Five minutes with Catherine Shearer, Highlands & Islands Adventures

Co-owner and co-founder of Highlands and Islands Adventures Cat Shearer proves all you need to succeed in mountain bike travel is an awesome pair of Pike forks and the ability to repeatedly crash with a smile.

Cat Shearer has turned her love of mountain biking into a successful holiday business.

Mountain biking is about the whole experience. Turning the pedals, enjoying beautiful scenery, keeping fit, challenging yourself and spending time with friends. Every ride is different and every time you go out there’s the opportunity to experience something special which you can’t say of a trip to the gym. Why should women let men have all the fun?

I worked for the 7 Stanes project in 2003-2004 which got me into mountain biking in the first place. After I left there, I met Euan (now my husband) and we found we had a common interest in mountain biking and used to spend the weekends leaving Glasgow and heading to the Highlands to ride. A year later we had moved to Inverness for a complete lifestyle change and in 2007 Highlands and Islands Adventures was born!

I haven’t given my new bike a name yet. I’ve just got a Lapierre X-Flow which is women’s specific because I’m quite short but we’re still bonding.

I was in the Yukon in August which was incredible. I join our groups in Scotland whenever I can but I’m definitely more use in the office than Euan so he gets to travel more than I do. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to get out more.

When I first started in the industry it was hugely male-dominated, and to a certain degree it still is. But from a travel perspective we’re seeing more women booking trips every year, whether on their own, with another female friend, or with their boyfriend/husband.

One of my favourite places to ride is the Cairngorms, particularly the southern Cairngorms around Kincraig. The trails there are just really enjoyable, there’s nothing too technical that involves serious concentration and skill, the climbs are just enough and the descents are fantastic! Very favourable effort:fun ratio! Oh, and let’s not forget the Mountain Café in Aviemore, which has an unparalleled range of post-ride, gluten-free cakes!

At the risk of tempting fate I haven’t had any really serious spills. I did come off an embarrassing number of times when we were in the Yukon because I was exhausted and jet-lagged, and I think I’ve damaged my shoulder as a result of that, but generally it’s just my pride that’s hurt.

Generally I won’t go out in the pissing rain. We’re lucky enough to have plenty of trails to ride right from our doorstep, so getting out at short notice isn’t an issue and we can take advantage of any good(ish) weather that comes our way.

The landscape of the Highlands of makes me want to ride my bike. The trails are really varied and can be all-out fun, like the Cairngorms, or seriously challenging, like Torridon and the west coast. But each one takes you through some stunning scenery, with breath-taking views that make you feel happy to be alive.


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