Niki in Slovakia
Where do you come from? I am from Sydney, Australia.
Gudex to me being a foreigner doesn't sound like an all Australian name. Is it just me, or does your family really come from abroad? You might be on to something there! Yeah it is not an Australian name. I was born in England and my family is from New Zealand. But going further back our family background includes Sweden and Germany.
Although more and more girls ride bikes, it's still a male-dominant sport. How have you gotten in biking? Does it run in the family? I am the first one in my family to bike. Although a few years ago I did give one of my younger brothers an Intense 5.5 for Christmas. It was a complete bike but all in separate boxes. I gave him the frame first up as that was pretty obvious! When he took it into a shop to get built up, he said they were a bit skeptical about where it all came from, especially when they started questioning him. He said "my sister gave it to me for Christmas" and the guys in the shop were like "yeah, right!?!". But once he gave his surname he said they knew it wasn't stolen parts and then really looked after him! I got into biking after I had an injury snowboarding. I have always been adventurous and into physical activity. Living in the inner city, I didn't know anyone who did it though, so I had to get into the sport by going to races, so I could find tracks and people to ride with.
First it was downhill, then it was cross country, and most lately it is all mountain, am I right? What got you trying all the different disciplines? Well, I started off in downhill and fell in love with it. Then I decided to try and broaden my experience and try cross country racing because I am quite petite. I tried to race both downhill and cross country simultaneously but that became quite challenging and exhausting! Now I realise that I just love mountain biking, which is where all mountain comes in. On an all mountain bike you can ride up hill and downhill on the same ride, same equipment and it feels great to be able to explore the mountains that way. I also like the atmosphere of all mountain events, it is a nice mix of being organised but also very relaxed at the same time.
Although I am almost sure you will give me an indefinite answer, which one do you like the most? You are right! Way too hard to choose one, but I will go halfway and say all mountain!
I know that you haven't always been riding bikes, but you also have some background in snowboarding. Tell us a bit about that. I absolutely loved snowboarding, doing it as many weekends as I could from Sydney. I was on my school snowboard team, quite a laugh really, there were only 2 of us, and I used the name Nick so we could compete as a boys team. I think there was only the option of a girls or a boys team so we couldn't do a mixed team. I even went to Sweden to a snowboard high school for a year, but after having an injury where I fractured two vertebrae in my spine I decided that maybe I needed to find another sport.
Racing is a big part of your career, but do you get out to just ride with friends from time to time? Which one suits you better – the ticking of the clock, or the laughs and the laid back atmosphere? I love just riding with my friends, definitely the laughs and laid back atmosphere is what I enjoy. The initial thing that drew me into mountain biking so many years ago was the sense of community amongst the riders. I loved the way that everyone was quite accepting of each other.
Australia is famous as place-to-be for bikers, thanks to its all-year-round rideable climate. But sometimes, the winter is a nice break from the everyday riding and an opportunity to concentrate more on your private life, and career. Do you have any part of the year, when you just take a break and do something else for a change? My first few years of racing overseas I never took an off season. I always intended to, but I would get home from the tradeshows, then our Aussie race season kicked off not long after. Then as that was ending it was time to step it up for the next year of overseas competition and constant travelling. Now I definitely make time for myself and take time off the bike when I need it. I think if I lived in a place where it snowed seasonally then perhaps I would use that as a nice way to cross train, that was always a plan, but then it is so nice getting back home to Australia, and its summer again... so the bike is always tempting.
Again, Australia being famous for its rider-friendly weather, you surely also have a lot more girls riding. Do you have any team like the canadian Muddbunnies over there, where you get together and ride with the girls? Most of the mountain bike girls are spread out through Australia, but I do have a group of girls that I ride with. It is hard getting everyone together at one time though, so usually its just a small crew depending on the type of ride and location.
After so many years spent riding, you surely know what you want from your bike. What parts do you feel that are the ones that make your ride comfortable and fast? I really like to have my bike setup to my geometry, tire pressure and well set up suspension. Clothing is also very important, eyewear, helmet fit, glove fit and the saddle is critical too. Hmmmmmm, so maybe I like everything a particular way!
Do you have any part, or a piece of clothing that you, despite it's beat up, refuse to throw away? I find it really hard to part with complete bikes, they are almost like horses to me, with their own characteristics and the fact that we've gone adventuring together.
I was doing some research lately for an article, and I came over numerous discussions about whether or not girls-specific geometry bikes are really needed, and if they really help. I know it has to do with the different leg-to-upper body ratios, but what's your opinion on this? I think it really depends. People have different builds, some girls have long bodies and short legs and some girls have long legs and short bodies.
Another thing I would like to know your opinion on are skinsuits in downhill racing. I've recently read an interview with Rachel Atherton, where she said they make her feel kind of feminine. Would you ever don lycra to shave off a few seconds, or just to get a little bit more stylish on the DH track? When I raced downhill at the Worlds our Australian National team made us wear skinsuits. I'm easy either way, I can see the technical appeal of a skinsuit but I also like the relaxed look of baggier wear. I'm originally from a skate and snowboard background so I always love the beanie look!
In the rather short existence of our magazine, this is the first interview with a female biker, so I simply have to ask that silly, but pragmatic question. How does riding go together with long fingernails in gloves and hairstyles in a helmet? Personally I don't know any female riders who have super long fingernails. I prefer medium to shorter length because they are still very feminine but easier to keep clean and tidy. Playing and working on bikes makes it pretty easy to snap or rip a fingernail. Hair is another issue, when its short it just goes wherever, but when it is long, then I always do a ponytail, its simple and I can poke it out the back of the helmet. If its a full face helmet then a lower ponytail.
Although riding is probably the biggest part of your life, I don't get a chance to interview a person talented in so many ways too often. So this interview is gonna be only partly about riding. I know you also work as a model. How does modeling go with bike riding? Make-up may be able to cover almost anything, but do you have to be careful and try not to get bruised? It is so random but I usually have a big race or ride the day before before big photoshoots so I'm trying to be careful, but then at the same time, that is not the most fun way to ride or the most practical way to race! I just do my best at whatever I am doing at the time.
What other models have to do with strict diet plans, all the biking probably does for you. Can you eat what you want? Because I am a biker before I am a model then every modelling job takes second place to anything bike related. If I am training a lot then I actually have to eat a lot also.
Let's move on to another field of your interest. As if being a professional mtb athlete and a model wasn't enough, you also work as a graphic designer. How have you gotten into design? I love design and art. When I was finishing my graphic design degree I really found it hard to make the decision to pursue a career as a creative director or as a mountain bike racer. I would love to have been able to do both as intensely as I have done biking, but obviously there are only so many hours in a day.
And how does that work? Do you have your own company, or do you freelance? I am currently doing freelance design work. Because I have spent so much time training, travelling, shooting and racing etc, it is difficult to pursue both a serious design career and a bike career. So my design work has had a lot of restraints on it. I think to be in creative space consistently around other creatives can really help to cultivate more creativity and productivity. I definitely want to give my creative side some more time and love though.
An awesome fact I learned is that you created designs for Scott's Contessa series, and you have your own signature Castelli clothing line. Where do you get your inspiration? Yes that has been really fun. I am always taking photos, reading books, writing ideas and notes, observing, touching things, admiring things, I think that inspiration can come from absolutely anywhere!
I simply have to ask this. If that's not too personal, what kind of man gets you out on a date? One, that you can hit the hills with, or one who has nothing to do with riding? Hahaha. I think that being able to handle a bike is definitely a plus, but intelligence, passion, charm and creativity also go a pretty long way!
What do you think the future has in store for Niki Gudex? Exciting things I hope, and definitely cycling related! I have a lot of plans and ideas that I want to grow with the support of like-minded companies and individuals. I have learnt so much from the past few years and I really want to continue to build on that and to pass it onto others. I believe cycling is a huge part of the future.
We've reached the end of the interview and I would like to thank you very much that you found time for us. The last question is open for you – whether you would like to thank someone, give any advice to the next generations, or try to get in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations – it's your call. Love life. Trust your gut instinct. Feel free to feel. Be brave.
3 thing that make you happy? Chocolate. Massage. Swimming in the ocean.
3 things that make you angry? Aggressive drivers swiping cyclists. Being hungry. Being cold.
Who's your favourite rider? I don't have one particular favourite rider. But any rider with these attributes is definitely one I would watch. Stylish, flowing and fast at the same time. With a good attitude.
What's your most favourite saying? Keep it fun
What are you listening to right now? Watching a french movie called The Valet actually.
What's on the desktop of your computer? A photo I took with my new digital camera, (shooting up into the branches of this incredibly colourful flowering tree, heavy with blossoms and the light flaring and some blue sky)
Tea or coffee? Tea daily addict and coffee a couple of times a week.
Ketchup or mayo? Chilli, lime and coriander mayonnaise.
If you had to eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be? Feijoas and chocolate.
What's the biggest fine you ever paid and what was it for? I got pulled over by the cops in America. I was out training on the East Coast, but couldn't find any safe areas where I could do a lot of distance in, so I headed out on the Interstate. I heard the siren and thought I'd get out of the way since there was a lot of congested traffic (even though not even in a car lane, I was on the shoulder of a safety lane). Anyway I was completely surprised when I found out the siren was for me. Turns out it is illegal to ride a bike on the highways there. Funnily enough because there was also a lot of cars out, of course someone saw me and soon I had a call from one of my sponsors on the West Coast cracking jokes about my driving. The person who told them I'd been pulled over must have forgotten to mention I was on a bike. Anyway my Aussie accent saved me and I didn't get a fine. Just a laugh that it was crazy and to get outta there.
Interview: Filip Nagy. Photographer: Russ Hennings. "Niki Gudex Interview" Biker magazine (Slovakia), Issue 4, 2010