inspiring for me too.
How has this year’s race season been for you so far?
The season has been going alright for me so far! I’ve had a couple podiums already and some alright times, so I am very keen to push myself harder at the next races to come.
Has racing changed your attitude towards riding? Are you still managing to get out for personal days?
I’d say racing has changed my attitude to riding for the better as I’m always looking to improve my riding and I’m much more willing to try new things. It’s made me look more closely at lines and see the different ways to ride a trail. It helps me to push to be the best I can.
But beyond riding, racing has ultimately helped me realise that it’s most important to enjoy riding, be it an easy spin along a fire road or a mega session on the downhill track.
the trails and the bikes have evolved and with it the love for riding has developed to where we are today
You’ve been riding internationally recently. Can you tell us about what you’ve been up to and how that differs from riding at home?
Riding away in Europe is a whole lot different to riding in Scotland. For one, there are no midges out there! Secondly, the tracks are insane to ride. The jumps are so much bigger than we have in Lochaber and the tracks are very fast and rough. I really enjoy it – as well as the dry and warm weather!
I’m not long back from a week over at the Pierron Bike Park where I was doing suspension testing with SR Suntour suspension. The tracks there were so much fun and I really felt I improved my riding during that week – riding a different style of track compared to the tracks here.
Why do you think Lochaber is such a hub for bikes and why does it breed such good riders?
I think Lochaber is such a hub for mountain biking because of the amazing scenery and the rocky, gnarly tracks covered in slippy roots and mud. There are so many different styles of riding you can do here that just works for so many people. We have a great biking community. People have been mountain biking in Lochaber since the 80’s – the trails and the bikes have evolved and with it the love for riding has developed to where we are today. Our trails give lots of challenges and it’s so much fun riding with friends – it inevitably ends up with us all pushing each other to be the best we can. We also have a great club, I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of them.
How have you been preparing for this year’s race season?
Lots of bike time over the off-season. I have been doing lots of physical training in the gym and our local Cross Fit gym with my trainer Rico Martin. I have also done a lot of mental preparation for a more positive mindset towards racing with Ciaran King at Peakin High Performance which has helped so much with my pre-race nerves and doubts and learning how to handle them positively.
You must have ridden the downhill track at Nevis Range so many times. Can you remember how it felt to do it for the first time?
Beyond excited and very scared on my little green Specialized Stumpjumper. Still can’t believe I rode it on that bike…
What’s the community like with the other racers? Do you have a laugh or is it strictly business?
The downhill community is awesome. Races are always good fun. Yes, there is the serious bit where you get in the zone during the warm-up and focus on the run, but we share thoughts, help with lines, support each other, and always have a bit of a laugh. This has been the same wherever I’ve ridden or raced.
It feels like a really exciting time for women in mountain biking. Is there anything that really encouraged you to race?
I think one of my first races was a Dirt Crit up near Inverness. I really enjoyed it and met quite a few others that I still ride with and race against today. I love riding my bike and with the encouragement of my club, seemed to be drawn to racing more and more.
Having watched all the great elite riders over the years racing at the World Cup in Fort William, I set myself the goal of one day racing in the World Cup, and here I am starting my second season racing at World Cups.
What advice would you give someone who wanted to start riding for the first time?
Get involved with your local club, talk to the people at the local bike shop and keep an eye out for races in your area. We were really lucky to have grown up with the Highland Hardline Series which really helped to get me ready for the Scottish and British races and then onto the World Cups. You’ll see a few others at the World Cup who have ridden these events including Aimi Kenyon and Douglas Goodwill.
It’s your last season racing as a junior. How are you feeling about racing Elites next year? What will change?
This season I’m feeling excited and nervous because I’d like to do well. Next year will be a huge step up into a much harder and very talented field of elite women. I am planning on training and riding a whole lot more during the next off-season to try and be able to race as best I can at elite level next year.
Tell us about your laps of the race track over the World Champs weekend? How have you found the track?
The track was so much fun! I really enjoyed how fast it now is. It’s a lot easier in terms of technical sections but the jumps are a lot bigger compared to what they were.
What’s the atmosphere like at Nevis Range? Does race day on home turf have a different feel?
Racing world champs literally on my doorstep is amazing and having friends and family there watching me is so nice. The atmosphere is buzzing and makes it all feel a bit surreal compared to other world cups I’ve raced.
What’s next for you?
I have three more world cups in Europe and a national race in the UK, but as my last World Champs as a junior, I am celebrating with family and friends on my two weeks off until I head out to Europe again!