Mountain biking in Manchester

No, that's not "near Manchester". I mean actually in Manchester. Did you know about this? I didn't until this year when my OH bought me a mountain bike skills lesson at the National Cycling Centre (NCC). It was great fun!

I love cycling. I don't do a huge amount of it, but I would if I lived farther away from my work. Here's my faithful steed, a 24 year old rigid (i.e. no suspension) mountain bike.

Yep, those are BMX handlebars and they're there for a very good reason.

My first bicycle

When I started cycling in 2006, I bought a Trek hybrid bicycle from the very helpful people at Bicycle Doctor in Rusholme. Being a responsible bunch, they got me to ride it around for a while to make sure it fitted me well, and it seemed to. Unfortunately, half way home with my new purchase, I realised that my wrists were hurting pretty badly. I had done a ridiculous amount of computer use in my 20s and now I was paying for it.

Before finally resolving to take the bicycle back, I first tried to fit the holder for my D lock to the bicycle frame. In doing so I managed to scrape off one of the stickers, which made the bike look rather less than shiny and new, and not very returnable. When I did finally take the bike back, Rich (now co-owner of Keep Pedalling) went more than the extra mile to make sure that my bike's setup worked with my feeble body.

My second bicycle

Fast forward several years and a friend of mine had an original Kona Lava Dome that was hanging around in his hallway and looking shifty. Rather than risk it falling in to delinquency, he gave it to me. Before he handed it over, he decided to fit it with BMX handlebars to give a very adjustable (and potentially very upright) riding position. This worked a treat in keeping weight off my wrists and pretty soon I sold my Trek hybrid.

What about the mountain biking?

Oh yes, back to the plot!

Getting the Lava Dome peaked my interest in mountain biking but, as you might guess from the above, I felt my wrists probably couldn't cope with it and I didn't pursue it. Then, a few months ago, my OH saw a voucher online for the mountain bike skills taster at NCC. It was cheap (only £5.25 for adults living in Manchester!), only an hour long, and NCC provided a mountain bike, so how could I not try it?

I had a great time! As I got more confident I started flying off the outside of the banked turns (they're called berms) but Tom, the very helpful instructor, assured me that this was just because I was going too fast for my level of skill. (I need to work on choosing my line more carefully.)

The best news was that I didn't have any significant wrist pain. Navigating the course required frequent position shifting. I think I was pulling up on the handlebars as often as I was leaning on them. This seemed much more friendly to my wrists than the very static position I adopt while commuting.

What next?

Well, I am definitely going back for more. As well as the skills area, NCC have a set of four trails (green, blue, red and black) and all of these are free to use. As I don't yet have a mountain bike, I shall start by taking NCC's two hour lesson which uses some of those trails. They also do a whole weekend course.

Pretty soon I expect I'll find myself buying a mountain bike.

Justin Hellings

I'm a geek in a world that insists on being irrational and a greenie in a society that insists on speeding towards its own destruction. There's some work to be done here. Nah, let's go snowboard. Woo!



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