Joe Barnes - The Interview
We sat down with Joe to ask him about fish and chips, adventures from his doorstep and what he loves about Lochaber.
So, first things first Joe. You have travelled all over the world, where have you had the best fish and chips?
Haha, Thats a very important question and one I am happy to answer. Sammy’s Fish and Chips in Caol, Fort William. Hands down winner.
What is so special about living in Lochaber?
It’s a great place to live for so many reasons. For me having the mountains and lochs right here makes it a perfect playground for a load of outdoor sports. My top preferred thing to do, mountain biking, is one of them and the trail network is very unique to the area and always expanding.
A week in the area - what are the must do’s and don’ts?
For the do’s, it’s best off to try ride a bit of everything. A day in the vast Mamore mountains around Kinlochleven, the technical woods of Laggan and gondola accessed trails at both Nevis Range and Glencoe. It wouldn’t be a full week without experiencing all these. A chippy dinner and swimming at one of the many river spots would also be a must. For dont’s, I don’t know, it’s all good stuff.
Apart from Lochaber, where is your other favourite destination to ride in Scotland, the rest of UK, and the rest of the World?
I really like riding in North East Scotland. Inverness has some great riding areas all the way up to Golspie. In the UK I have ridden at Wharncliffe and that was amazing. In the world New Zealand is great because of the opposite seasons and Japan for the hidden gems.
Having 2 lift-accessed venues in the area is pretty awesome. How do Nevis Range and Glencoe differ as riding destinations? What would you say are the benefits of each?
They are both great for DH. The Glencoe DH is one of the most technical in the world and Nevis Range DH is renowned as being one of the longest and toughest on the World Cup calendar.
Both resorts also have great trail riding - red graded at Glencoe and black at Nevis Range. Both are great rocky and long descents. Nevis Range has recently also built a Blue run and this has opened the Gondola up to a much wider variety of riders to enjoy the uplift service.
You and Ferg recently had the journey of a lifetime bike-packing the Hebridean Way. It looked awesome! And to be able to do this right from your front door must have been amazing! What were the best, and worst parts of the trip?
It was great just loading the bikes up and riding from home. The landscape, scenery, remoteness, and freedom were all just outstanding and it was a trip of a lifetime. The worst parts were our terrible tents, heavy legs, and terrible chat. But this was nothing for the thrill of living on the road with our bikes.
Any plans to do another adventure on a different route?
Yes, a new one for this summer. Maybe the Badger Divide up the middle of the country this time.
What similar adventure would you recommend to folks that couldn’t maybe achieve this mammoth journey ?
I am a relative novice at bike packing and just getting into it myself. But there are so many routes to choose from that I want to do myself. The Ardnamurchan peninsula would be a great start to explore by bike.
How have you seen Fort William change over the last 20 years that the World Cup has been coming?
It has grown as a bike destination massively. Our kid's club has grown loads and the future generations are already loving it. With more trails there to sustain more people riding and the Lochaber Trail Association doing loads to keep things sustainable. It has become a hype town for not just the WC but also riding in general.
What do you see for the future for the area?
Biking continuing to grow and with this all the benefits that come. From a wider trail network to the town feeling the love from more visitors.
Bike Wash Man Bo, is just 3, he has some unbelievable skills for a wee guy and seems to love it! What modifications have you made to that bike and when did you realise he was so keen?
He got a bike when he was 1 and totally loved it. He just loves wizzing about on his bike so that’s great for me to get to do it with him. I have added a disc brake and modified the lever to have less pull for his small hands. He also has a mudguard/bum guard for if he bounces off the back of the bike. Both these mods made a big difference.
How do you and Fiona plan to support Bo find his ‘thing’ in life? Like your parents did for both you and Hannah.
It’s great to find a passion and get right into it. For a 3 year old he seems to like his sport so if he continues to enjoy it then I think it’s a great way to learn a lot about life. Either field team sports or individual sports like MTB. If he’s into something, then we will support him in this.
We hear, Bo also has a phenomenal shinty swing, do you guys get involved in the Lochaber Shinty scene?
I played shinty at primary school and it’s a great sport. Fiona worked as an Active Schools Coordinator for the last few years and was involved with a fair amount of local school shinty there. I am sure once Bo is old enough he will do it at school as all the schools have a team and he loves running about. For those who don’t know, it’s like hockey, but with less rules and more contact.
What plans do you have for 2022 and beyond?
I am going to race the UK and Scottish Enduro series and make a host of films this year. I love doing both the racing and videography so have found a nice balance to do both this year. I am also rolling these plans through to 2023 to build momentum as things go and most likely do more of the same after this.
A huge thank you to Joe for getting involved with the campaign and celebrating Lochaber with us. He is an absolute legend, a delight to work alongside, and a very lovely man. Good luck for this year Top Chief!
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