A Day In The Life: Nikki Whiles
Trail builder by day and wheelie king by night, Nikki is a must-follow on the 'Gram and one of our longest-standing athletes. Time to find out what a day in the life of Nikki Whiles looks like.
- Name: Nikki Whiles
- Age: 34
- Follow Nikki Whiles:
- Location: South Wales, UK
- Riding with Marin since: 2016
6AM First Things First
I always start the day by taking Poppy, my Dalmatian, for a walk around the fields near my house. I’m very lucky to live where I do as the dog walking and riding routes are fantastic. I get home for around 6:30am, have a bit of breakfast and then get on the road to work.
When I can, I’ll take in a gravel ride to get to work. It’s usually about an hour’s ride with a mix of on and off-road, and some chilled cycle paths alongside the canal. The ride is good training but most of all I just love starting the day with some exercise as you always arrive for the day feeling fresh and really invigorated. It cheers me up, helps me to feel energized and just sets me up for the day with plenty of endorphins. The only downside is that you hit the end of the day knowing you’ve got to ride home!
I only have one drop-bar bike, my Marin Headlands, which is the bike I do all of my gravel riding on and will race Grinduro and Gritfest on this year. It's pretty much a stock setup, with the exception of some different wheels and tires from my sponsors at WTB.
8AM On The Tools
Where most of Marin’s sponsored riders get to ride bikes full time, I spend my Monday to Friday driving a digger. I have my own trail building company called TrailCraft and we design and build everything from pump tracks to mountain bike trails to full-on bike parks.
We’ve been going for 10 years now, and I’ve been building for nearly 20 years in total - if you’ve ridden an official trail in South Wales there’s a good chance there’s been one of ours in the mix. If you've seen the Madeira section of Deathgrip, you'll have seen some of our best-known work. Each day is different and there’s plenty of variety to it, one minute I might be doing planning and prep for a job, then meetings with clients, building on-site or lining up the next project.
The bulk of my day on-site involves operating a 360° Excavator, forming dirt and stone into the various shapes that make up a bike track. Most of the work is done using machinery but there’s always a portion of work to do by hand, so when I’m not in the digger I’m out getting my hands dirty with a spade or a Wacker plate.
The best days involve a bit of riding and we’ll often rough some shapes out and then test them to make sure they ride right. We also get to test the finished product when we’re done, that’s the real perk of the job but is something we never get to do enough of!
It’s hard to pick a job I’m most proud of but we’ve recently finished a pump track in Cheltenham, in the South West of the UK and I think that’s the best pump track we’ve ever made.
I’m also really stoked with the job we did building a mountain bike track in the Elan Valley, South Wales. That’s super scenic, really fun to ride and is getting really busy with visitors.
12PM Sandwiches and Spades
We break for lunch at midday and I’ll grab a sandwich before jumping out of the digger and onto the shovel for some hard graft. My favorite sandwich is something boring like ham and cheese, by the way, and I always make my own lunch because I’m tight with money.
Our mornings are usually spent doing the heavy lifting with the excavator, and then we focus on shaping in the afternoon. We move material by hand with the barrow, shape with the spades and then use the Wacker plate to compact everything down.
We own and operate all of our equipment so there are plenty of toys to play with and usually some maintenance to be done - no days are the same.
5PM Time For Some Fun
5 PM comes around and it’s time for the best part of the day - home and out on the bike.
For evening rides, my local trails are perfect. They’re good enough for a full day on the weekend but perfect for quick laps when time is tight and you need some short, fast and intense runs. I’ll usually meet up with a few mates, slap some turns, grab clips on our phones and just make it all about having fun. We’ll often scratch in a few new turns and do a bit of maintenance while we’re there, just to keep things fresh.
8PM .... And Relax
After riding, it’s time to take the dog out for another walk, give the bike a wash and relax.
I’m pretty boring and my day job is pretty physical, so I don’t do too much in the evenings. I studied graphic design at college and I like to use what I learned to create photos and videos for my Instagram so will often have the laptop out and be editing in Photoshop or Premiere Pro. I enjoy creating unique images and it can be hard to stand out these days, so I like to invest time into making people look twice. The older and fatter I get, the harder it can be to send it, so you have to do something to stand out in other ways!
If the weather’s nice, I might also skip the evening ride and head out on my motorbike. We have some amazing, scenic roads in South Wales and there are plenty of great rides through the mountains and around the coast. I bought a Triumph Bonneville a few years back and absolutely love it, I try to get out on that whenever I can.
I usually end the day with a bit of TV, a relax on the sofa and some admin for my sponsors. I ride for a few brands and there’s always a bit of work keeping in touch with them, making plans and moving things forward.
I’ve got a busy summer of riding coming up and there’s plenty of work needed for those, such as booking accommodation or getting bikes ready to ride. I’m currently planning for Ard Rock, Grinduro, Gritfest and some other UK enduro races. We’re also heading out to the Pass'portes du Soleil in the Alps, so plenty to do!
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