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...
This is an article excerpt - Login to view the full article. Registration is quick and free.  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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Antony was a latecomer to the joys of riding off-road, and he’s continued to be a late adopter of many of his favourite things, including full suspension, dropper posts, 29ers, and adult responsibility. At some point he decided to compensate for his lack of natural riding talent by organising maintenance days on his local trails. This led, inadvertently, to writing for Singletrack, after one of his online rants about lazy, spoilt mountain bikers who never fix trails was spotted and reprinted on this website during a particularly slow news week. Now based just up the road from the magazine in West Yorkshire, he’s expanded his remit to include reviews and features as well as rants. He’s also moved on from filling holes in the woods to campaigning for changes to the UK’s antiquated land access laws, and probing the relationship between mountain biking and the places we ride. He’s a firm believer in bringing mountain biking to the people, whether that’s through affordable bikes, accessible trails, enabling technology, or supportive networks. He’s also studied sustainable transport, and will happily explain to anyone who’ll listen why the UK is a terrible place for everyday utility cycling, even though it shouldn’t be. If that all sounds a bit worthy, he’s also happy to share tales of rides gone awry, or delicate bike parts burst asunder by ham-fisted maintenance. Because ultimately, there are enough talented professionals in mountain bike journalism, and it needs more rank amateurs.

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