My name is Martha Gill, most people probably know me as the girl who’s always posting wheelies on Instagram, that’s true, I love the back wheel. However that’s not how my cycling career started! Today I’m going to talk about my journey within the biking industry, through involvement in multiple disciplines to my current cycling activities.
I can’t remember not being able to ride a bike, my earliest memories are probably of weekend trips to the lake district with my parents and brother. We used to have a ‘jam butty award’ waiting for us at the end of a big ride, but it had to be earned - I always used to try extra hard to not complain up the hills! If I was told I was capable of riding down a particularly technical part of a trail, 7 year old little me would happily throw myself down it thinking of that jam butty, whilst my Dad would shout out ‘look where you want to go’ and ‘just let it roll’, advice that still echoes around my head to this day.
I’m very lucky to have parents that surrounded me with so many opportunities as a child. I was at all the after school clubs and immersed myself in as many different sports as possible; gymnastics, swimming, tennis, netball, football, skiing, athletics, fell running, rounders - I wanted to do it all!
I joined the local cycling club, Bolton Hot Wheels, when I was about 10. At the time they didn’t do much mountain biking and so I was encouraged to start road cycling. My parents bought me my first road bike and I started racing road crits, I loved the fast paced action and was instantly hooked. Cycling quickly became a big part of my life as I started to race at the velodrome and in cyclo-cross too, I would be at races every weekend, eager to better my previous results. A highlight for me was when I won a race series as an U14 and won a brand new Dolan frame - I thought I’d made it then, I thought I was going to be the next Nicole Cooke!
I never really realised racing mountain bikes was possible up until the age of 15, when I discovered cross country racing. I won the first national XC round I raced and immediately fell in love, the road racing was quickly ditched as I had a successful year off road and was selected to be on British Cycling’s Talent Team, the national programme for U16’s with 3 boys and 3 girls.
Racing and training started getting pretty serious from then on, I was up in the mornings before school on the turbo trainer, and every school holiday was spent on a training camp with the team. I did a few races internationally, European Youth Championships, and local French cups. I really enjoyed what I was doing and genuinely thought this was my path, and what I would do for the rest of my life. As I moved up into juniors (U18s) I graduated on to the next level of British Cycling’s programmes, the Olympic Development Programme, where again training and racing took another step up. I definitely learnt a lot in those few years of my life, from cycling knowledge and biking techniques to just general life skills and a level of independence.
Welcome To Enduro
It was on one of the XC training camps where I first met Tracy Moseley, she had joined BC for some training to try and qualify for the Commonwealth Games. We were at Hadleigh Park, where the London 2012 Olympics XC race took place. I had a pretty bad tumble on one of the main features called ‘Triple Trouble’ - it was a daunting drop and seemed massive to me at the time. I decided to send it anyway but completely overshot, landing at the bottom straight on to hardpack gravel, lovely. Tracy was the one to peel me off the ground and I just remember not thinking about my cut up knee, but feeling quite starstruck!
Later down the line at an XC race Tracy suggested I give enduro racing a go, I’d had a knee injury, had been dropped from British Cycling, and wasn’t enjoying racing XC as much anymore. So I thought what is there to lose! My first race was a PMBA Enduro at Gisburn Forest, everyone was so lovely, I had no pressure for results, it was just pure fun! - and yeah, I was hooked instantly!
I’m a firm believer that you make your own luck, you work for what you get, but sometimes you happen to meet and talk to the right people, and things will fall into place.
I’d just got home from school on one rainy day in England, when I got a call out of the blue from Tracy. She’d been speaking with the UK distributors of Marin Bikes, they were looking for a female to be on the UK team and she’d put my name forward! I was beyond buzzing, only a few weeks later I was meeting the rest of the team and picking up a shiny new Marin bike.
Fast forward three years to 2017, I had left school and was living the ‘gap year life’, I raced 7 rounds of the Enduro World Series and consequently gained the title of EWS U21 World Champion! At the end of the year I signed a contract with Marin Bikes global, where they massively increased their support. I was also introduced to the wonderful people at WTB, and was blown away by their products and support they were willing to offer.
I’ve had many people message me or ask about how to get sponsored and what’s the big secret. Well the answer is, there is no big secret! It’s all about being yourself and staying true to who you are. You have to put yourself out there, interact with and introduce yourself to people at races. The main thing is to have fun though, enjoy what you do, and if you work hard at it you will stand out from the crowd!
The Present Day
I would describe my riding career as a continuing progression, as one big learning curve that’s still going up. I’ve learnt a lot and I am still learning, that’s what I love about mountain biking, there’s no end to the progression! I wouldn’t be the rider I am today if it wasn’t for all my past experiences over the years, and for that I’m grateful.
I’ve raced 2 full EWS seasons in the elite women’s category so far, and at the beginning of 2020 I was ready to mix it up - I started the season with the opening Crankworx round in New Zealand which was great fun but days after I left, New Zealand went into Lockdown.
The pandemic of COVID-19 has impacted plans for travel, events and racing this year, but our disappointment about not racing is nothing compared to the sadness that some families have to endure following illness or bereavement. Lockdown’s enforced break has given me a chance to reset and focus on a few projects. When racing returns I’m now more motivated than ever to get after it! As well as racing most EWS rounds I’ll be going to more Crankworx events in the future, a format of racing that is super fun and that I’m really keen to get stuck into.
Having fun is always the priority for me, and immersing myself in the things I love doing the most. In recent years I’ve discovered a passion for filming and creating videos, on both sides of the lens! Whether it be working on a video project for a brand, or vlogging the latest adventure with Gowaan Gals.
I hope this has given an interesting insight into my cycling career, there are many different paths and ways which people take to get to where they are today, and this is the path that has shaped who I am!