Is mountain biking in danger of being too exclusive?

A while ago one of the mountain bike mags ran an article: Can you become a mountain biker in a weekend? It got me thinking? What is a "mountain biker"? That used to be an easy question to answer. Back in the early 90s, when I first sat on a mountain bike, the bikes didn't have suspension, there were no trail centres. You just got on a bike with fatter tyres, looked at a map, linked some bridlepaths together to make a loop, and off you went. You were a mountain biker.

Mountain biking in Fife, Scotland

Am I more of a mountain biker last year...

Now there are all manner of different categories of mountain biker: cross country, trail rider, enduro, all mountain, downhill, freeride, dirt jumping (and probably more that I don't know about). Do we need all these categories I wonder? Or does it confuse and put off people who want to get into the sport?

I think what irked me about the question "can you become a mountain biker in a weekend"? is that it seems a bit exclusive. As if there are boxes you have to tick before you can join the club. But which boxes? Is it that you've got the right gear? Or that you've mastered the right skills? Is it ok to call yourself a mountain biker if you can't do a wheelie round the car park? Or you don't get air at every opportunity. I've been mountain biking for more than 20 years and have ridden in the Alps, the Pyrenees, Colorado, Utah, New Zealand, Morocco and more. Yet, I still like to keep my wheels on the ground! Does that mean I'm not a mountain biker?!

...than I was in 1996?

One of my main aims in setting up Bike Guide Devon is to encourage more women to give mountain biking a try. This may be at a trail centre. But it's more likely to be discovering local trails. While the adrenaline thrill is one of the things I like about mountain biking, it's just one aspect. There is so much more to it than just that.

Thanks to mountain biking I have discovered many beautiful places in the UK that I might otherwise not have visited. I've met all sorts of really nice people. It's a wonderful way to be out in the countryside, soaking up all the benefits of exercising in nature, without the dangers of traffic. And think of all those lovely endorphins it generates. I may be a bit weird, but I also find great satisfaction in getting to the top of a tricky climb.

So as a community, lets not define what a mountain biker is. Let's encourage people to give mountain biking a try whether they want to race, jump, don a full face helmet and body armour, or just go for a ride in the countryside undisturbed by traffic.

What do you think? Join the discussion on Facebook.


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