British Cycling has recently welcomed six new names to its network of trained Mountain Bike Leaders, working alongside the Colour Collective in an effort to strengthen representation of people from diverse ethnic communities in leadership roles.
The Colour Collective group was founded during 2020 and aims to increase participation of people from diverse ethnic backgrounds within mountain biking.
In November 2022, five of its aspiring leaders completed the Fundamentals of Mountain Bike Leadership Award, which equips them to lead their own rides. The course was led by Aneela McKenna, Co-chair of British Cycling’s Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Group, who is also an experienced mountain bike guide and coach. Aneela was instrumental in setting up the leadership course working alongside Phil Young, Jo Shwe, Dan Cook and Christine Fox to strengthen mountain bike leadership across the UK.
A key aim of British Cycling’s first long-term diversity and inclusion strategy – Our Ride – is to develop a diverse and inclusive workforce, with a focus on recruitment, providing accessible opportunities and support through education and training. Prior to the course, Aneela was one of only two people of colour to be trained as a Mountain Bike Leader in the UK.
Following the course, she said:
“I've always wanted to see more people of colour out leading on the trails. If we want to widen participation, we need role models to inspire others to participate and cycle. The Colour Collective has some great riders with good skills and experience of the outdoors. I would like to see that skillset used in a professional way to help grow our community of mountain bikers in the UK.”
As an experienced mountain biker, Aneela still continues to learn a huge amount from coaching, and particularly on this occasion, compared to other Mountain Bike Leadership courses she has attended.
“I’ve been shadowing a lot of Mountain Bike Leadership courses recently as part of my tutorship training and have done my own leadership qualifications with British Cycling. I felt with this group, there was a desire and need to talk about inclusion and the barriers that people from diverse ethnic backgrounds experience in mountain biking.
“Having a shared lived experience meant that we could talk of our own experiences of being in a minority, and not feeling entirely safe in some mountain bike settings. Inclusion was built into all the discussions because we constantly brought it back to ourselves and being part of a world of mountain biking where people of colour are not yet visible.’’
For Aneela, leadership can empower individuals to be their best selves.
“Working on your own leadership helps you to own your space. I wanted to use the opportunity to empower the group and to help them to realise their strengths and talents and share this with others with limited experience of mountain biking. The benefits of being in a leadership role is that your voice will be heard at a level where you can influence positive change.”
Two of the leaders shared their reflections on the experience. Varun Jyothykumar said:
“I’ve been on many courses outside of the mountain biking world, but this Mountain Bike Leadership course stood out because of how involved and free it was, and how passionate the discussions were. We participants had very diverse experience levels within the sport but were united by our motivation to improve representation within minority communities. This was the first time we didn’t have to explain what the term ‘diversity’ meant - everyone implicitly knew!”
Tamzin Dewar added:
“It was a special weekend in a lot of ways – the opportunity to learn with and from fellow leaders of colour is something I hadn't experienced before, and I am keen to do it again. I also found spending time with other passionate mountain bikers who want to increase participation in the sport uplifting and inspiring. The course itself was well laid out with lots of time built in for discussion and practical activities. I learnt a lot despite considering myself an experienced ride leader of several years. Thank you to Aneela and Dan for such a thoughtful and informative course, I am looking forward to level two!”
The importance of authentic leadership was highlighted in the second edition of the Diversity in Cycling report, published in September 2022, which explored the experiences of riders from under-represented backgrounds in cycling and gave a series of recommendations and practical suggestions for encouraging greater diversity in cycling. Aneela added:
“We want to help British Cycling review their strategies and policies around equality, diversity, and inclusion. We recognised there weren't many black or brown people on the start line. We came to the realisation that we could expand our network and we found people already in mountain biking around the country, and we recognised collectively, we could make a change and encourage more people from black and brown communities to get out and ride.”
British Cycling’s mountain bike leadership awards are delivered by trained tutors in some of the UK’s best outdoor venues, with the Fundamentals of Mountain Bike Leadership course perfect for those just starting out on their leadership journey.