HELENSBURGH’S streets were full of cyclists not so long ago, as the tight grip of the Covid-19 lockdown saw a dramatic reduction in the number of cars on local roads.

Those days may have passed, for good or for ill, as the town adjusts to a ‘new normal’ - but if cycling on off-road trails, rather than tarmacked highways is your thing, there’s still plenty of enjoyment to be had in the area on two wheels

Scotland is famous across the world for producing mountain biking talent such as Danny Macaskill and Reese Wilson, and the Fort William World Cup draws thousands of international fans annually for the track and talent on show.

Closer to home, the wooded area outside Helensburgh and Rhu is perfect for the fast-paced, two-wheeled sport, with a loyal group of mountain bikers of all ages who have fallen in love with the pastime making it part of their daily lifestyle.

READ MORE: Helensburgh in Scotland's top 10 as more people turn to cycling during pandemic

Jackie Hood, chair of the Helensburgh Skatepark Project, and mother of two young avid mountain bikers as well as being one herself, told the Advertiser: “There are 100 bikers around here ranging in age from nine upwards, often whole families.

“Mountain biking is a very inclusive sport, accessible to all – you don’t even need that fancy a bike.

"It is amazing that we have such great trails to ride from our back door.

“Some of the kids are doing it to train for when the racing season opens up again, but the majority just do it because they love it and the freedom that goes with being out on the hills.”

READ MORE: Spectacular skills on show at Helensburgh skate park (from June 2019)

Jackie’s two children, Benjamin and Oliver, run Helensburgh Trail Systems – a non-profit, volunteer organization aiming to improve the mountain biking trails around Helensburgh.

“Benjamin isn’t interested in hanging around town as he finds it boring,” Jackie continued.

“If he does go into town it is to street ride on his BMX and ride the skatepark now restrictions have been eased.”

Benjamin added: “It allows me to see my friends in a safe environment, it keeps me healthy and means I am not trapped in the house. It is good for my mental and physical health during lockdown.”

READ MORE: Helensburgh bike shop delighted to see cycling on the up

“It’s exercise I enjoy but it doesn’t seem like exercise,” Oliver, 13, said.

“I like going outside and going up to the top of the hill and sitting looking at the view for ages knowing that I have all the time in the world to enjoy it.”

Jackie added: “Physical activity has been proven to improve your mental health as does getting out into nature.

"We often make a picnic and ride or carry the bikes right to the top of the hill behind the trails.

“The views are spectacular, and we always meet really nice other walkers and riders to chat to. The silence is profound, and it allows you just to sit and be mindful in the moment and listen to the birds.”

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