“Bottom bracket ... Shimano ... grinder ... hardtail...” In the bike shop, they are talking Bikonian. It’s a language I only have a smattering of, and when one of the gang wraps up the chat by saying: “Right, let’s go shred some trails,” I know I’m right out of my depth.

I’m at the Comrie Croft mountain biking centre in Perthshire to supposedly sharpen up my skills. In years past I have rolled down easy blue runs at Forestry Commission Scotland’s mountain-bike sites, and even stumbled down the odd tricky red run behind my teenage sons.

Now the boys are grown up and they’ve asked me along on a mountain-biking weekend. I’m worried about how I will shape up, and it turns out I am right to fret: there really aren’t many skills left to sharpen.

Scott Murray is a young mountain biking expert working at the centre who’s going give me some instruction. We start off with a look at the bike, pumping up its rear suspension – a luxury I’ve never known before – and going through its gears. I don knee and shin pads that Murray kindly lends me (note to self: a worthwhile investment) and head for the skills park.

It’s a training area with berms – think gravelled wall of death – jumps and other features. I have tackled these cautiously in the past, without the actual jumping, but I am even more tentative riding the the sophisticated bike from the centre.

Murray whizzes round the pump-track first, flying round 100 metres of trail without using the pedals, even on uphill bits, using his legs, arms and core muscles to pump the machine along.

Then it’s my go, and I don’t fall off. That’s about all, my pumping ability being limited. But Murray says I can get better, and after two or three goes I get round without pedals.

I’m equally uneasy when I start on the berms and jumps, but after a few goes and much encouragement I slide up the berm a bit with a smidgin of style, and almost jump. I am learning – but slowly. ”I used to be able to do this,” I say. My instructor looks at me with mild pity but we keep at it, and after an hour or so he decides it’s time to shred a trail or two. A red? “Not really,” he says gently, then explains: “Our tracks are a bit harder than elsewhere, so a blue is getting on for a red compared with elsewhere, and our reds are a bit tricky.”

To get to the downhill runs we have to go right through the Comrie Croft setup. The buildings sit at the heart of the 250-acre site on the hillside above Strathearn, a couple of miles downstream from Comrie.

There is the large comfortable Steading bunkhouse; a farmhouse with more accommodation; a vast barn and events area; a cafe where I later stuff my face with excellent cake, hot rolls and tea; a bike shop and hire centre; and a campsite including beautiful woodland pitches and a number of katas, the Nordic/Lapp equivalent of teepees. A shop selling produce from within 100 miles was being added while I was there: among its stock will be fruit and veg from the new market garden on the site.

At the top of the ascent Murray talks me through the blue run. We push off, first on to an area of pump track ... and I can do this. We fly down the berms and over boardwalks, and as I am swiftly learning, the trick is to ride with confidence.

“Let it flow,” says Murray encouragingly.

As I gather that confidence I decide to follow him down a steep rock step I could avoid, and immediately regret it: I land at speed, yank on the powerful disc brakes, and promptly fall off.

My fault, though, wasn’t caused by overconfidence but by getting scared and slamming the anchors on.

There are not too many bruises when we retire for lunch. I’m impressed by Murray’s skill and enthusiasm for the place and his job, but then I meet Amanda Lees, who works in the Comrie Croft shop, and I’m even more impressed. A tiny, slight lass, she tells me with a broad grin she’s been out on the skills park, and down part of the blue run, in her electric wheelchair.

“Once your on the track you can’t stop because it has no brakes: the only way to stop is to switch it off and if it does you stop dead. Then you’re in trouble if you’re up one one of the berms,” she laughs.

After eating I take a break to chat to Andrew Donaldson, the man behind the Comrie Croft setup. He worked at the hostel then bought the spread in 2008, adding 16km of dedicated bike trails, plus other facilities.

Donaldson has opened up share-ownership in the business to staff and the wider community, and he’s keen on employee-ownership, along with letting other small business – the market garden and cafe are run separately – flourish under the Comrie Croft banner.

“It’s about getting people involved and enthusiastic,” he says. “Having so much in one place is important, and we see it all as diversification in land use.

“With the market garden we’re even diversifying back into farming.”

One success of diversification was last year’s Cream o’ the Croft Festival, which saw 1,200 people descend on the site. Next weekend’s event is expected to attract 2,000. It centres on bikes, of course, but there will be live bands, beer and food festivals, plus in true cyclists’ style a cinema run off a dynamo powered by the audience’s pedalling.

Festival organiser Aaron Gray tells me variety is important. “We know mountain bikers’ families a lot of the time aren’t that keen on mountain biking so we wanted to give them something that everybody could come along to, for partners and kids to enjoy. It’s a family-friendly festival.” The music will include Americana and folk, and connoisseurs of the weird but good will enjoy the Jenova Collective, mixing up 1930s swing and drum and bass.

Another attraction of the festival will be local food and I sample some with Ian Hansen, who runs Hansen’s Kitchen, a deli/bakery/coffee shop in Comrie stuffed with tasty treats. In fact Comrie High Street demonstrates a local appetite for good food, with a popular butcher’s shop, a bakery, cafes and a greengrocer thriving in a village of just 2,500.

Hansen lets me try some of the stuff he will have on offer at the festival, including cheeses and his own bread and cakes. He has also turned local produce into Middle Eastern delights and I sample spicy chicken, tabouleh and lamb kofta.

“There is a lot of really good stuff in Strathearn and the region as a whole,” says Hansen. “And if we can do quality fast food for the festival it’s a bonus. There is a real appetite for good local produce.”

I spend the night in the bunkhouse, an old farm building. Its cool modern interior has a generous kitchen area and a couple of comfortable lounges with squashy sofas for relaxing in after a bruising day on the bike. My room would sleep a family of five and has its own en-suite shower and loo, but doubles and a dorm are also available.

I also check a couple of the katas out and admire their wood-burners, sheepskins, cushions and homemade furniture. They are made by the staff on site and would easily sleep four on a big raised sleeping platform, or six including children.

For outdoor enthusiasts who want a change from mountain biking, and a break from the Croft site, the area has plenty of good walks along the glens and the lower hills, some of them starting at the croft. Ben Chonzie, the area’s great whale-back Munro, is usually climbed from nearby Glen Lednock. A longer route is possible from Comrie Croft, and I had planned to go for it. But the next morning I seem to have developed more enthusiasm for mountain biking, if not much more ability than I had before, and I head up the hill with my bike for more adrenaline and punishment.

I don’t try the river jump, an awe-inspiring bike leap across a burn launched off a rock slab that Murray has coolly demonstrated to me, but I do have that bit more confidence.

Well heated up in the warm May sunshine Donaldson directs me to a good swimming spot, a big pool in Water of Ruchill, just the other side of Comrie, and I swim in the sun-warmed river. Cooled and relaxed, I call my older son and get my place on the mountain-biking weekend booked.

Getting there

Comrie Croft is on the A85 two miles east of Comrie and seven miles west of Crieff. Buses run from Perth along the main road. Visit comriecroft.com or call 01764 670140.

Further information

Bunkhouse beds cost from £20 each per night (adult) and £10 (five to 18 years old when sharing with parents). Under-fives stay for free.

Camping costs from £8 per person per night. Katas from £85. Bike hire costs from £11 an hour and £28 a day.

There are 16km of cycle tracks including blue, black and red runs; walking trails.

A path runs to Comrie with a good range of shops; shop and cafe on site.