Mountain Bike Beginners – The Tips and tribulations

I had a good day out at Glentress (7 Stanes favourite in the east of Scotland) at the weekend and thought it worth writing about because it wasn’t with my usual biking buddies.

I was planning to head out with the girlfriend on Sunday just to stretch the legs and toddle around the red run. She’s no mountain biker by any means but she knows the ropes and can easily keep up with me (and often surpass me..!) on the ups due to the amount of running she does. On the Sunday morning she ended up inviting along two of her friends who haven’t ever been biking before and the four of us headed out there with the car a-laden with wheels.

I was expecting a pretty slow day, but didn’t mind the prospect at all due to a few too many light ales the night before, and it certainly started off that way. I always forget how much kit, parts and assorted paraphenalia we carry with us as a matter of course and when someone turns up without it it’s a sudden reminder of the amount of rubbish I keep in my bike bag. Good job though as it was all needed and I spent a happy 30 minutes before even leaving the car park tinkering with my accomplices bikes to bring them up to code. I’ve got an old banger (’95 Raleigh Amazon) that I ride around town every day but it’s amazing what contraptions people pull out of the rafters sometimes. I didn’t envy the guy who was about to descend the red run on a rigid-fork, grip-shift hybrid built for someone of far taller stature than he! Despite the hiccups though, eventually off we went, with gears rattling furiously around me as we headed onto the first uphill.

The day basically played out with me acting as coach to 3 very enthusiastic bikers and it was far more fun than I expected. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no biking snob, and I’m certainly no expert myself, so it wasn’t that I was dreading going out with some newbies. I’ll never sneer at someone on a lower spec bike than mine, or bark, “Left!” at a slower rider in front of me, partly because I know for a fact I’ve still got a lot to learn myself and partly because everyone has a right to use the trails. The reason I was surprised was because I didn’t realise how much fun it would be playing the guru for a day and helping someone else grin the way I do when I hit the bottom of Spooky Wood.

I think I’ve successfully got the new folk hooked anyway – the rigid-fork rider left us blathering about how he was going to overhaul his bike, install a suspension fork and get a riser bar! The way I see it, the more folk that get into our sport, the more facilities we’ll get around the country. So, despite the fact that the trails are getting busier and busier at the moment it’s got to be a good thing getting more people out there in the long run.

So do your duty, drag that mate off the couch and stick him on your spare bike. It’ll be worth all of his pissing and moaning on the ups as soon as he hits the bottom of the first descent grinning from ear to ear. And if not? Well, there’s this other section of the run he might enjoy. “See that sign with the two black diamonds on it Frank? That means it’s easy – built for kids. Let the brakes off and go.” Besides the grin, screams are the next best thing…

[tags]Mountain Biking, bikes, Glentress, 7 Stanes[/tags]


Colin started mountain biking in the early 2000s and has haphazardly, and with barely increasing skill, dragged his bike around the majority of Scotland's trail centres since then. Colin has oodles of hard earned experience in how NOT to do things - listen, be warned and don't repeat his mistakes...   More about Colin... Google+ Colin

10 Responses

  1. Sarah says:

    Lovely to hear someone else has a “Raleigh amazon”! Mine has been my staple ride since first really riding in anger. A few part changes and upgrades have kept the old thing in great (albeit heavy) operation. I am still taking it through woodlands where she thrives on rolling over small branches, making them “crack” and rustle.

    I am looking at getting myself a front suspension hard tail bike now as i am getting far too into my riding to be satisfied with what I can achieve on my old Amazon.

    Thanks for the great read – now I want to get up to spooky wood!

  2. Colin says:

    Thanks for getting in touch Sarah.

    You’ll be pleased to know that Amazon’s still going strong! It’s currently chained to the bottom of my stairwell. it actually had a full chainset replacement about 6 months ago and is running like a dream again.

    Funnily enough, I spotted another Raleigh Amazon in town the other day. Hadn’t realised there were still others in existence. It looked a bit more delapidated than mine, but no doubt it was just as sturdy. Long live the Amazons!


  3. Tim Cole says:

    I too have an Amazon which I bought from my local recycling centre for £9! Still on its original tyres which were perished and seized shifters. 2 new tyres and some WD40 did the trick…… This is such a robust training bike with a big frame that I’ll keep it despite having a 2013 secteur elite on order. A recent addition was a gel saddle, found in the shed. Don’t knock the old but heavy kit……un breakable … Tim, Devon

  4. Colin Gray says:

    Haha, looks like I might have to do a little article on my old Amazon! Hadn’t realised there were a few still pedalling about.

    You’re right though Tim, there’s a lot to be said for the less shiny, less space age, but far more robust kit we used years ago. I’m sure my Raleigh Amazon will still be travelling the streets long after my carbon fibre super-bike has shattered to pieces after a slightly to bumpy landing!

    • Tim Cole says:

      I was lucky with this one as hardly used and kept indoors. There’s a bit of surface rust on a couple of things but hey, I’ve got a bit myself! I recommend this bike to anyone for fun, training or gentle trail riding and I’m amazed at how docile it is when you anchor up quick in the wet to avoid that car turning across the cycle lane despite being an orange barn door on a bike. You can maintain it in your sleep too! Major advantage is that it’s so un bling that no one will nick it. Mine’s got mudguards and a rack thats handy for getting the ale home. Still can’t believe it was 9 quid so 40 for tyres (crossroad flack jacket ) and 19 for bar ends means BB, wheel bearings and eventually a cassette won’t send me looking for the bike catalog for a long while.
      Look forward to more amazon adventures and tales from the tarmac to trail.

  5. Tim Cole says:

    Also BEWARE of muddyfox sizing and shoe design ……..and sports direct service or currently lack of it! Aaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhhhh
    Is a pair of different model shoes not a valid reason for return? Please let the person who receives the exchange note be able to read and understand my humorous narrative.
    Luckily my spare sense of humour is intact……. I live to laugh another day!

  6. Davey says:

    I got a completely original Raleigh Amazon from oou local refuse center ten years ago and gave it a full service and a new set of punture proof road tyres and ive been riding it ever since. I’m putting some pennies away to hopefully have it refurbished in the future back to it’s original condition..

  7. Colin says:

    Hey Davey, glad to hear there are still a few Amazons around!

    I gave mine to a friend only a year or so back and he’s been using it as a commuter ever since. It’s still running – perhaps not quite as smooth as ever, but not far off 🙂

  8. Clive says:

    Yay I got a Raleigh Amazon 21-speed demon machine. Just started riding in Bristol, UK and find this a one hell of a good first time MTB to have. Long live the Amazon.

  9. James says:

    Another Amazon owner here. Already given the old girl some TLC by fitting new tyres, tubes and Shimano shifters (the spring controlling the pawl in the original 100 GS ones was knackered).

    Found the tubes were losing pressure, so fitted some longer valve cores with springs and that seems to be working.

    …anyway next job is the bearings/bottom bracket. Preferably I’d like to fit a sealed cartridge unit but am a bit unsure what the measurements/spindle type is.

    Looks like 122.5mm across, with a circular type spindle and I only measured 38mm diameter. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

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