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How mountain biking makes me a better designer

I decided to write a post about my favourite pastime and how something completely unrelated to my career can still make me a better designer.

If your coming directly to this article and don’t know much about me. My name is Will Brett-Atkin. I am an award-winning Product Designer based in the UK. I have worked for many companies including Philips, BAE Systems, Avis, Budget, Mind Candy, Hopin, and Streamyard. Chances are if you’ve ever used any of these companies’ apps or digital products then it is one I have worked on.

I am also a keen mountain biker bordering on the obsessive. I have previously competed as a sponsored rider in the sport of Enduro and now I run a free mountain bike magazine called One Track Mind Mag in my free time.

Will Brett-Atkin Mountain Biking

What is mountain biking?

I think this one is pretty self-explanatory but for those that don’t know, mountain biking is cycling off-road on a bike designed to be ridden off-road mostly in hilly or mountainous terrain.

There are a few different variations of mountain biking; XC, Trail, Enduro, Downhill, and a few more. I enjoy all of these but I mostly take part in Trail and Enduro style riding. Often slow climbs to the top and then riding as fast as I can down trails often very steep full of features such as jumps, drops, berms, etc.

Mountain Bikes usually have suspension either just at the front called a hardtail or front and back called full suspension. I enjoy both.

Will Brett-Atkin Rogate Downhill

What is mountain biking to me?

Mountain biking is one of my favourite past times. I try to ride at least once a week if not multiple times all year round no matter the weather.

I use mountain biking as an escape from reality. A way to switch off from the stress of daily life as well as to keep fit. I find that mountain biking clears my head and can really help support good mental health.

I also like to compete in MTB (short for mountain biking). I used to enter around 20 races a year across the UK, mostly enduro events. I would ride in my age category and I have had some good results. You can check out my results here:

Will Brett-Atkin Race Results

Through my racing, I have gained many connections both with athletes and within the cycling industry. I have also made some great friends and it is through all these connections that I was able to form my other website One Track Mind Magazine which is a free online MTB magazine where I share my thoughts and opinions on the MTB, conduct product reviews, create videos and photoshoots as well as share industry news from my connections.

One Track Mind Mountain Bike Magazine is a passion project of mine and the website is my creative outlet outside of my design career.

Will Brett-Atkin Katie Beaven Utah MTB

So how does MTB make me a better designer?

so how can mountain biking which is a sport and completely unrelated to Digital product Design make someone a better designer? Well, I mentioned a few reasons already:

MTB Supports Mental Health:

Riding my bike gives me a physical outlet to reduce stress, improve my sleep and clear my head.

Taking part in a sport that requires 100% concentration really helps me switch off from daily life. I can leave work behind, clear my mind and come back to work the next day fresh and ready.

MTB helps me discover my limits:

Whether it’s through competing or challenging myself to ride a new trail or feature, Mountain biking can help me find my limits. Sometimes these limits are physical but often they are mental. Achieving these goals gives a great sense of achievement but also proves to me that I can always improve and that I need to keep working to improve further. This is the same in my design career.

Sometimes I find my limits through either failure or not trying. This is also ok as it gives me something to work towards. This also applies to design as it’s not always possible to achieve something first try.

In competition, I can put my talents up against others. This often shows that there are others out there with equal or better skills and this is not only humbling but can give you an idea of what is achievable or what is required to achieve something. You can also use this to learn from others and this is the same in design.

Mountain Biking is Problem Solving:

MTB and Design are both problem solving. The problems in each are very different but essentially you use your brain and skills to overcome them.

Will Brett-Atkin Enduro Racing

Does this only apply to MTB or can you use other sports/activities?

Mountain biking is what works for me. But I also enjoy other sports and activities. For example, I am really into trail running, Hiking, Bouldering, Surfing, and pretty much any other adventure activity. All these work for me and sure other sports such as football, rugby, golf, etc can work for you.

I recently took part in my first ever trail running event. You can read about that here:

Just make sure you have some variety in your life. Don’t spend every hour working on your career. You need life experience to apply to your design and you need a way to switch your brain off from work. Find a solution that works for you.

Will Brett-Atkin Afan MTB

Photo Gallery

Everyone loves pictures. So here are some photos of me riding from the past few years. Some of these photos I have taken myself and others have been taken by some very talented photographer friends.

If you enjoyed reading this post then perhaps you would enjoy reading some of my others. You can read them over at One Track Mind Magazine. 

Let me know what you think in the comments below and please do share your stories as well as your tips and tricks on how you use other activities to support your career and mental health.