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Octogenarian, Douglas Fletcher, inspirational as he successfully completes MTB Leadership Award

At the grand age of 80, Douglas Fletcher realises an ambition to be able to inspire, lead and introduce others to the joys of mountain biking as he successfully completes the Fundamentals of Mountain Bike Leadership Award (FunMBL). We caught up with him to find out more.

Douglas 2

Tell us a wee bit about yourself Douglas?

I served as a military fitness instructor (PTI) for many years. Specialising in parachuting and outdoor activities gave me a love of wild places tinged with a touch of adrenaline! During the latter parts of my career I suffered an injury that threatened my continued service as a PTI. Having read of this new discipline of cycling I bought my first mountain bike. A Gary Fisher Hoo Koo e Koo. I was serving at a HQ in London at the time so my first ride took place in Battersea park where I was promptly arrested. Never-the less, it resolved the injury problem and convinced me that off road riding had a future. Not just for me but much more extensively.

My next tour of duty took me out to the Sultanate of Oman. Obviously I took the bike with me and had many adventures in a country where off road was the norm. On my return I found a bourgeoning mountain bike scene which led into racing. As I recall my first race was the Shimano Trial. This comprised of a downhill trial section, a sprint against the clock and a much more familiar x-country race. But that is another story!

Since moving to Scotland, having had the good sense to marry a Scottish lass, I have enjoyed teaching outdoor first aid, whilst indulging my passion for people and outdoor places.

I discovered Cowal Mountain Bike Club, who are about to celebrate their 20th year, and began to ride and build more technical trails.

Now in my sixties the difficulty was keeping up with much younger riders The answer, of course, was e-biking. A Trek Powerfly helped for a few years but a couple of big crashes led to me changing bike and discipline. I am now an enthusiastic “ gravel “ rider.

What was your journey to complete the FunMBL?

I initially undertook my Level 2 MTB Leadership award at the age of 75. However age interfered and I was unable to complete the assessment day.

During lockdown I met Bobbie while out on the hills. While we soon discovered that we had a similar ambition to share with others the advantages of e-bike technology, our backgrounds are quite different. Bobbie (age 65) is a retired motor vehicle engineer who was a successful rally driver with a string of successes to his credit. As we ride around together he often points out locations where he has raced (and crashed) various very expensive and high powered cars!!

We were, however, joined in our passion to persuade those folks who were keen to explore our local hills and glens but were dissuaded because they were not cyclists or considered themselves too old, lacking in fitness or the confidence to stray on to the paths less travelled. This of course required a qualification. Seeking advice from Graeme Mclean led to Christine Fox in your team who explained the opportunities of the FUNMBL and pointed me in the direction of Cycle Wild Scotland to undertake my training.

So here I am.

We initially intended to run a guiding business, however circumstances have changed and the idea has been parked indefinitely. The ethos that Bobbie and I discovered remains the same. To introduce folks to the joys of off-road riding no matter their experience, fitness, age or skill level.

As a life long mountaineer and lover of wild places I recognise that as folks discover the ability of e-bikes, there is a danger of overestimating their ability and underestimating the weather, conditions etc. I would much sooner provide some training and ensure the “e-bike smile” remains on their face.

I will continue to do this on an ad-hoc basis Free to all!

Douglas Fletcher

We work in partnership with Scottish Cycling and British Cycling to create and develop new mountain bike leadership awards. Responding to the needs of the mountain bike community and with our network of Tutors, these awards are delivered across Scotland to those aspiring to become mountain bike leaders and role models within their communities.

Over the last couple of years, we have co-developed with British Cycling the new Fundamentals of Mountain Bike Leadership Award (or FunMBL for short). Focusing on accessible leadership skills that simply feel right when applied in the outdoors, we have created an award with leadership at the core.

We have cut back on the technical side of things, focusing on robust preparation, strong familiarity with routes being used, and clear principles to enable you as a leader, to take an individual rider-centered approach. We think it's a cracking award, hugely accessible, and above all, fun.

This Award came on the back of the Night Leader Award. Most needed here in Scotland because of our winter daylight hours (or lack of) this Award superseded the MBLA night leader module and was updated to reflect technology and a growing understanding of the impact of night and darkness on our circadian rhythms, human wellbeing, emotions and the inherent desire of our bodies to try to sleep at night. Importantly it is also insured.

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If you can, please consider donating to the Scottish MTB Heath Fund and help us with our work in this space. Thank you.