Dirt School: The Derek Laughland Memorial Award Returns for 2020!

Dirt School: The Derek Laughland Memorial Award Returns for 2020!

We’re proud to announce our continued involvement with the Derek Laughland Memorial Award for a third year, taking another two young passionate riders under our wing and providing them with £500 worth of Dirt School vouchers to be used for technical coaching sessions. New for this year, we’re also offering a prize for a selected cycling club – a full days coaching with Dirt School for 12 young riders – allowing even more youngsters to reap the benefits of this generous prize. 

The Derek Laughland Memorial Award was set up after the tragic passing of a much-loved husband and father, due to a brain haemorrhage at the Scottish Enduro Series in October 2017. His family took comfort in the fact Derek was doing what he loved, and the Derek Laughland Memorial Award was born.

Derek absolutely loved riding and racing his bike and was much loved within the mountain bike community and enduro scene always being seen with a smile on his face. The Derek Laughland Memorial prize does an excellent job of capturing Derek’s legacy.

Derek Laughland in Torridon
Previously, the award has been directed at the young racing community in conjunction with No Fuss Events, very fitting given Derek’s love for competing on the Scottish Enduro scene. However, as things are a little different this year with racing being a bit uncertain over the coming months, the Laughland’s are opening the award up to any young rider, with any goal, to keep the inspiration for riding bikes at an all time high and continue to share Derek’s love for the sport.

If you’re a young rider aged under 18 or representing a group of under 18s through a cycling club and would like to apply for the award this year, we’re now taking applications. Please answer the following questions through our comments section at the bottom of this page to be in for a chance of being selected by the Laughland family…

Young Male and Female Rider (under 18)

  1. Your age, location and length of time riding
  2. What do you love about riding your bike?
  3. How will the Derek Laughland Memorial Award benefit you?

You must have permission from your parent/guardian to enter.

Cycling Clubs

  1. Please give us a little bit of background info on your club
  2. How will the Derek Laughland Memorial Award benefit the young riders in your club?

Applications close at 6pm on Monday 12th October, with winners being announced at 6pm on Wednesday 14th October. Once a winner has been selected applications will be published publicly to share everyone’s inspiration and love for riding bikes.

Good luck!

Derek Laughland Memorial Award at Innerleithen


  • Ellie Ebdon

    Hi I’m Ellie and I’m 17yrs old, I currently live in Abu Dhabi where my dad works but moving back to Scotland next year after I’ve finished school. I’ve been on a bike most of my life and raced a few minis in Scotland in 2017 prior to moving abroad. I race in Fujarah, UAE and currently being coached by James McCallum (what’s your meta) to help get me fit for 2021 race season in U.K. and Europe
    The award would greatly help me to regain my bike skills in the typical british conditions of trees and mud! I currently train on flat road rides and dry sandy mountains.
    Many thanks for considering my application
    Ellie Ebdon

  • Alex Adair

    Your age, location and length of time riding.
    Location: Stirling, Scotland
    I started riding my bike when I was 4

    What do you love about riding your bike?
    I love riding my bike because you can explore so many places, I also get a lot of excitement riding tricky and technical trails. I go to a bike club (Wallace Warriors), I am in their MTB level 4 group and have started going on group rides on trails and getting talked through how to do different sections of the trail and then riding them a few times to practice. This allowed us to take the skills that we have been coached at bike club then take it into real trails. When we go out we always have great fun.

    How will the Derek Laughland Memorial Award benefit you?
    The award will benefit me a lot by helping me gain more confidence, it will also help me progress to higher levels at bike club where we learn new exciting skills. Also it will help me stay safe, by knowing what to do when I come up to an obstacle I am not sure about. I also go out cycling with family and explore together, this prize will make them even more proud of how well I am doing. I have progressed a lot over the past 2 years from bike club, so the next few years I want to progress even more.

  • Mel Fife

    Application for Derek Laughland Memorial Award:

    1. Hi, I’m 17; I’m based in Guisborough, North Yorkshire, North East England and I’ve been riding bikes for around 14 years.

    2. I love riding for so many reasons, firstly, I love the escapism of it, I find riding really therapeutic because it allows me to get outside into nature and I find it fully engages me which helps me to clear my head as it means I have little time to stress about anything else. Also, riding my bike has given me the opportunity to travel, I love the freedom to explore that riding a bike has given me whether that be an xc adventure from the front door or a road trip further afield to ride new places. I like how as a rider we get to see places from a unique perspective that not many other also get to experience. Exploring new places also shows the friendly atmosphere in the bike community, I love how people are always happy to share where the best riding spots in the area are. Riding also allows me to constantly try and push myself, I love the endless chance for progression by pushing through barriers whether those barriers be mental or physical, having goals to work towards in my riding keeps life exciting and fresh. And finally, I love riding my bike for the simple fact that it is the best possible fun ever, I haven’t found a feeling yet the comes close to the stoke of having a good run down one of my favourite trails or the satisfaction that comes from having a big day on the hill, bikes rarely fail to leave me buzzing.

    3. The Derek Laughland Memorial Award will benefit me because the coaching will help me learn correct riding technique and that will hopefully help me overcome my fear of wet sniper roots and also help me to be more comfortable and confident on the bike, especially in testing conditions. Also coaching will help me with line choice so I can ride smoother and carry as much speed as possible without over-exerting myself. Both of these things will help me to reach my overall goal of becoming a faster rider whilst staying in control of the bike. This will help me when riding for fun as I will be able to push myself to ride more gnarly, natural trails with confidence and in race situations where smooth riding is fast riding and saving energy is important.

  • Aaron Taylor

    Hello, my name is Aaron Taylor, I am 16 years old from Stirling.
    I would not be who I am now or where I am now if it wasn’t for what biking has given me and who it has made me.

    I was given my first bike when I was 4 years old for my birthday and I have been riding bikes ever since. Primary School was a real testing time for me, bullying was so severe from P3 to P6 that my parents had to move me to another school for P7,. The bullying at this new school was so intense that I found my only escape was to take it out on my bike to and from school. Little did I realise then that I was carving out my future and my passion for all things associated with biking.

    September 2017 brought me a B-TWIN 540 Rockrider hardtail, which was my first "proper’’ mountain bike, where I got to experience the adrenaline of the trails and switch off to the outside world for the first time. Looking back now my riding was SUPER sketchy, going on my first night ride at Torwood, a place I’d never even ridden in daylight, riding outside of Stirling for the first time, riding at Aberfoyle where my cranks kept falling off and riding the steepest trails I had experienced with my seat sky high and locked up brakes but gaining in experience and a love of biking. By December 2018 I was so excited to move up to my first full-suspension bike, a bright green Voodoo Ministor which gave me the confidence to push harder on the trails with my new bouncy rear end and try my first gap jump. After not too long the bike was in Halfords more than it was in my garage as I was pushing the poor bike too hard for its limit, snapping hangers, brakes, several drivetrains, headsets, and puncturing many tubes until the Halfords staff said that after only 6 months my skills had reached the limit of what my bike was capable of and I desperately needed an upgrade. From here on in things started to get A LOT more expensive…
    My new bike was a Whyte T-130. I remember coming home from school and sitting outside from 3 o’clock to 7 waiting for it to arrive. When it finally arrived I set my suspension and went on my first ride. I took it to some local dirt jumps and couldn’t believe how fast it was, how light it was, and how much further I was able to jump without getting whiplash. It was the first bike I felt truly instinctively connected to and I was so happy that it wanted to go just as fast as I wanted too.

    During this time I was completing my Duke Of Edinburgh Bronze Award where I chose to volunteer at Recyke-a-bike, this was my first dive into the experience and atmosphere of a bike shop. I helped set up a Next Bike station in Stirling completing all the wiring and testing to make sure the station and bikes were ready to hit the streets. I also got to learn all about the technology of the e-bikes switching the brakes from EU to UK, the tracking and safety features and how they work, whilst also learning how to complete a silver service. By the end of my time, I was confidently changing tyres, tubes, damaged screens, gear and brake cables, cleaning and polishing. This was an invaluable experience for me and ignited another learning dimension to my biking, learning how to look after and care for my rides.

    I started racing CX, XC and Enduro for the 2018/19 and 2020 seasons and loved every second of every race. Last year I raced my first almost full cross country series, The Mini Campervans Series. I, unfortunately, had to miss the first race due to overshooting but on impact crashing on one the Matador jumps at Innerleithen. The second round of the series was held in Dunfermline and I clearly remember me and my friend debating leaving before the race had even started as I was so nervous. I was racing some new people which I thought were better than me, but something made me stay for that race and looking back on it now I’m really glad I did. As the whistle went I started on the first rank on the outside of the course, I sprinted ahead getting an early lead and getting my first line bang on to where I wanted to and holding there for the whole duration. After 40 minutes of racing, it was now my last lap and the most important one as this is the decider for the winner if there was a close finish. I used all my saved up energy and sprinted crossing the line with one person in front of me but still at this point due to the way the race is organised it did not mean I had won anything. Time for the podium, at this point I was pretty sure I had got 2nd, 3rd place was called out then 2nd which wasn’t me, I was now confused thinking did I really get this wrong? Then the first place was shouted out and it was ME. I couldn’t believe it from nearly leaving the race due to nerves to winning first place and second overall it was surreal, my best day ever to date at that time on a bike. My emotions were sky high, I had WON. My bike, however, was dead, I had blown the shock and we had to go from the race to dropping the bike straight off in the bike shop to get it a much needed post-race recovery. After that I went on to win another gold medal at Combie Park, a bronze at Lochore Meadows which was the season finale where I then was placed first in the U16 category winning £100 Chain Reaction Cycles voucher, another first, another adrenalin high for me and my bike.

    As the 2019 season was coming to an end I started to look for a new bike, this time in the form of a long travel Enduro bike. We were in Aberdeen at the time and Alpine Bikes were round the corner from where we were staying. In the window, I stared at potentially at my first Enduro bike up close. It was the Cube Stereo 160 carbon, it looked incredible and I instantly wanted it. We went back the next night to see the bike and I was not only allowed to sit on it but go for a ride around Aberdeen, it felt incredible. It was also my first time trying 29” wheels and everything just felt so fast and so smooth. At this point, I had done some research but had not tried any other bikes. The Cube just impressed me so much but then things didn’t work out, the bike sold out and we couldn’t find the same bike anywhere, so I had to start looking elsewhere. From trying all different Trek models, Saracen, Orbea and even my friends Kona, which I had discounted because I hated its sluggishness, it felt heavy and was lacking fun, but every time I went into the bike shop there was one Kona Process that always caught my eye with an awesome night star paint scheme, it did look stunning. My mum persuaded, no, nagged, me to take it for a ride and try it out, I couldn’t believe it, it was so confidence-inspiring, fun, lively, everything that felt wrong in all the other bikes I had tried. There was nothing I could find wrong with the Process and it was the first bike since the Cube that I had ridden and just smiled and smiled. From testing it on the 16th of January to picking it up on the 17th, I couldn’t believe this gorgeous bike was all mine. I was so excited that the bike was even allowed into my bedroom for the first night, as that would be the cleanest it would be ever again. By the 23rd of January 2020, I was racing Enduro, at Nevis Range. At this point, I still hadn’t come to terms with the big wheels and long travel but still did pretty well as there was no U16 category. I was racing U18 and was placed 18th out of 40, which I was really pleased with. My runs were very consistent, showing me that my training was working and just what I could have achieved if I had had time to bed into my new bike. On the 26th of January, I was racing CX, the only current race going ahead as COVID was on the rise. I needed this race to get assessed for my Nat 5 PE exam, so again another race and my nerves were on a high. It was a cold, wet, dreich Scottish morning. I was racing it on my Enduro bike as I just didn’t feel confident riding my CX bike fast offroad. The race went well, no big mistakes apart from having a stitch halfway through the race and having to do the last 3 laps one-handed as it was so painful. When the race ended one of the marshals came straight over to me and asked if she could feel the weight of my bike. She couldn’t believe how heavy it was and what I had just completed with it, the bike was unrecognisable, so clagged and caked in mud that the chain had come off completely, it was quite a mess. Again I had done pretty well, all things considered, I got 14th out of 38 and I had really impressed my teacher for my exam, so everything was very positive. Little did I know that this would be my last race as the country went into Lockdown.
    Lockdown also put a hold on my Saturday volunteering at Greenrig Cycles and my Trail Inspector role at Canada Wood where I would ride the trails once a month making sure no issues had risen and reporting back to my boss. I used this time to spend many hours building my then unfinished trail with a 16ft road gap, a 14ft road gap, a 14ft gap, 1 step-down, gap into a wall ride, sharkfin and many other features including a huge dual slalom track. This was a really positive way for me to spend my time, building, smashing stumps and building big gaps jumps. As much as it was a very sad and scarily worrying time for a lot of people, it was a very productive time for me. I motivated myself by following a 6 day per week training plan so it gave me a focus while still keeping all my training going. Completing lots of different sessions from hill reps, to long segments on my road bike, enduro-style sessions with set laps or distance, gym sessions and technical sessions, I was getting it all done while also gaining KOM’s at the same time. It did feel incredible, all the planning of the sessions, prepping both me and my bikes, I gained a lot of valuable experience and precious memories. It also gave me a lot of time to think about the future and where I wanted to go. I had heard of Borders College and their BASE course but at the time I didn’t know a lot about it. In January I had found out that there was an Open Day and wanted to go down and see what it was all about. When we arrived there I met Darren and Andy for the first time and got to know all aspects of the course, I was so excited, this was my future I was sure of it. Darren told me to apply straight away as there are so little spaces and then they would defer my place, if successful until next year to allow me to finish 5th year. It was so scary writing my application at 15 years old, having to write my first personal statement and sell myself as best as I could and also overwriting the word limit by a monsterous 600 words. Eventually I was happy with it and it was also within the word limit. The second part of the application was a video I had to put together of all my best riding clips and make the video so they could see my riding skills. I made the film and sent it off to them hoping that they would like what they saw. Fast forward I was accepted not just a conditional offer but a full offer for 2021, at Borders College, on the BASE course, I couldn’t believe it. I was in at 15 just turning 16, had written, put together and got accepted for my absolute dream college course, my future was set and I was so buzzed at the very thought of it.

    Racing and riding have become my life, my goal, my future, my everything. Riding a total of 1,864 miles this year already and gaining so much more experience, 2 new bikes for 2020 and with so many incredible memories and pure happiness, I aim to be the next big thing to come out of Scotland. To inspire adults and kids alike to help them understand that biking is so much more than just 2 wheels and a frame, that there is an escape from everything, a route to internal happiness and physical wellbeing, a huge Mountain Biking Community that no other sport has, that it doesn’t matter your skill level, age, race, where you come from or even what bike you ride, you will always be welcomed in and always feel very much a part of this family.

    Everything I have done to this point I have done by myself, learning about making training plans, about recovery, nutrition, injury, physical and mental mindset, technical skill, racing and so much more. To have someone take me to my next level in biking and push my potential even further would mean more than the world to me. Hopefully, this is everything you have been looking for in an applicant for this incredible experience and I would love to be the lucky person to be accepted for it.

    Kind regards,
    Aaron Taylor.

  • Ruaridh Henderson

    Hi there Dirt School,

    I am Ruaridh Henderson, I am fourteen years old and live in Innerleithen, Scottish Borders. I started riding my bike 12 years ago and to be honest I’ve always had an obsession with two wheels since I was born.
    What do I love about riding my bike? I love being outside in the open, the freedom that it allows you and before the decent, the amazing views. I love the adrenaline rush, the pump, learning new skills, pushing myself to the maximum limit and most of all riding with friends, new and old. I have recently started a weekend job with at Adrenaline uplift, helping with all aspects of the biking community, which I really enjoy. I love competing and in my last race at Golspie I came 8th. I also have got a passion for building and designing trails. You asked, “What do I love about riding my bike?” What is not to love? It makes me happy from the bottom of my five 10s to the top of my lid.

    How will the Derek Laughland Memorial Award benefit me?
    I hope the pursue a career in Mountain Biking, so this will help meet gain confidence as a rider both mentally and physically, it will help me gain the knowledge and the skills I will need to progress. And ultimately to get into Base Course at Borders College and to fulfil my dreams of competing at a high level.

    I would love the opportunity to learn from a team that has brought on so many great riders.

    Thanks for reading,


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