Donna’s spent a lifetime on two wheels

I’ve spent a lifetime on two wheels

38 years to be exact! I have always ridden, even as a child. When I was 12 years old, I started road and track racing. I retired from road and track racing at the tender age of 23, and 2 years later my best friend convinced me to enter a mountain bike club race. It was the hardest race I have ever done in my life. I walked most of it because of very steep climbs and very scary descents, but the challenge was something I will never forget. For some reason, that one experience completely hooked me onto mountain bike riding. I wanted to be able to master it, even though I was TERRIBLE!

The basics you need for your first ride

Before you start riding, a helmet is a must. If you need more confidence, it is a great idea to start with knee and elbow pads as well. It is always a good idea to have some lessons too! There are plenty of private promoters who teach road and MTB skills, but keep an eye out for local councils who offer free coaching clinics. Looking for something more community-based? There are ladies-only days where you’re usually surrounded by women who all have a similar goal and level of cycling ability.

I find motivation from the people I meet and the friends I make! It’s incredible how friendly the mountain biking community is. Sometimes we can be so caught up in life that socialising and friendships aren’t a priority, but I have found that some of my closest friends have come from the mountain biking community. There is a lovely sense of family and everyone looking out for each other. I love finding group rides and new challenges that I can conquer. I enjoy challenging myself and I am surprised at my strength and determination that has been unleashed. The endorphins and adrenaline high you get after a good ride really helps with mental health, fitness and self-worth. I love the social aspect of getting a coffee with the group and meeting new people in my area.

I rode by myself a lot in the past, but I try not to ride by myself too often now.

Not because I’m scared, but I get bored and would rather organise a group or friend to ride with. I make sure that I always let my husband know where I am going, but also have the ‘find my iPhone App’ which means he will be able to find me in the event of an emergency. I have an app on my phone that tracks my ride and it is hooked up with my Angi HelmetCrash.

You can find more information on them here: have no affiliation with them. I just find it a handy gadget that gives me peace of mind rather than worrying about an accident.

My grandfather had my male cousins racing on the road and track and when I was 12 years old, I wanted to join in! I think he was pretty chuffed as he spent months building my first race bike (pictured below). I think I won my first few races beating some of the boys! There were some girls racing back in the early 80’s but not a lot.

Definitely head to your local bike shop if that is an option.

Introduce yourself, have a look at some bikes and do a test ride or two. If your budget is low, look online for a second-hand bike or if you are recovering from an injury or wanting to build your fitness up gradually, you can look into e-bikes. The main thing is getting out there and giving it a go! You don’t need to hit your local mountain bike track and break records, just enjoy the outdoors, meet new people and as your fitness increases, you can progress from there. Signing up for a ladies ride is a great way to motivate yourself and find lifelong friends in the process.

Donna Dall is a Mountain Bike Coach at PCS Coaching and multiple State Champion in both Cross Country Olympic and Cross Country Marathon Races.

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