Kevin Henderson Interview
GUIDE Q&A: Kevin Henderson
We ask the guide of our Slovenia mountain-bike trip for advice on what to pack, his definiton of adventure, and some of his trail-inspired poetry
By: WHITNEY JAMES
Q: You grew up in Scotland. How long have you been riding bikes? Can you remember your first time on two wheels?
A: I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about ten years, although I used to muck about on a road bike as a boy. Thinking about it now, it was on the road bike that I did my first Jackie Chan bike move over the hood of a car that was turning into a driveway. I thought I could nip around it real quick but instead sank my cool upturned bars into a side wing and flipped myself onto the windscreen before rolling off the other side. I’ve used the “Chan roll” a number of times since! Now I’m a full-time bike guide in Scotland, so I’ve come a long ways.
Q: You’ll soon be assisting on our Slovenia trip. What excites you about this part of the world?
A: It wasn’t until 1991 that Slovenia was internationally recognized as an independent state, and I think what excites me most about the trip (beyond the trails that we’ll be riding) is the opportunity to get a living sense of this still fairly young, post-communist cultural identity.
Q: How will the biking be unique to Slovenia?
A: It will sound different. The sound your wheels make over the ground, and the sound of the birds and the wind in the trees will be unlike anywhere else. As will the draw of your own breathing, and the sounds of the local accents. And then there’ll be the light, the color. Singletrack, around the world, is precisely that—singletrack. We all at moments suffer from the aesthetic of familiarity, but riding somewhere else snaps you out of that, and so I think this is how Slovenia will be unique; the trails and the terrain will be strangely familiar, yet quite obviously different and strange, as though the world is off to one side, beside you.
"Singletrack, around the world, is precisely that—singletrack."
Q: Rumor has it you’re a bit of a poet, and you treat your guests to original poems at the end of a long day.
A: I’ve shown and performed art works internationally since the 1980’s, and I’m widely published as a writer and poet. I also continue to teach Fine Art practice at the University of Dundee where I’ve worked for the last 20 years. As I said earlier, the places where we ride our bikes are cultural as well as physical places. And I see these places through the filter of the written word, poetry, and photography. Our vision changes when we are in these landscapes. It alternates between the comprehension of huge vistas on the one hand, and on the other, the proximity of lichens on stone, or the bit of mold on a leaf. So at the end of a day, I’ll often make a reading of poetry that draws upon writing which I think will enhance that shape-shifting and moving sense of where we are and have been. And in addition to works of Scottish literature, I’ll usually try and bring some pieces specific to each of the guests; poetry by American, Canadian, French, German, or Swiss writers.
Can I tell you one now? This is a piece from the third in a sequence of short films that I’m currently making which carry the collective title Essay on Windows. This is the text from, "On Ice".
A thousand lives ago … once,
sometime, lost to the world,
reaching modernity a thousand times over,
colour was a skin,
and only shimmering skin could distinguish,
the sweet cap of meltwater around our naked bodies
Q: How would you recommend guests prepare for a trip with you? Are most of your guests super-athletes, or can a reasonably fit person keep up?
A: Super-athletes? No. Fitness is relative and can change radically over the course of a trip. It ebbs and flows. Some mornings you wake up and feel as strong as hell, and on others you just need to push it out.
"Endurance is important, as is a bit of grit, but as long as you are reasonably fit you’ll have a great time."
Q: What are the five most important things to pack on a bike trip?
A: This tends to be pretty personal. I never leave the house without Issey Miyake deodorant, a big wooden scrubbing brush, foot cream, a glass marble (this fell out of a third floor window of an Armenian convent in Jerusalem), a small flask of Amaretto, and a couple of books of poetry. However, shoes—the ones that you usually ride in—are perhaps a more important consideration, as is a spare rear derailleur hanger if you’re taking your own bike.
Q: What would you say the most memorable part of any bike trip is for guests?
A: Memory is a fragile and exquisite construct, as is forgetting. Our bike trips allow guests the time and space to do both; to live in memory with those moments when on a trail you see your life in a different light, from a different perspective, and through the filter of another culture. What one remembers from this can sometimes be involuntary and unintended.
"Adventure happens in the retelling, not in the moment of the experience itself."
Memory might be of a shared smile, given and returned by another guest after a particular sweet singletrack descent. It might be of the way that sunlight falls on the face of a mountain, or the recollection of a perfect cup of coffee you had at breakfast one morning; the subtle aftertaste of cheese on the palate, or the way your body remembers your bike as being a part of you as your hold it tight going fast into a corner.
Learn more about our Slovenia Singletrack itinerary,
or give us a call at 1.888.870.0903 to start planning your trip with Kevin.
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Kevin Henderson Interview
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