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I remember first getting into mountain biking. I’d bought my first bike in the late ’80s – an Emmelle Cortina in a lovely smokey red finish and, living in pancake-flat Cheshire, I’d pottered about a bit in the Lakes and the Peaks. But I didn’t properly get the bug until the early ’90s, when I lived in Bristol. One bike theft and a subsequent folded hybrid frame (they don’t like trees: who knew?) saw me emerge, blinking, into the light as a fully fledged mountain bike obsessive, as I attempted to build my own bike armed with nothing but a meagre part-time income, a vaguely knowledgeable friend and a copy of MBUK. Back then, the trails I learned to ride on were sparsely populated, even by walkers; the very few riders were all known to one another. There were no trail centres, there was no trail conflict; we were met with mild curiosity, and an amazement that you could ride bikes in the woods at all.

But was it really better? Well, that’s a question. It seems that plenty of people think so – a recent nostalgia-filled Facebook group about the ’80s and ’90s UK ‘golden era’ has over 8,000 members, so there must be something to it. I turned to some people who might have more of an inkling than me – people who perhaps moved a little closer to the epicentre of mountain biking at the time, and I badgered them: ‘Was mountain biking really better back in the day?’

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About Singletrack

Hans Rey – No Way? Yes Way! 30 years as a sponsored bike rider. Hans must be doing something right. We chat over burgers and beer. Bike Test: Hardcore Hardtails – We test three examples of that very British of bike categories: the long forked hardtail, with bikes from Ritchey, Onza and Chromag. Classic Calderdale – Sim ponders our need to name trails and places on a guided tour of Singletrack’s own home trails. Trail helmets – 12 (count them!) trail helmets ridden and rated. Early Rider – a profile of a company that’s making kids’ bikes cool again Nepal – Spectacular views and bikepacking courtesy of Miranda Murphy, Todd Weselake and Steve Shannon. Joe Barnes – A profile of enduro racer, former downhill racer and Dude of Hazzard Joe Barnes. Shimano: behind the blue veil – Chipps goes to Japan (and Singapore) to see what makes this very private company tick. Retro Bikes – Were the good old days better, or just different? Warning: may contain pictures of alarming outfits.

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