Celebrating mums who ride with the super rad Polly Clark

Celebrating mums who ride with the super rad Polly Clark

It's not always easy to balance being a parent with, well, anything else to be honest, but one person who does it - and does it with style - is the incredibly rad Polly Clark. As well as being a mother (and grandmother!) she is an experienced mountain biking guide with @MTBCymru and yoga instructor living in mid-Wales. Polly talks about the challenges of juggling parenthood with an extreme sport and explains that it is never too late to start cycling.

You're a mother and a grandmother right? To how many children?

Yep, I have three grown up children who are all different and who amaze me every day, and three grandchildren aged 10, 8 and 2. Not quite sure how that happened as I still feel far too young but it's brilliant at the same time. 

That is pretty awesome, not many people can say their grandmother rides mountain bikes for a living! What do they think of you guiding? 

They think I'm the coolest granny ever! My grandson tells his friends at school what I do and they don't believe him. I try to take the older ones on adventures as often as I can. They are both into their bikes but Irah (my grandson) especially loves coming out with me, he is planning on riding the Trans Cambrian as soon as he can. 

You've been guiding for many years now with Phill, was it ever difficult to juggle the demands of being a mum along with being a mountain bike guide?

I didn't really get into guiding until my children were in their older teen years and didn't really want to hang out with me on weekends (I once drove to Snowdonia, climbed a mountain, drove home and my teenage son was still in bed!). I think had they been younger it would have been much more difficult to manage.  I'm trying to limit how much guiding work I take on now so that I do have time to spend with my family and friends, that's something that the pandemic helped put into perspective.  

What first got you into mountain biking and what's your favourite thing about the sport?

I was lucky to spend most of my childhood years out on the mountains on horseback, sometimes alone or sometimes with a close friend, in rain and snow, watching the mist rise and the sunset, it was magical.  When I discovered mountain biking I realised that it gave me exactly the same feeling. I love the quietness of being out on the hills, being able to get to secret valleys and special places and to feel the awe of being in nature every time I go out. 

You guide on pretty massive routes around mid-Wales including the multi-day Trans Cambrian – how do you keep yourself fit?

That's a very good question. It's pretty tough actually. Unlike Phill who seems to stay fit whatever I tend to drop fitness quite quickly so have to work at it over the winter to be ready to guide again in the spring. The first few Trans Cambrians can be a bit of a struggle but my body does seem to remember how to cope eventually. My yoga practice is a constant and that keeps me mentally and physically strong too. With the big guiding days it's more about mental resilience than the physical and that's where my experience kicks in. 

Do you ever take the kids riding and how do they find it?

My middle daughter was living with us over lockdown so we did do some riding over that time and that was great. It was mostly mellow stuff on fire roads and country lanes but seeing her remember how good it feels to ride a bike was lovely.

It's mainly my grandchildren who come out with me now, of course I've made sure they've got nice bikes to ride and living in Mid-Wales there's plenty of places to ride. It's nice to keep it all about the adventure too so we might ride to a river for a swim or race down the Elan Valley cycle path to find the ice-cream van so they see the bike as a mode of transport as well as lots of fun. 

What is more difficult riding 100 miles across Wales in three days in the rain or raising a child? 

You know, even when I am guiding in the rain for three days there's still something life affirming about being outside, being battered by the weather and feeling totally windswept so I would definitely say that raising children is a thousand times harder! It doesn't stop when they leave home either as you still worry about them all the time! (I think many parents will relate to this...?) 

What would say to any mothers (or grandmothers) out there who would like to try mountain biking but are maybe a bit scared?

I know there are a lot of barriers out there for women to get into cycling, however I also think these days it is a lot easier to find a group you can join as a beginner. I would suggest finding friends that want to start too, don't worry about not having the right/best kit or bike to begin with, and begin with easy rides to help you build your confidence. The cycling community are a friendly bunch as a whole so don't be afraid to ask for advice, I certainly did when I was starting out. It's never too late to start mountain biking even if you only ever ride on fire roads or canal paths there are so many benefits to riding a bike. The places your bike will take you and the people you meet along the way will be amazing.  

Polly Clark runs Mountain Yoga Breaks and guides for MTB Cymru with her partner Phil Stasiw. We've ridden with them loads of times and can tell you that it never disappoints!