Guest blog: Disabled mountain bikers conquer World Cup DH route
Phil Hall is club secretary of www.roughriderz.co.uk Phil is paralysed from the waist down after being injured in a motorbiking accident nine years ago. Despite this, he has never lost his desire to try adrenaline-charged sports, especially mountian biking. Phil, of Preston, founded Rough Riderz club for four-wheeled mountain bikers. There are now 250 members, and the club hosts taster days for disabled – and able-bodied – people to try the special four-wheeled Gravity bike. The bikes are the same as two-wheelers but with four wheels and no pedals. All you need is a lift to the top of the trail and then the guts to go fast downhill.
Here Phil guest blogs about his latest big mountian bikin thrill, riding the country’s most intimidating douwnhil trail at nevis Range, near Fort William.
He writes: As a disabled guy in a wheelchair I think people expect me to be a cautious person; happy to enjoy a gentle lifestyle, allowing my disability to restrict my activities and experiences. However, as a true adrenaline junkie, I refuse to live like that and regularly go mountain biking with my custom-built four-wheeled gravity bike.
This is now my main hobby and I often visit trail centres around the UK, testing my abilities and riding “on the limit” as much as possible. And then came the ultimate mountain biking challenge: The Downhill World Cup venue at Fort William. But could I negotiate this route?
Although up for an extreme mountain biking experience, on my first trip to the World Cup route I realised there were going to be a few practical issues. There wasn’t anything that couldn’t be overcome, however, and with some minor changes to the existing trail (thanks to the trail builders at Nevis Range!), I could see that it was going to be a great new place to ride.
So, on May 31, I made the long drive to Fort William again, with my riding partner Dave Bower, to see if we could ride down the UK’s highest peak without any assistance and reach the bottom safely. After checking the track layout and conditions twice (at a sensible speed), we returned to our hotel, both nervous and excited about our following day on the mountain.
The next day we arrived at Nevis Range 30 minutes before the gondola opened to the public. We got kitted up, checked our bikes, loaded them both on to the freight deck of the gondola and then followed them up to the top of the trail. After unloading and strapping ourselves into our seats, we took a deep breath and set off down this gruelling trail.
Our first couple of runs were slow and steady, finding the best lines across the various rock gardens, drop-offs and super steep sections of this demanding course. But our confidence and knowldeg of the route gradually built up.
Then we decided to go for it! The weather was great, the trail was dry and the conditions were perfect for us to really test our bikes and abilities to the limit.
By our fifth run of the day we were really ripping it down the hill, taking fast lines through the huge boulders, launching down the rocky, off-camber drops and getting air off as many of the jumps as possible on our way to the finish line.
Our fastest time for the whole route was a respectable 10mins 38secs. This is not too shabby considering we were riding the country’s most intimidating downhill track, which is designed for two wheels and without the extra help of any pedals.
We travelled back home late that evening, feeling elated about our latest achievements and proud to be the first wheelchair users to take on, and beat, the mighty mountain that many regular bikers think twice about even attempting!
It is this sort of experience that makes me feel alive and keeps me addicted to this amazing (if slightly dangerous) sport… so look out for the Rough Riderz crew returning to Ben Nevis very soon!
You can watch footage of Phil’s World Cup DH adventure on YouTube