A Short History of Time with Isla

"...organic progression"

She’s a two-time Scottish mountain bike and cyclocross champion, elite British Mountain Bike Series champion with a top 5 finish at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in 2018. Suffice to say that Isla Short has racked up many titles and accolades during her career, and at the age of 23, she’s only just getting started.

Isla Short national elite XC MTB racer training in the Scottish Borders.
Miles, moor, smiles...

Hailing from the Scottish borders, Isla has grown up around bikes and racing culture. With her father paving the way to what would be a career for Isla, her formative years were spent going on cycling adventures with the family, even tandem biking on holiday as her father would race XC endurance events. With minimal persuasion from Isla’s father, they both entered their first race together as a pair, and won! Ever since that winning pair’s race, Isla continued to ride and race with her father while unknowingly setting herself up for a career in professional mountain bike racing. To describe her evolution of cycling, Isla describes it as a “very organic progression”.

...Gold Coast, Australia...

Racing really began to take off for Isla after she developed a taste for competition. At the age of 14, Isla jumped straight into the deep-end by entering a Nationals race in 2011. Despite the odds being stacked against her in the Youth category, racing against trained riders, Isla recalls finishing in the top 10. From there, racing and riding began to make regular appearances in the aspiring athlete’s diary. On her journey to the Commonwealth Games, Isla suffered two incidents which led to breaking her back, twice. Following a long road to recovery, and losing a couple of centimetres in height, Isla wasn’t going to let that get in her way. In 2018, the Commonwealth Games headed to the Gold Coast, Australia, an event that stands out as a career highlight for Short. “I went out there hoping to achieve a top-five, and I got it! That race really confirmed the level of competition I needed to be at,” shares Isla. Making her Elite World Cup debut in 2018, Isla travelled to Novo Mesto to test her skills against the biggest names in women’s cross-country. Hoping to finish within the top 30 riders, Isla managed to hold on for 15th place, an incredible feat for the young Scot.

“Practising my wheelies and manuals..."

Heading into 2020, Isla was hoping for a top 10 finish. However, the global pandemic has caused major sporting events to either cancel or postpone. “It’s frustrating, but I see this as an opportunity to miss racing, and to work on my weaknesses. At the end of the day, we’re all in the same storm.” At home in Scotland, Isla’s been keeping busy by making skinnies and obstacles to help hone her bike handling skills. “Practising my wheelies and manuals certainly help make up for not being able to ride technical trails.” As a self-proclaimed introvert, Isla’s day-to-day lifestyle in lockdown involves training six times a week, “either I do a home gym session and a ride, or a skills session and a run. I have a good structure to my week, which is great.”

Isla Short national elite XC MTB racer having a break during training in the Scottish Borders.
Tending to the Borders

...savvy tire-user...

As an Orbea ambassador, Isla’s 2020 race weapon is an Orbea Oiz 29er, fitted with Hunt Wheels and Schwalbe tires. Equipped with a pair of Nobby Nics for the winter and a Racing Ray/Ralph combo for the rest of the year, Isla confesses to loving Schwalbe’s Thunder Burt tires but living in Scotland, where it’s renowned for being wet, means that they don’t come out often enough! As a savvy tire-user, “I run them until they’re bald on my training bike. I think I have around four plugs in my training bike right now! I just don’t like being wasteful, and nor does Schwalbe, so our beliefs on that align,” shares Isla.

Isla Short national elite XC MTB racer getting to grips with her gravel bike.
Foot down on the dirt road

Let’s hope it won’t be too long until we can see Isla Short take her place between the race tapes again. You can keep up to date with Isla’s lockdown antics and journey through elite women’s cross-country by following her on Instagram.

Words: Jess Strange - Velo Me | Images: Isla Short