Friday, 28 September 2012

Intermediate course 28/09/2012

Usually doing the safety check on the bikes is an uneventful affair where there is rarely anything wrong that can't be fixed by putting in a bit more air or tightening a bolt. However today's fix was more unusual as Carl's grips turned out to be very loosely attached to his handlebars and we required something sticky to try and stop them from rotating. I was thinking in the line of going to the cafe and getting some sweets when Carl said he had just the thing we needed. He opened the boot of his car and would you believe it, there was a bee hive! Not much sign of sticky wax or honey though, but even better he also had a dusting jar of icing sugar (apparently you dust bees with icing sugar so that when they then groom each other a certain type of mite is removed). So after a liberal amount of icing sugar applied to the handlebars had provided the much desired tackiness for his grips we set off on the ride.
Having someone completely fearless on the course makes my job extremely easy as they have no hesitation in throwing themselves down any slope or drop and Carl was definitely on of those. Thankfully he also turned out extremely well at following instructions and tweaking body position etc to perfect his techniques which made for a fun and efficient day. Even the weather held up and provided us with some nice sunshine by the afternoon.

Carl came away a more confident rider who by adjusting the smaller things have made big changes to his riding and I learned something as well: don't underestimate the power of icing sugar!

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Intermediate course 11/09/2012

Everyday is always different and today was special due to the extremes of every kind. Weather wise it was either pouring with rain or glorious sunshine, nothing in between. Same with Melissa, she was had either fallen off or she was riding world class style! (But to be fair it was mostly the latter!) I was surprised initially that a lot of techniques where completely new to her but her ability to learn quickly was amazing. Once she started moving her weight back for drops there was no stopping her and she went from a cautious rider that kept falling off to a confident descender in no time. Bunny hops for example was mastered in less than 10 minutes and as for jumping off drops I'll let the photo speak for itself! I have never seen anyone get as much air on that drop as she did and it was only the third jump she has ever done!

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Beginner's course 01/09/2012

Me, Mona, William and Stuart were blessed with gorgeous sunshine and despite the heavy rain in the previous week the trails had dried up quite nicely. Mona had decided to start mountain biking again after a long break as she found her favourite sport, running, was starting to cause wear and tear on her knees. I don't like to draw attention to peoples bikes much as it is the technique of the rider that is the most important. However, Mona's bike lacked front suspension and had exceptionally narrow bars which is typical for the era the bike was from and it was important that she tried to compensate for these things by staying as relaxed as possible on the bike to avoid the shock of every lump and bump traveling through her arms. Despite at one point having come off the bike due to panic breaking she suddenly plucked up courage and road the really rocky sections of trail really well!

William was also what you would call a proper beginner at mountain biking having not even tried out his new bike before coming on the course. He had done some road cycling in the past and had therefore opted for the SPD pedals on his bike. Getting used to the SPDs again took a little while but thankfully he seemed to bounce pretty well! Maybe it was due to being experienced at sports in general such as kayaking, karate and climbing he had very good control and balance, he picked up all the skills and tricks really quickly.

Stuart was the only one who had been out riding regularly off road before coming on the course and was already familiar with most of the trails. This showed as he was very confident and tackled everything with speed and no hesitation. The only thing needed in his case was to try and move slightly more with his bike to allow to be balanced through out especially for the drops. He had a remarkable ability to stay on the bike even in the most frightening situation but to not make the others feel bad he took a dive in the mud on the very last obstacle!

Great day, lovely people, what more can you ask for!

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Beginner's course 08/08/2012

Mark's home terrain is many sand, desert and rocks as he lives out in Dubai but was back in the UK to visit relatives. He took the opportunity to come on the course to work on his core skills that were mainly biased towards road cycling rather than off road riding.

As usual we started with the riding positions both uphill and downhill and with minor tweaks Mark started to get his confidence up on the descents. Having put the basics in place we moved on to drops something Mark was not so keen on, or rather his brain wasn't too happy about it! Some people have less worries about riding off things and very quickly discover that it isn't scary or difficult once you use the right technique. Mark learned the technique but it took some convincing and several attempts before his brain let him continue off the edge and not apply the brakes last minute. Once he a realized he could do it he had several really good runs at each thing and we built his ability up to cover 10-12 big steps in a row which he rode beautifully.

Great day, very warm for British standards, but Mark more used to desert temperatures and with great fitness, didn't even break sweat!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Intermediate course 05/08/2012

It was a great pleasure having Cirion and Stuart come for the intermediate course today. It was immediately obvious climbing the first hill that it was going to be a very warm day. Arm warmers and tops came off and we found ourselves sharing the trails with many more people than normal. Some old ladies even decided to have a picnic on one of the drop-offs while we were still practicing on it!!

Progress was made making them look in the right place and feel comfortable on all types of terrain and all speeds even when the width of the path narrowed and the heather closed in. Cirion was on home turf having ridden many times in the area but we managed to find new stuff hidden away that he hadn't attempted before.

Stuart seemed initially quite worried that he would hold the group up but quickly realized that it wasn't a race and to be honest we didn't really have to wait for him anyway as he kept up fine. Combined with having had a couple of early mishaps and being on new types of terrain that he rarely come across in the Quantocks,  he seemed slightly worried by each new thing but as it turned out he managed to do absolutely everything really well!

Since both participants had brought lunch with them we skipped the pub and had sandwiches sitting outside in my garden. We only had a few meters to ride afterwards to commence the bunny hopping practice, something that Cirion in particular excelled at. We used the bunny hops to progress to jumping and both guys got some nice air from well timed pumps off the little drop.

Just as thunder started we were on the last big challenge of the day which is a 4 foot slope that for all intents and purposes is a vertical drop (Ok, it has some rocks and roots sticking out for good measure.) that spits you out onto the main track. It doesn't look too bad from below but because you can't actually see what it looks like from the top and you just have to ride it blind and commit yourself, I was very impressed by both Cirion and Stuart for riding it. Very good end to an enjoyable day!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Beginners course 30/07/2012

As it is school holidays I took the opportunity to take my son William out with his friend Alfie on a beginners course together with Anne who was wanting to learn a few more skills after a cycling holiday in Turkey. Despite the ages varying from 12 years to 58 years the whole day went incredibly well with everyone really pushing the limit of their potential the whole day.

Anne was amazing and really developed quickly from just being comfortable riding gravel roads to doing drops and rocky descents in a very confident fashion, and enjoying it!

Alfie was the miraculous dismount ninja, with having quite a few scary moments when he decided to bail over the bars landing on his feet! He was gradually getting used to shifting his body around on the bike and rode all the steep steps and rocky descents confidently at the end.

William despite being the smallest took the advantage of being on home territory and having had his mother shouting advise from the last 4 years of riding and did me very proud by riding everything beautifully. I just hope it has inspired him to come out more often for rides rather than just one or twice a year!

Great day despite the rainy weather (and the rubbish photographer!)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Intermediate Course 26/07/2012

Mark was back from Hong Kong to visit relatives and had decided to pack as many adventure sports into his holiday as possible. The result of which was visible by both wrist and ankle being tightly bandaged as he arrived in the morning! Thankfully this didn't deter him from coming on the course and despite a few problems with certain foot positions he did really well trying out the different techniques present in the intermediate course.

Jim who had already been on the beginners course and not fallen off once made up for it today! With plenty of spills to try and catch up with Mark on the injury department but thankfully nothing serious! Through out the day he kept mastering more and more techniques without having the slightest hesitation to try new things.

As usual in the morning we concentrated on situations where you need to be ahead in your mind to cope with several things at once, such as tight turns after drops and tight turns on tricky terrain, and also did power assisted front wheel lifts over big steps. I presented them with situations where speed wasn't an option to make them find their inner balance; particularly important for navigating very steep and narrow singletrack.

After lunch we concentrated on bunny hopping and its application in jumping etc and also practiced cornering on loose ground before returning back to the cafe way earlier than anticipated due to very fit and speedy participants and a very efficient lunch at my house rather than visiting the pub. Fantastic day with lovely weather and great participants!