KEEN Kelso mountain biker Kevin Welsh is turning his hobby into a business.
The 44-year-old fitness instructor has started his own mountain bike guiding company, Rubber Side Down.
The dad-of-one hopes to take people out in the Cheviots and new routes around Kelso as well as along the famous established trails in Glentress, Innerleithen and Newcastleton.
He said: “I want to offer something different, I cater for beginners up to intermediates and I’m offering transport as well as bike doctor sessions. I do everything!”
He will also lend people bikes so they can try out the sport. He’s trialled routes with friends and is keen to share his native Kelso area with others.
“I thought there was a niche in the market in this area. We have the Cheviots and lots of local trails round Kelso along the railways and St Cuthbert’s Way,” he explained.
“I like the variety of the terrain here. We have manmade trials at Glentress and Innerleithen, but it’s natural stuff here – sheep tracks and old railways.”
Kevin, who leads Abbey Fitness gym’s spinning classes, started riding a bike when he was about seven.
He grew up on a farm, Rutherford Burnside, near Kelso and recalls his neighbour teaching him: “I remember when the stabilisers were taken off, it was a strange feeling, but good.”
He’s mountain biked for years, ridden time trials at club level (and taken in a couple of opens too) and completed several Audaxes.
A favourite was the 66-mile Musselburgh one which goes down the coast to Dunbar and returns inland: “It was everything, the terrain it covers and the scenery,” he said.
But mountain biking is his first love.
“It’s the adrenalin rush, I find it more exhilarating: I like time trialling and beating your own times, but every time you go out mountain biking it’s exciting – it’s the challenge, the adrenalin and the fear factor.”
That focus and enjoyment remains despite his being seriously injured in an accident at Innerleithen six years ago.
“I went to do a jump and didn’t quite make it. I landed on my knee and put my hip through my pelvis.”
He now has three screws holding together his hip socket. He was on crutches for months, learned to swim better to hasten rehabilitation ... so decided to do a triathlon for charity as well on the way. And he will be in a bit of trouble if he breaks it again.
He’s been maintaining bikes for 15 years, starting with mending his own and then friends’, and initially he learned basic things, like fixing a puncture, from his dad when he was a child.
“I love it, you get a feeling of satisfaction. I build my own bikes now. It’s great when people say ‘oh you fixed my bike’ and I see how happy they are: what is simple to me can be quite a thing for somebody else.”
And through his bike doctor sessions he hopes to help those daunted by a flat tyre gain confidence.
He’s offering to teach people basic bike maintenance through to complicated gear systems or whatever they want to learn in their own homes, but also to do sessions with organisations such as the Scouts and cycling clubs.
The cycling enthusiast gained his Mountain Bike Instructors’ Award Scheme mountain bike leader qualification at the end of June and he said: “Rubber Side Down a long-term thing for me. Cycling is something I have loved doing and I look forward to taking other people round the beautiful Borders on their bikes.”
And that great name? “It’s a thing mountain bikers say, we always wish each other luck and ‘try and keep the bikes rubber side down’.”
For more information visit www.rubbersidedownmtb.co.uk