Professional mountain biker Hannah Barnes wants to bring MTB and yoga together. Her daily practice, Ride OM retreats, and 64-year-old mountain biking mom are proving that’s not out of the question.
Barnes has carved out a happy, active, almost off-grid life in Scotland. And the vantage point is stunning. With 82,000 followers, she and her adorable dog Lumi are exceptionally likable Instagram muses.
She’s sponsored by big brands like Specialized Bikes, BMW, and, most recently, Hydro Flask, where she’ll provide input for the brand’s new collection of hydration backpacks for mountain bikers.
But while mountain biking has taken Barnes far professionally, she’s enthusiastic about incorporating yoga into her mix for both personal and professional expansion. She’s poised to introduce even bro-y bikers to the idea that what you do on the mat matters.
“Yoga is something that I think is slowly working its way into training schedules,” she said. “Whether it’s to improve mobility and integrity of the hip flexors, balance and proprioception, respiratory strength, sleep, or injury management, the benefits are endless.”
Barnes builds yoga into most days. She shared a glimpse of an ideal one:
“It would be at home, with my boyfriend Brodie and our dog Lumi. Get up early when the air is fresh and the day is young, have a cup of tea and some toast with marmite.
“We take Lumi for a little walk, usually with coffee in hand. Walk around the garden and check on all the plants, herbs, veggies, fruit, et cetera and see how they’re getting on. Do a bit of yoga outside, and then head out for a ride on our local trails.”
We want in.
Hannah Barnes Earned Her Turns
Barnes, a yogi in training who launched Ride OM retreats last year, did some hard work to get to her little riverside cabin in the woods, from which she can ride her bike, downward dog, and “wild” garden.
She made an impressive entrance into the mountain bike world. While her brother raced on the World Cup downhill circuit, Barnes was 18 before she bought her first hardtail in 2005. She promptly entered a cross-country race the following weekend. And the rest is history.
Racing in a variety of events from the Enduro World Series to Trans-Provence, Trans-Savoie, Mega Avalanche, and Rumble in the Jungle, Barnes got sponsored by Specialized Bicycles. She also boosted her race resume with epics like the BC Bike Race and La Leyenda del Dorado in Colombia. To add some diversity, she set the course record for Britain’s toughest off-road triathlon.
In between completing high school and earning a nursing degree, Barnes moved to Alaska to work at the late Susan Butcher’s Trail Breaker Kennel, where she trained sled dogs for the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races. From coexisting on a small sailboat with her family for a year when she was 14 to living off the grid in Alaska, she got a taste for the beauty of simple living. Alongside her mountain biking career, she still takes on sporadic work as a nurse.
Mountain Biking in Scotland
The point is that Barnes, 32, has done a lot in a short amount of time in the mountain bike world. Ride OM mountain bike-yoga retreats are just the next iteration of life unfolding. And Scotland is the dramatic backdrop.
“It’s not the obvious riding destination, but there are some proper gems. And it’s pretty quiet too, so there’s no trail traffic!” Barnes said. “Maybe the midges [little biting flies] keep people away.”
Riding in Scotland has a bit of everything: rough and rocky mountain singletrack, flowy forest trails, steep and tight natural trails, and lots of roots. Torridon, Laggan, and the Tweed Valley are some of Barnes’ favorite spots.
Thanks to Scotland’s 2003 Right to Roam act, Barnes can host her September Ride OM retreat inside the cliff- and jaw-dropping Cairngorms National Park. Unlike in America, mountain bikers here have direct access to ride on trails cutting through the country’s most storied landscapes.
Yoga Helps Riders Go With the Flow
Barnes started Ride OM, a 5-day, lodge-based yoga and mountain biking retreat, last year. The annual session aims to connect bikers, especially those new to yoga, to Barnes’ mindful world in her rugged native country. And this year it’s co-ed.
Delicious, natural, homemade food is a retreat highlight. A wood-fired hot tub, wine, massages, and even a night of Scottish ceilidh dancing and live music are all part of the fun, too.
But indoor mat time punctuates trail riding during the retreat. Yoga is a defining practice for Hannah, and she wants to show others how it can impact riding — and life. Her mother bought into both yoga and mountain biking at age 60 and says yoga helps manage her arthritis. She became the 2017 XC Masters World Champion at age 63.
“Yoga feels like a youth injection, so we can keep riding and being healthy way longer. During yoga, we feel every little niggle and can work on those,” Barnes said.
Breathing right is also critical. “Being in the moment, focused yet relaxed, is key to keeping that all-important flow in mountain biking,” she said. “The best way to do this is to return to the breath. It is impossible to have flow without breathing properly.”
Barnes plans to build more yoga into her future mountain bike projects. “But I’ll go with the flow and move in the direction that feels right,” she said. “You could call it a flexible plan.”
Want a taste of this charmed life? The 2019 Ride OM retreat is scheduled for September 11-15 in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. There are a few spots left.
This article is sponsored by Hydro Flask. Get ready to ride with the new Journey Series insulated hydration backpacks for mountain bikers.