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Mike Stafford

mic-crop-ride.jpgMy first mountain bike found me in the summer of 1989. At the time I was competing in local triathlons and spending many gruelling hours a week riding the roads, with my elbows 6 inches apart and my nose 6 inches away from my bike computer. Every ride was planned to maintain my heart rate at the “OPTIMUM RATE FOR FITNESS GAINS”?????? So when one of the customers at the health club where I was working offered me a bike with fat tyres in exchange for his 12 month membership, I jumped at the chance. It was a Muddy Fox, fully ridged (no suspension) in the days when you were lucky to have 18 gears. My first off road  ride was a revelation! No computer, no drivers trying to kill me, with my elbows out and head up I could see again.  That was the turning point for me: when I made the leap from being a roadie to a true mountain biker and I haven’t looked back .
What fascinates me most about mountain biking is that it brings with it an amazing sense of freedom – and the more skills you have the more you get out of it! It’s just like good skiers or snowboarders – they get to release a bit of their creative spirit in the great outdoors. And mountain biking is the same, only with a little more mud and sweat!


Mountain biking means different things to different people. For some it’s a way of keeping fit, a way of hanging out with friends, a way of getting a good dose of fresh air… But ultimately, people are catching on to the fact that it’s not just a trundle along the canal. The intended uses of mountain bikes has changed and, for those who are looking for a few thrills, it can be a sport that offers so much more.


The great thing about the skills courses is that riders actually see in real terms what biking can be about. I get a real buzz and satisfaction out of seeing people achieve something they couldn’t do before: imparting knowledge about mountain biking seems like the natural thing to do. There’s always a great sense of commoradory, which you can see from the Facebook group, and no matter what walks of life people come from, by the end of the course, there is a great sense of achievement and friendship. My advice to any wannabe rider is to grab, beg or borrow a bike and come along. Choose a ride to suit your ability – and enjoy.