Confessions of a Mountain Bike Novice

Until a couple of weeks ago I was a mountain bike virgin.  I saw people on them but had never ridden one.  Now I have begun the very bumpy and bum bruising process of finding out what you can and, more importantly, can’t do on a mountain bike.

My Bike in its Natural habitat

My Bike in its Natural habitat

So far I’ve learned these important facts that might be helpful for mountain bike novices like myself.

The term mountain bike is a misnomer, they should really be called “Track Bikes” because that’s what they are designed for. In order to ride one up a mountain you’d need nuclear powered legs, in order to ride one down you’d have to either not care if you got to the bottom alive or have already written a suicide note

If you see a boulder coming as you head down the hill do something about it right away. What you do doesn’t really matter, your life is already hanging in the balance and it’s probably a matter of chance whether you survive or not. If you spend any time at all trying to decide what to do you will have already hit the boulder and parted company from the bike several seconds before you try and act.

Fortune favours the brave on a mountain bike. Nine times out of ten the best thing to do is “go for it” as the bike is frequently capable of doing things you didn’t think possible. Those of you who are mathematically gifted will know that that means 10% of the time going for it is not the best thing to do and you will end up chewing gravel. This is unfortunate but almost 100% of the time if you hesitate the deadly wobble factor will take over and you will definitely taste the aggregate.

Trying to cycle up a steep hill is the nearest thing there is to purgatory that you can experience without and invitation from the devil himself to visit his place of abode. You will discover you can sweat from places you didn’t know you had and, at least in the Highlands of Scotland, if you can’t pedal fast enough, the horde of biting insects that are following you will catch up and devour you.

The hell of pedalling up hill is, however, more than compensated for by the blessed relief and exhilaration of hurtling back down the hill. On the way down you will cover ground in milliseconds that took you hours to cover on the way up. The flies that tormented you in ascent will be blown away on the way down. You will experience untold but short lived joy that will convince you (erroneously) that it was all worth it.


Mountain bikes have really good brakes. That might sound obvious but I didn’t know this until I was cycling home from the pub and a taxi driver decided he wasn’t going to bother looking for bikes and pulled out in front of me. I slammed on the brakes and the bike squealed to a halt. If I’d been on my road bike I would have collided with the side of the cab and enjoyed an aerial view of the taxi on the start of my journey to hospital.

And yes this is another plug for my play at the Edinburgh Fringe. If you like the blog you might also like the play (no bikes involved)

2 responses to “Confessions of a Mountain Bike Novice

  1. Someone pulled out in front of me in town when I was on my bike and there were folks everywhere – I screamed really loud, everyone stopped and stared… and the guy looked really stupid – bet he doesn’t do that again!

    You’re right that the brave usually do better on a bike on a rough track – I always fall off when I panic and slam on the brakes – if I didn’t, I’d probably be okay…

  2. Pingback: The Bothies, Bikes and Bogs | johndburns·

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