We chat to the champion of Shropshire Mountain Biking Sandy Plenty to find out.
When you think of mountain biking in the UK, Shropshire probably isn’t the first place that comes to mind. But consider all those classic Shropshire venues. Eastridge, Bringewood, Hopton. All with a pedigree and most of the world cup winners of recent years have raced and won here. A list of names – Donoghue, Simmonds, Cunynghame, Beaumont, even the Athertons at a stretch (lived just outside Shropshire) were all raised in and around Shropshire.
Sandy Plenty is a Shropshire local who grew up in a bike shop with Donny (Neil Donoghue) and Cunny (Rich Cunynghame) as riding mates. He now runs The Trailhead Bicycle Company in Shrewsbury and organises regular rides to local riding spots and supports a number of riders, his passion for bikes is infectious so we sat him down to find out a bit more.
WO: First things first – who is Sandy Plenty?
SP: A skinny 36 year old who resides in Shrewsbury, Shropshire.
How did you start out riding?
My cousin bought a Orange Aluminium O back in 1992, as soon as I laid eyes on it I knew it was the sport for me. I then bought a Orange Clockwork and started racing XC that year. I remember entering all three disciplines at the Eastridge national champs on that Clockwork, Cross Country, Downhill and Observed Trials.
These days – running a shop, riding your bike, writing for magazines, is it fair to say bikes are your life? What gives you the most satisfaction?
Without a doubt getting people buzzed up to ride, and helping them get the right kit. I love seeing new people get into the sport, it reminds me of that feeling when I discovered mountain biking. I also get a great kick out of building a new trail then inviting all the mons up to try it out, that’s a good feeling for sure. But the most satisfaction comes from seeing my son Ruben ride, his enthusiasm is addictive.
A few years ago it seemed online shopping had killed the bike shop. But now the Trailhead seems to be doing very well and already within a year you got named one of the top 20 independent bike shops, what made you want to go out and open a shop? What makes the Trailhead different?
The main thing is customer service, people buy from people. You will always get people who are driven by price, as a shop if you can get the balance right then you’re winning. At the Trailhead we all ride bikes, we all give a f$%k and I like to think this is a major asset of ours. We also owe a lot to Shropshire, the scene here is mega.
So Shropshire. For someone who has never been – how would you describe the riding scene?
Its flat and awful to ride, I wouldn’t bother coming. Ha! No it really is an awesome area to ride. The trails are incredible, as is the attitude of the riders that live in Shropshire. We have a great scene, propped up by some quality bike shops. We have steep loamy trails at one end of the scale, then rocky gnarly descents at the other. I recommend coming on one of our shop rides, we keep the pace steady and inclusive.
Favourite trail in the shire? Why?
I can’t really say my favorite as its slightly illegal. Favorite kosher trail would have to be the 98′ National track at Eastridge. I’ve ridden it on so many different bikes and it never fails to leave a smile on my face.
Did you ever imagine that you’d be earning a living from bikes, even growing up with Donny and Cunny?
I was pretty sure I would stay in the bike industry after my dad’s shop; Longmynd Cycles. I never thought the Trailhead would happen though. I’m so stoked for Cunny and Don to have achieved such a huge amount in their given fields. Seeing Don get picked up by Steve then get top tens at world cups is so cool and made me feel proud to be his mate. But then to switch to enduro and do well proves the boy is such a good bike handler. As for Cunny, if it involves writing and red wine he will always produce good work. Again so happy for him as he rises to the top of his journo career.
It’s fairly unusual for such a small shop to have a race team, why is that important to you?
Racing is very important to me, having a strong team capable of top results is one thing, but also we have riders who are able to give good advice at races and in doing so, they become an extension of the trailhead. We have so many great sponsors and run a fun program aimed at helping the riders as best we can. I also try and give back to our sponsors at every opportunity.
What’s been the highlight of your bike related career so far?
Thats a good question. From a racing perspective it would be getting on the podium at the BDS Llangollen the first year they ran it, it was a steep track that suited me. But with out a doubt opening my own shop tops it all. I have great customers and some brilliant staff behind me.
And what’s in the future for Sandy Plenty?
Ha! Now that would be telling. I really enjoy writing for the magazines, so some more of that for sure. I have a hankering for California too. But the future is all about, my son Ruben, my good lady, good friends and the trailhead.
Any shout outs/thanks?
For sure, a lot of people have helped me a long the way, in no particular order: Tony Plenty (dad), Pete Lawton, Stu Gwynne, Luke Hammill, the Noy brothers, Neil Donoghue, Dave Taylor, David Richards, Ian Collins, Matt Yoe, Chris Porter, Tim Williams, Ash Jones (mojo), Paul Shep, Dave Mellor, Rich Guppy, Al Pugh, Dan Jones, Tim Morris, Dave Saunders, Rich Cunynghame, All the trailhead team riders, Dickon Heporth, Dan White, Bart Van Den Biggelaar, Vini, Chris Soden, Tom Shilvock, Dirt, MBUK, last but not least the Wideopen crew (kissing ass).