Age no limit: Mountain biking

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Written byClaire Hunte

Fitness is one of those subjects that is frankly best told by the people who love it the most. In this series, we hear from those who love a specific activity and tell you why and how they do it. We hope it may be just the thing to spark you to give it a whirl.

Steve Chapman, a mountain biker and coach, is the director of Rewild MTB. Steve’s passion takes him to trails around beautiful landscapes in Shropshire, which he describes as “pretty hard to beat.”

Go on, get on yer bike! Photo Steve Chapman

1. Tell us how you started mountain biking

I got into mountain biking at quite a young age, although at the time, I didn’t really know it was mountain biking. It was just a way to keep myself entertained. I’d go out with my cousins and ride bikes all day, building jumps and tracks, daring each other to do progressively sillier things until it was time to go home. Mountain bike culture grew alongside these formative years, and I started racing downhill at 13, and I was hooked from then on. As I’ve gotten older, mountain biking has become less about going fast over technical terrain and more about where it takes me and the people I meet. It’s my conduit for adventure and experiences.

“I’ve never come back from a bike ride in a worse mood than when I left, it always helps”

2. Why does it suit you?

I think it has a lot of elements that appeal to my personality. It’s a great way to interact with the outdoors and seek adventure, a skill that can be pushed as far as you want. It’s a great way to meet people, and I find that you really get to know people quickly when you go on an adventure with them. It’s excellent for building life-long friendships.

3. Is it seasonal? How often do you go out? How do you keep motivated?

I ride my bike reasonably often. I would say, on average, 3-4 times a week, whether guiding, coaching, or just personal riding with friends. I just love being on a bike. It’s the way I relax and decompress. It’s the way I socialise. As anyone in the UK knows, you can expect pretty much any weather throughout the year. Yes, it gets colder in winter, but the proper clothing can keep you warm and comfortable in any weather. I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but I’m a big believer in “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad preparation”.

Motivation is harder to come by in winter. Still, it’s almost always harder in your head than when you’re out, even if the weather’s awful. I can hand on heart say that I’ve never come back from a bike ride in a worse mood than when I left, it always helps, and the best thing is, when you’ve been out, it turns up the volume on all the creature comforts. Getting warm and dry after a cold and wet ride and sitting by the fire is pretty hard to beat.

Intro to mountain biking course – making progress

4. Name two of your favourite bike trails in Shropshire?

Hard to nail down two specific trails, but two of my favourite areas to ride are the Clee Hills and Long Mynd and Stiperstones. Just beautiful landscapes with accessible trails, something for everyone with many pubs or café stop opportunities. I’ve travelled with my bike quite a lot, and for me, Shropshire has it all, great riding with beautiful landscapes packed into a relatively small area. When you add in the amazing food and drink options and all the unique and beautiful accommodation choices, it’s pretty hard to beat!

5. Share your top tips/advice with anyone to wanting to get started mountain biking

My advice is to get the best bike you can afford. It doesn’t have to be all singing and all dancing. Simple, well-designed and a good fit are the most important factors when getting into riding. Getting some early coaching can give you a big confidence boost and get you started on the right pedal stroke. Finding people with more experience than yourself and getting out with them can be a great way to learn. This can save you from bad experiences and get you to the good stuff straight away.

Find Steve Chapman at Rewild MTB