Downhill mountain biking is a fast growing sport in the UK, but an even newer format is scratching at the surface.Advertisement
Four wheel downhill mountain biking is a sport designed for both able bodied and disabled people and Preston has the UK’s only club.
The sport has evolved from regular two-wheel mountain biking by fitting two extra wheels and leaving the rest to gravity.
Rough Riderz was started in 2006 by Phil Hall after he heard about the sport taking place in America.
Phil, who suffered a motorbike accident in 2003 leaving him in a wheelchair, struggled to find information in the UK. He then came across a poster showing someone riding in a four wheel mountain bike.
With no details, he contacted the photographer of the poster and found out about a disabled sports centre in Colarado that used the bikes.
He spent £2,000 on flights to try out the sport and decided to bring it back to the UK.
“I went to Colorado in 2006, I tried it at a multi-activity centre there and then on the flight back I couldn’t believe no one in the UK was doing it,” he said. “I thought someone’s got to bring the news back to these shores so I decided it would be a good idea to start the club.”
The club is only in the beginning stages with 165 members but only three of those have bikes, because of the cost of each one. A four wheeled bike is estimated to cost about £7,000 and must also be shipped over from Canada at a cost of nearly £700, as there are no UK producers.
With these high costs Phil admits the club needs as much exposure as it can in order to progress but admits this has been hard to achieve.
“We’re constantly trying to get more publicity because the more we get the more people will find out about us and then hopefully the knock on effect is that more people will have a go.”
The main difficulty has been achieving national press coverage. The downhill club has had some media success with a small part on the television show Countryfile, which lead to a huge increase in membership numbers.
Having started the club Phil established a connection with British Cycling to confirm them as a fully recognised club. There has been some controversy in this with some members of British Cycling expressing concern and the club being given the cycling tag. The main reason for their concern appears to be the lack of chain and pedals but the founder says this allows everyone to compete on an equal term.
“It’s basically a case of who dares ride faster, who can handle the stunts faster, who can do all that and get to the bottom first and still be in one piece.”
The small size of the club means the riders do not compete in competitions but they still train and offer taster days to those interested in the sport.
Those who pay for the day, which costs £125, are given a beginner’s course and given a minimum of six runs over the day, with equipment and training provided.
Taster days are only available for one person at a time due to the small size of the club and it having only one club bike.
Mr Hall says the club has high ambitions as they look to get more people involved and with more coverage, he thinks the next step is to get young people involved.
With investment and sponsorship, he wants the club to expand to a point where it can form a team and compete in competitions, potentially across the Atlantic.