Ride and Prejudice – how mountain bikers became the bad boys of the outdoors

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Recently I wrote about how most of the UK’s outdoor access laws favour users who don’t happen to be mountain bikers. Sadly, that’s just part of the picture. There are...

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Recently I wrote about how most of the UK’s outdoor access laws favour users who don’t happen to be mountain bikers. Sadly, that’s just part of the picture. There are deep-set cultural biases at work too. Collectively I’d term these “YSBH”, or You Shouldn’t Be Here, and I’d argue that these play almost as much of a role in where we can and can’t ride.

As old as dirt

Riding bicycles off-road is nothing new. In fact Thomas Stevens rode a penny farthing around the world more than a decade before the invention of tarmac. As roads improved and car ownership mushroomed, folk like the Rough Stuff Fellowship kept taking bicycles to places that would be considered a proper day out on a mountain bike even today. Yet they never did this in such numbers that it became “normal”. Cycle speedway and then BMX took the UK by storm, but were mostly confined to purpose-built tracks in towns and cities.

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