Lungs burning, legs screaming, sweat pouring – kind of sums up most of my early Mountain Biking days. Trying desperately to keep up with my club mates – it didn’t work. The Saturday spin leader, who’s frustration with my pace was about to bubble over, once said “why don’t you wait here, we’ll be back in 20 mins.” A hour later they returned in time to roll down to the car park.

In fairness they were all a bit hard-core, but even on the much peer-pressured ‘no one gets dropped social spins’, they were gone on the first climb and never looked back – the frustration, the anger!

Sure, I don’t get out as often as I’d like, but I started mountain biking quite late in life so never developed the proper physique for it (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). I’ve only been at it for little more than a decade, I’m 60 this year. So I spin alone and frankly, I prefer it that way. Just me, my bike and the mountain – no pressure – and I love it.

Every so often some young skeletor in lycra appears by my side on a fire road climb and starts jabbering away while scrolling through Snapchats on his phone. Then he takes the opportunity to practice a few manuals while eating a banana and swigging from a water bottle. Meanwhile I’m bleeding from the eyeballs just trying to keep the wheels turning! Usually after a few minutes the little treasures get chilly and speed off.

Not the right shape for mountain biking

Years ago while slogging up to the masts on top of 3 Rock Mountain, the late great Richie Byrne said to me “you’re not really the right shape for a mountain biker are you?”. His unique brand of encouragement was legendary to say the least. Yet while others disappeared off around the distant corner, he stayed with me!

His attitude was just so damned positive. He didn’t care who you were, where you came from or what bike you were riding. If you had the desire to get out into the mountains on a bike, he would do his damnedest to make sure you got there – and I miss that.

These days people are too caught up in themselves. To quick to express their own opinions as fact and equally quick to dismiss others if their opinions don’t align.

eMTB – a Salvation

Richie was never afraid to express his opinions, but he was always open to being challenged – loved it in fact. Long before eMTBs were in any way established, he could see the future. While others laughed, he could see that for the ‘fat lads at the back’ like me, eMTBs would become a salvation and he was constantly on at me to get one.

But I always railed against it and kept telling him (and myself) that I wasn’t ready to give in – hahaha… ‘give in’. Like many people that’s how I saw it. I couldn’t see the bigger picture the way Richie did – I can now.

In fairness, eMTBs were in their infancy back then and little more than regular mountain bikes with a big heavy HGV wiper motor bolted on, a battery that weighed more than a bank safe and a charge that ran out quicker than a train set on Christmas morning. Oh how things have changed.

I don’t pretend to understand what people have against eBikes – there’s so much ignorance out there:

If they get more people off their arses and out in to the fresh air, surely that’s a good thing?

If they encourage more people in to the sport, surely that’s a good thing too?

And if they give local bike shops more business, well, that is definitely a good thing!

The feeling I get out on my bike is one of freedom, joy and exhilaration. It’s like the very first time I went mountain biking all over again – I feel re-born, a big goofy grin on my face that lasts for days. Can’t wait to get out again – and surely that is a good thing?