Died and Gone to Heaven - Fast Girls
Dirt magazine talks to Niki about riding, racing and the future.
Multilingual, Niki has a Bachelor of Creative Arts majoring in Graphic Design and holds citizenship in Australia, the UK and New Zealand, having also lived in the US and attended snowboard school in Sweden. But of course, she calls herself an Aussie.
With skateboarding going hand in hand with Snowboard School she discovered a deep affinity with both sports, however neither provided her with the steep learning curve that mountainbiking delivered just four years ago. A shortcut home one afternoon soon turned into an epic first ride adventure. That first ride left her so psyched, she up and bought a bike without question. It meant canceling a snowboarding trip to Canada with friends and spending the cash on a spanking new Cannondale but some how Niki new it was right for her, she wanted it. She raced it two days later.
Niki was the skater chick on the green F1000. It had a little cartoon pussycat sticker on the toptube and she would just sit there looking it, talking about bikes. She exhibited all the signs of bike addiction, already talking about what bike she was going to buy next. That was in ’99.
Now ’03 and its hard to articulate the rapid rise in her performance that sealed the National Cross Country Series Title. Glen Jacobs calls her “a breath of fresh air to the Industry”
And people outside the industry are watching too. A reader poll from Inside Sport Magazine voted her Australia’s Sexiest Sportswoman for 2002 and FHM magazine calls her one of the 100 Sexiest Women in the World. She will be lapping it up on her International race schedule starting from Rd 3 of the World Cup and Rd 2 of NORBA, also hoping to hit the World Champs in September.
It isn’t hard to watch Niki, and something tells me despite the fact she is racing Cross Country, we will all be looking on for quite some time.
What has made you stick with bikes? Riding feels natural, I feel much more instinctive on a bike than in any other sport I have ever done. I love riding and the confidence it can bring. It challenges me to progress.
How long have you been preparing for your upcoming season? I guess it has evolved ever since I got my first mountain bike. I have always been trying to step it up to the next level. It is hard to clearly identify a starting point, but I guess about 12 months ago. I knew that if I was going to go overseas I needed a solid Australian season in XC, so I bought a proper XC race bike and started working to a training program set down by my coach.
Who do you love to watch ride? It is more about what I like to watch. It is good to see someone who is smooth and confident on the bike and rides with style. I love it when someone is trying something new out on the course.
Can you bleed your own brakes? Probably, I have seen it done enough times. With the right tools and a phone there isn’t much you can’t do.
Can you cook? Yes.
And take out? Like it. Great concept.
Is it hard putting downhill in the back seat and following XC? Yeah it is hard, I love downhill so much. I want to keep racing DH in Australia and maybe do some selected overseas DH events depending on my schedule.
What is the biggest difference about the XC crowd? They go to bed early!
Red Bull ride was..... Awesome... it is a great event in every way.
Where do you want to end up? Bikes for ever? I want to be happy and healthy. I want to be riding, maybe an art director, maybe in my friend’s punk rock band. Who knows.
Natural hair colour? Dark blonde.
Worst part of training? Hill Efforts.
Best thing about the OZ crowd? The Aussie crowd is fun to hang out with, every one is pretty laid back, friendly and positive. Everyone is also very supportive of each other too, which is important.
Out of all the big boys on the World Circuit, who is the man? My hero in the sport has always been Nicolas Vouillouz, he is amazing.
Favourite spirit? Always vodka.
Hit prediction... who will be the next big thing? Sam Hill already is the next big thing. Jared Graves.
Can you ride mud? I love mud, but we don’t get much of it here in Australia. I love really bad weather, if it hails or snows then that makes it even more exciting.
How fast has your overeas racing plans come about? Pretty quick, I still don’t know if I am ready but you have to take the plunge sometime and now that I have finished uni I can focus my energy much more on racing.
Compared to previous years you have been fairly grounded in terms of travel. Do you think you will cope with the travel between races? I travelled alot before I started my degree so I actually found it harder to cope with not travelling. It will be different though, it is my first season overseas and racing in different countries is a lot different to just visiting where you don’t have any pressures on you.
Why are there so few girls racing bikes? I am not sure. Maybe because racing takes up a lot of time and energy so you have to be really passionate about it. And to be passionate about something you really have to commit to it.
Do you get pissed off? Not really.
Music? Music is good, it can change your entire mood.
What gets you out of bed and on the bike? I want to be better.
Do you read? I enjoy it but I don’t get the chance as much as I would like to.
What do you do to relax? Have fun.
Are you superstitious? No.
Best OZ track? Thredbo is a classic. Buller and Baw Baw are fun too.
When was the last time you were shit scared on a bike? On a steep high speed fire road section of a local trail, I hit some mush before a water bar that isn’t usually there. The bike was all over the place, I saw the possible crash in my mind as the bike was bucking around and I thought no, can’t do it. Don’t want that to happen. So somehow I saved it. Seeing snakes out on the track isn’t too much fun either.
Favourite movie director? “Amelie” and “The City of Lost Children” Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, “Being John Malkovich” Director: Spike Jonze, “The Fifth Element” Director: Luc Besson, “Chasing Amy” Director: Kevin Smith
Do you jump or pump? My jump is not that good yet.
What prompted your career in modelling? My first job was for Dolly magazine when I was about sixteen, but I never took it that seriously because I don’t have the height (for catwalk). So I just do it for fun. If I fit the job then that’s great and if not then that’s fine too.
Describe your last crash? Fast into a tree. Tai Lee, Grant and I were playing around on a singletrack at Mt Beauty and I came off pretty hard. I was in hospital for four days and I needed a lot of phsyio work.
Favourite quote? Your attitude about who you are and what you have, is a very little thing that makes a very big difference.
Profile: Robbie McNaughton. Photographers: Hugh Hamilton and Richard Bailey. "Died and Gone to Heaven - Fast Girls Series" Dirt Magazine, May/June 2003 Issue.