Week Eight

It hardly felt like I’d been home five minutes before I was heading back up the M6 to Scotland early on Monday morning. I spent the day riding with the Rough Riderz – a club for disabled mountain bikers. You’ll be able to read my write-up in the September issue of Singletrack Mountain Bike Magazine but in the meantime I thought I’d give you a bit of “behind the scenes” background to the feature.

About six weeks ago a woman called Louise got in touch with the editor of Singletrack magazine about her trials and tribulations of being the mother of a disabled son whom she wanted to be able to experience the joys of mountain biking. She had come across the Rough Riderz and offered to put the magazine in touch with them for a potential feature idea. The editor forwarded the info on to me asking if I was interested in doing a feature on it. I said yes.

I am running a policy of saying yes to anything and everything at the mo. But in this instance I was genuinely intrigued. I make no apologies for being fascinated as to how physically disabled people can ride off-road without an engine. (I also thought it would be a good way of preventing able-bodied off-road recumbents getting in the magazine – they’re always badgering Singletrack to feature them and they’re far too polarising and just plain attention-seeking to put in!)

I was keen to avoid the twin pratfalls that this type of feature typically results in: being overly worthy or overly wacky. I phoned Louise and discussed things. I explained that my diary was a bit hectic at that time but that sometime in late July would be good for me. As chance would have it the Rough Riderz had a mini-gathering planned up at Ae Forest in the last week of July. A date was made.

A Rough Riderz's four wheeled mountain bike.

I left it on the back burner for the next few weeks as I got on with my other work. The week before our Ae Forest meeting I got back in touch with Louise to confirm a few things and work out where and when to meet up etc. Once that was sorted I did a bit of reading around about disabled off-roaders so as not to be completely clueless when I turned up on the day. I didn’t want to learn too much though. I find it’s always better to be a blankish slate and (act like) a wide-eyed innocent. That way, people don’t assume a level of knowledge or experience that you might not quite have and they give you a much fuller testimony.

The most useful bit of info I gleaned during my research was that most disabled mountain bikers used to be able-bodied mountain bikers who, after losing the use of their legs, couldn’t bear the thought of not riding bikes on dirt ever again. Basically they were addicted to mountain biking. Instant common ground there then.

On the day itself I arrived on time. Despite being a cycling journo I am usually punctual. Arriving late to people who are donating their time and efforts to help you in your job is just bloody rude in my book. And more importantly it doesn’t get people on “your side” and as willing as they could be to help you out. So I am punctual for selfish reasons too!

I met Louise and her son first and had a brief chat. Mainly about what I needed to get done that day and what would happen afterwards when it came to putting the magazine feature together. I wanted to get her to write something for the feature so that it had some personal heartfelt content to it amidst my “outsider’s take” on things. Thankfully she was more than keen to do so. I got the impression she had a strong desire to “tell the world” her story. I gave her a few pointers on word count and topics to cover, but I wasn’t too prescriptive.

Then I met with the Rough Riderz themselves. As expected they were a “no bullshit” type of operation. Brass tacks. Which suited me. After a brief introduction and shameless pore over their fascinating machines we were out on the trails riding our bikes.

I won’t go on any more than that because that’s what’s in the magazine feature. Once the riding and photography and videoing was done we headed to the visitor centre for post-ride coffee and debrief. I checked over the pics and video to double check I had enough visual material for the feature. I did. Which is always a relief. I took down everyone’s contact info (email and mobile phone numbers) in case I had any questions when it came to writing up the piece.

I spent an evening piecing together rough thoughts about the format and themes of the feature. I edited the photos and video footage and uploaded them to where Singletrack magazine’s designer could get at them. Then a couple of days later I assisted Louise with her words (she didn’t need much help truth be told) and edited those. Then on Sunday evening I typed up the finished feature and sent it in to the editor. Done. I like it when I can turn around a feature within a week of doing the actual riding.

The next steps will be responding to any queries that the editor or designer may come back with. And then when the magazine comes out I’ll get hold of some extra copies and send them to Louise and the Rough Riderz so they can see how it all turned out.

Other things of note last week: I edited together my video footage from the Fort William Endurance Downhill, I found a local Post Office that has normal opening hours, I completed a route guide feature about Ludlow, I received a copy of Cycle magazine with my “Summer Singletrack” feature mentioned on the cover, I rode my bike twice for non-work related reasons!


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