Based in North Queensferry, after living in Edinburgh for six years, Douglas Shearer is a mountain bike XC racer who currently rides for Innerliethen MTB Racing, but has also been a member of Stirling Bike Club since 2001.
Before the proper questions — Douglas or Dougal?
By birth I’m Douglas, but I use and respond to many other names. Dougal seems popular amonst the cycling community.
How long have you been cycling?
Pretty much all my life. My first proper bike was a 20″ Raleigh Activator I received on my eighth birthday, which when fitted with an low-geared block allowed me to ride in Cambusbarron woods and similar ride locations without getting off to walk the hills.
I first rode with Stirling Bike club in 2001. I remember my first (Wednesday night) club ride vividly; I could barely sleep afterwards as I was on such a high after meeting such great people and seeing trails I rode regularly from a different perspective.
You race mountain bike cross country (XC) – tell me a bit about that…
Brilliant. When I first came into it as a Youth, I found everyone to be really friendly and helpful. That’s just continued over the last decade I’ve been racing. It’s nice to be able to go up to Pros and find out how their day has been, or what they think of the course, something I haven’t found in many other branches of our sport. The kid’s races are massively inspiring too, though I will admit to getting slightly worried when they get older and start to nudge my laps times. Most of all, it’s just meeting normal people who have day-jobs and family, who come along to races for the atmosphere and a chat – you know a scene has to be good when people turn up to a race and just want to finish rather than standing on the podium.
You were junior champion, right?
2002. I won by catching Rab Wardell in a final kilometer blowout. The rumour was he had been out on the town on the Friday before, and still had a bit of a hangover. I never got to repeat the feat as I had a knee injury the year after. It’s great to see that little gold medal on the shelf, and I certainly hope to add to it in the future.
You have sponsorship- how did that come about?
I currently ride for Innerleithen MTB Racing, and am sponsored by I-Cycles. In 2008 I didn’t race very much due to (another) long-term knee injury. I was limited to riding about an hour a day for fear of aggravating it. Innerleithen MTB Racing ran a summer MTB timetrial series, where a large single lap of technical trails was used, with times around 45minutes. I won two of these, and the series overall. Steve and Helen who run the team asked if I had any sponsorship for the following year, and that was me on board. Having someone believe in you is a great psychologically, and not wanting to let people down is a brilliant motivator for actually going out and training. I appreciate those guys a lot for all that they do for me.
So what’s your favourite course?
A particular course is hard to nail down, there are so many good ones, especially in Scotland. Badaguish near Aviemore, and Aberfoyle are two of my top courses. I’m happiest when the weather is nasty, and there’s rocks, roots and mud to contend with, that can make any course great.
Do you race on a hardtail or full-sus?
Full-sus. Last year I was sponsored by MSC, and I’m riding the same bike this year. When you can build a full-sus bike down to sub-21lbs without using any silly parts, the hardtail vs. full-sus argument pretty much goes out the window. It’s no faster downhill where most people expect, but the tiny bit of give in the back-end means I can push harder on rough climbs, and feel fresher after several hours in the saddle. It’s the same bike I rode in the SBC hillclimb last year, which should erase doubts about full-sus being slower.
Is XC racing something a novice can have a go at?
Definitely. At Scottish Cross Country http://sxc.org.uk races there are categories for all classes of racer. A helmet and a bike with chunky tyres are all you need to take part. You don’t need expensive kit to start out, and you can practically choose how many laps you want to do. I’d definitely recommend everyone tries it at least once.
Do you do other riding – road, commuting etc?
I ride a lot of road for training, and might occasionally be seen at road races, though that’s pretty rare. When I lived in Edinburgh I would ride the bike everywhere, but that option’s not really available now as I work from home. At least once a year I do a couple of days of touring, it’s a great way to see the country, and makes for excellent strength training.
How was Spain?
Wet, but 10C warmer than it was at home. Despite this I had my coldest ever experience on a bike due to horizontal snow on a 20km descent done at 40mph. I got so cold I had to stop at one point and do star jumps so I could actually feel my arms again. I was lucky to go with several Scottish Elite XC racers (Andy Barlow of Dirt School, Dave Henderson, Paul Smith), and certainly didn’t suffer as much as I expected to.
Last question: how far do you think Kenta Gallagher can go? (Scottish CX series champion)
For someone who’s only just turned 17 he’s already achieved a lot. He can definitely go on to good performances at Commonwealth, World and Olympic level. I prefer not to put too much pressure on people, as in Kenta’s case he still has to get stronger while avoiding the pitfalls of late-teens.
Thanks Dougal, good luck for the season