Nah, like this…

To all those people who have ever had to wait for me at the top of every hill, or at every fork in the trail – I’m sorry. After a few months where most of my rides have been with someone new to mountain biking, I now know the frustration that I put you through.

As last Christmas approached, my wife decided that she wanted a bike. “Fine”, I thought, “I’ll have a look around for a cheapie for the occasional weekend bike path pootle.” But it wasn’t to be that simple – “mountain bike” was mentioned, along with phrases like “we can go riding off-road together”.

Frankly, I was scared. You see, young Mrs Carney has never been famous for her co-ordination or sporting prowess. I had visions ranging from a bruised and grazed wife, at best, to rides ending with the Westpac Rescue Helicopter hovering overhead. Well, I bit the bullet and against my better judgment, a mountain bike it was.

The dreaded first ride came along – a few laps of the trails crisscrossing a local patch of vacant land. Admittedly, the tracks were not particularly technical and the only hills were the couple of small jumps built by the local kids, but they did present a challenge worthy of a complete novice. And I must say, I was pleasantly surprised. With no more than a few instructions and warnings yelled over my shoulder, Kylie managed to come through unscathed. And more importantly, she enjoyed herself.

The second ride saw the first crash. Carved by local trail bike riders – with the resulting ruts and roots – this trail was quite a bit more technical than the first ride. With the success of the last ride though, I felt confident scooting off ahead after offering no more than the instruction of “don’t look at the ruts or you’ll end up in them”. Naturally, that’s exactly what happened. And it wasn’t just a rut, but a ditch about a foot deep.

Seeing my wife sprawled on the ground, blood seeping from her shin and arms made me think that perhaps I was approaching this all wrong. So I dedicated the rest of the ride to giving instruction and showing her how things are done. First up was a short downhill with a few little rocks and roots. “OK, stand out of the saddle, shift your weight slightly back, knees and elbows bent and loose and just let the bike roll.” It was a very slow descent, resulting in further instructions to feather the brakes rather than grabbing a handful and our first mantra of the day – “a rolling bike wants to stay upright”.

Tackling some of the climbs at Daisy Hill saw me (yes, me) giving some hill climbing technique pointers. Although this one’s not really something you can demonstrate, and things like where to center your weight are more a matter of feel, the general tip of selecting in a lower gear and staying in the saddle rather than stomping a big gear was well received.

Anticipation was the main order of the day for the next ride. Keeping an eye on the track ahead to decide your line and avoid any problems before you get to them. The tracks we rode on this day undulate in and out of some gullies, so it was also important to anticipate what kind of gear you’re going to need to be in to make it out the other side. With the occasional little log step-down, I also had to stress the importance of shifting your weight back off the saddle to avoid planting the front wheel and going over the bars.

Thinking about it, I realised that all this instruction has had a positive effect on my own riding as well. It has taken me back to the basics, to think about how I’m riding and to correct any little bad habits that may have developed over the years. While riding on my own one day, I found myself thinking about how to explain techniques for riding the obstacles that I was coming across. A step-up approached and the instructions came driftng into my head – “lift the front wheel over the step, get out of the saddle and unweight the rear wheel�”

So, despite the frustrations of slower and shorter than usual rides, and of waiting at the top and bottom of most hills, riding with a newcomer to mountain biking definitely has its benefits. You get a chance to work on your own skills while you introduce someone else to your sport. You get a new person to ride with, and the rides will only get longer and faster as they progress. And most importantly of all – if the newbie is your wife, you no longer have to explain why you would rather go riding. They’ll soon feel the same way.

Heath Carney

More Opinions...

How To Tidy Cabling

A little while back, my good lady wife’s bike was in need of a spring clean so I took the opportunity to finally cover something I’ve been meaning to do for ages – cables. But this is not so much a ‘how to setup and tune your brakes and gears’ and more like ‘how to keep…

Go on then, tell me more...!


Didn’t I already write a bit on what I thought of the crotchety old men of the UCI and bicycle design?

Go on then, tell me more...!

SeaSucker Review

Our car was big enough for all of the baby stuff plus her bike, surely?

Go on then, tell me more...!

earHero Review

Headphone use on bikes is always a hotly debated internet forum topic…

Go on then, tell me more...!

Fit for use

Last week it happened, I met the ground with a thud.

Go on then, tell me more...!

The Schlumpf

It’s every rider’s little dirty secret. I’m sure it’s the same theory for all activities, but for cycling deep in the back of every cyclist’s mind they secretly like to think themselves as being ‘hardmen’. Some just think it, others are quite overt about it but either way it lingers there, simmering under the surface.…

Go on then, tell me more...!

The Hype Cycle

I’m allergic to production bikes. Ok, that’s not strictly true, but I will generally avoid most production machines – usually based an irrational dislike of the brand, a less irrational dislike of the available colourschemes, ill-suited geometry or a combination of the above. Recently, on the hunt for a new project, I had a (rather…

Go on then, tell me more...!

Bikes are boring

I bet that title caught your attention!? Let me expand on that. Bicycle ‘design’ is boring and I mean both in terms of visual appeal and in terms of design and designing. It’s funny when you think about it but somehow, in the world of bicycles, we seem to have ended up with a never…

Go on then, tell me more...!

Be seen – Orfos bike light review

Orfos lights started as one of those Kickstarter campaigns that did rather well. What was the final result…?

Go on then, tell me more...!

What Type of Cyclist Are You?

At the London round of the Rollapaluza National Series during the week a conversation got my cogs whirring… Nick Hussey, Damien Breen (of that most excellent In The Saddle blog) and myself were talking – it was like a mini bloggers convention (although not ‘mini’ in that any of us are particularly short I might…

Go on then, tell me more...!