Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Beginners course 141210

Some people might have thought that taking up mountain biking at nearly 67 years of age wouldn't be possible but today Jim certainly proved them wrong! With 50 years of motorbiking experience and some road cycling experience Jim had the benefit of being comfortable on two wheels. That said, he was more or less a complete beginner when it came to riding off road. We began by first establishing the basics, such as standing on the pedals, level cranks etc and very quickly Jim began to feel more comfortable descending. We spent quite a long time moving around on the bike to loosen up Jim's riding position to make it possible for him to relax on the bike and ride both steps, drops and rocky and loose descents. He did exceptionally well and "bombed" down one of the last rocky descents at great speed! As fate would have it there was one last surprise at the end (surprised both me and him equally!) when he did a head first over the handlebars on the last descent. Thankfully he bounced very well and was able to figure out what had caused the crash which makes me certain he will have a great time on his bike for many years to come!

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Beginner's course 171110

If it wasn't for Dominic's cheerful attitude and enthusiasm, today wouldn't have been half as pleasant as the weather was to say the least grim! Cold northerly winds, drizzle and soggy trails that put off most of the usual trail users. More space for us I suppose! Dominic was another very fit road cyclist that had decided to try off-road riding and found it quite different from being on the road. He quickly adapted his riding to the new instructions, adding one piece of advise to each attempt at riding drop-offs, rocky descents and steep climbs until most things seemed very easy. Thanks to him being the only one on the course, it left us free to explore some new obstacles, some of them made a lot harder by the abundance of slippery wet leaves! Apart from two very obnoxious jack russells that seemed to want to eat one of my shoes, the day went extremely well despite the horrid conditions!

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Beginner's course 131110

What a perfect day! Not only was the weather stunningly nice but with three superb participants and two extra instructors the day was very pleasant indeed! Phil and his twelve year old son Mason, had done quite a lot of mountain biking already and came to make sure that what they were doing was correct and to increase their confidence on particularly hard obstacles. Franck had not been off road that much but had huge experience (and fitness!) from years of road cycling. Also joining us on the day was Steve who also is an instructor for Mountain Bike Skills Courses and Danny who is studying outdoor pursuits at Manchester University. We quickly found out that the participants were already very confident on their bikes and they found it very easy to adopt the small changes needed to further improve on their riding, and with three instructors there to watch and give feedback they really were scrutinized to the full! Once all the techniques were in place we spent the last hour riding a mix of terrain and obstacles which also included one or two from the intermediate course whilst enjoying the final long descent back down to the cafe. It was nice to share experiences with both Steve and Danny although I would be surprised if they find many groups as good and easy to teach as we had on that day! A big thanks to Danny for being in charge of the camera.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Intermediate course 091110

Stephen came all the way from Essex to be sure to get some practise in on rocky descending. We also got some proper northern weather to go with the rocks as it was drizzling most of the day with a few minutes here and there of sunshine together with a biting cold wind.

A quick change of the route and we managed to have lunch at my house to warm up a bit as the cafe down at Roman Lakes hasn't got any indoor seating area yet.

The morning was spent mainly practising moving the weight back and forwards on the bike to do some steep descending but also practise turning on a rocky and tight bend. This was followed by bunny hop and speed hop practise. At this point we lowered Stephen's saddle and he found a new freedom of movement on his bike that really showed in his riding. After lunch we went up to the little quarry on the hill and rode a mix of descents, some rocky, some narrow and some steep and some all of the above. Gradually Stephen relaxed and together with a lower more laid back riding position he found that he didn't have to use his brakes constantly and his speed increased a lot. This was clearly evident towards the end when we practised jumping off some drops and he literally flew down the hill!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Beginner course 041110

Perfect timing weather wise today as we managed to sandwich a beginners course between the torrential rain weather fronts! Trails were very wet and full of slippery leaves making it more of a challange than usual for Keith and Mike, todays participants.

Keith had phoned me the day before asking about how much fitness was required for the course and I reassured him that we would take it at a slow pace and that there would be frequent stops anyway. As it turned out I was the one struggling to keep up with him at times! As well as being way above normal fitness level for a pensioner, he also did very well on the technical aspects of the course and had a great attitude to having a go at stuff! He had a slight mishap at the very end of the day when the tyres gave way on some slippery leaves and he landed heavily on his shoulder but I'm sure he will be back on his bike soon.

Mike warned me in the carpark that he had a very cautious approach to technical stuff, preferring to get off and walk it rather than ride it and that despite a previous skills course had failed to progress on the technical riding front. I like a challenge and was expecting to have to spend a long time trying to convince Mike to ride stuff. But I was wrong! Often  Mike and Keith were looking at each other smiling in "Does she really mean we should be able to ride that???"-kind of way when I demonstated stuff. However when they had a go using the techniques I showed them, they found themselves in full control and not being scared. By taking them on harder and harder terrain and making them repeat everything several times, especially Mike seemed to find a confidence that had been lacking previously in his riding. Being very local to Cannock Chase I'm sure he will be out soon riding all the things on the Monkey Trail he previously prefered to walk!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Beginner course 011110

Richard was quite new to mountain biking and had mainly done easy paths rather than technical terrain before coming on the course. Initially he was quite reluctant to start moving his body weight around while on the bike but as the day progressed he became more and more relaxed and started to read the signals from the bike and feel more comfortable standing up on the pedals. We gradually moved on to harder terrain, some of it very rocky both for climbing and descending and I'm sure Richard will enjoy some of the challenging Peak District terrain next time he goes out on his bike.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Private session 291010

Tony and Kathy had started mountain biking this spring to have a sport to do outside of skiing season. Living in Sheffield they had already encountered rocky terrain while riding in the Peak District and also had experience of trail centers. We started the day putting all the basics in place and both of them found it a bit of a revelation just how much of a difference adjusting your weight on the bike can make. We also went through braking technique, tight turns and other core skills before moving on to some of the very challenging terrain available to practise on around here. They both managed to ride the rocky drops very well and were set for a faultless score card when poor Tony encountered deep wet mud as his front wheel dug in and threw him right over the bars! Apart from being covered in mud (with at least a kilo of it stuck to his helmet!) we finished the course with the last descent and returned to the car park mostly in one piece!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Beginner course 241010

On this gloriously sunny but cold day I had the pleasure of meeting Jen and Tim who came to get more confident on technical terrain. Jen had done quite a lot of riding before which showed as she was very comfortable on the bike and despite some initial hesitation at some obstacles did really well on everything! By making her aware of when and where to adjust your weight on the bike and where to be looking while riding  her confidence grew throughout the day while the terrain became harder and harder. We also added useful techniques to her toolbox such as power assisted front wheel lifts and tight turning skills. Unfortunately we only had the pleasure of Tim's company for about an hour in the morning as a freak SPD releasing incident left his lower back in painful spasms as an old back problem flared up. He was hugely disappointed to have to cut the course short (as were both Jen and I) at this point but I'm very much looking forward to seeing him again on a different day when his back has recovered sufficiently.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Beginners course 181010

Husband and wife, Phil and Sarah, came to do a course to improve their off road riding. Phil had ridden road bikes for years and also some off-road riding, while Sarah was relatively new to riding off road (although very good at negotiating potholes on her daily bike commute). Her confidence grew as the day went along as she found it quite easy to put the techniques in place (apart from turning left!). Phil did really well on the technical and steep climbs and apart from not remembering to have level cranks (bad habit which is easily picked up if you ride on the road a lot), he quickly mastered things such as front wheel lifts and rocky descending. It was a wonderful day despite a couple of mechanical problems that thankfully could be worked around and my continuously streaming nose that necessitated frequent stops to get the tissues out. I can only thank them for their patience!

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Beginner course 121010

Robert and Chris were blessed with beautiful sunshine all day long making it extra nice to pick up some new mountain biking skills. They weren't complete beginners but had very little positive experience of technical terrain. Skills were quickly absorbed and their confidence grew while the terrain became harder and harder. Despite Robert claiming that he wasn't very fit, it didn't stop him blasting up some properly technical climbs! Chris was at first quite hesitant about one of the harder and very technical descents at the end. We had plenty of time for him to have many attempts and steadily he cleared more and more of the tricky bits and rode it excellently at the end. Both guys also did really well on the last drop off, with Robert unintentionally taking the most complicated route down I've ever seen but doing it in great style!

Hi Emmy
Thanks for a great course yesterday. I went around Bakewell today and the first challenge was 5 big steps and 2 walkers watching. I went down them looking like I knew what I was doing. The rest of the day went well doing about 17 miles mostly off road. I would recommend this course to anyone.
Thanks again

Friday, 8 October 2010

beginners course 071010

Peter's bike looked amazingly clean and the reason for this was that it had never even touched the ground, being completely brand new! Peter had never been off road before but thankfully had plenty of experience of being on two wheels (roadbike and motorbike). He was a completely blank canvas and found adopting the techniques and applying them on harder and harder terrain very easy. I don't think he actually realized how well he had done as he doesn't have anything else to compare it with!
John on the other hand had a lot of experience, but found that he lacked confidence going over large rocky drop-offs after a bad crash up in Scotland. Even though his technique was already very good he found the beginners course useful as it went back to basics and allowed him to rebuild his confidence back up to his normal standard during the day. Towards the end of the day he was flying down the tricky descents braking the speed records!

Hi Emmy,
I'm loving the Chase. Only completed Follow The Dog so far, but your course gave me he confidence to tackle the 'Weirwolf Drops' first time out. The people I ride with, who have been riding for years, were very impressed. As even some of them haven't done them yet!
Changed my pedals straight away when I got back from your course as well, what an ubelievable difference they make! Just changed my tyres yesterday as well, but haven't ridden them yet.
Really enjoying it!

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

1 to 1 course 061010

Glynn booked a one to one skills day as his riding skills were already very well developed from years of riding in the Peak District. He came to work on specific things of which very steep descents was one. His desire to have a go at harder and harder stuff pushed the boundaries of what I normally would throw in on a skills course but it was needed to satisfy Glynns ambitions. Apart from a local grumpy farmer calling us "stupid" (he obviously couldn't see that we were in complete control of our descents!) it was a pleasure to work our way through the increasingly steep slopes. Glynn also wanted to know more about how to jump stuff so I introduced wheelies to practise holding the bars straight while in the air and bunny hopping to get him to use his body to shift the bikes position while in the air. Being very good at speed hops (he jumped at least a foot high) starting to bunny hop felt quite alien to Glynn but we managed to put the basics in place, enough for him to go off and practise on his own. It is a shame we haven't got any tabletops or man-made jumps around here but since the courses focus on mountain biking in natural terrain we made do with a one foot drop to jump off, trying out two different techniques. And finally I have to thank Glynn for making me do an endo, something I'd never thought of trying before and it was quite cool and not as difficult as I thought it could be!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Two days with Neil and Matthew

Neil and his son Matthew had come for a two day session (beginner and intermediate) and couldn't have picked two more opposite days in as far as weather goes. Sunday was even wetter than Friday and it didn't stop raining, mostly really heavy rain, for the entire day turning every path to a river and making every surface slippery. Thankfully they both had done a bit of off road riding previously and we were able to do all the core skills as well as some jumping practice during the Sunday. Mostly it was about getting them to look in the right place and get moving about on the bikes more as well as riding very rocky terrain. Monday was as sunny and glorious as any summer day, complete opposite of the Sunday so I took advantage of Neil and Matthew's skill level and fitness and took them out for a proper Peak District ride, taking in massive climbs as well as very steep, rutted and rocky descents to push their skills to the limit. Matthew showed incredible determination during the climbs and got used to riding over rocks and ended up going faster and faster as the day progressed with a larger and larger smile on his face. Neil also pushed the limit and rode stuff he normally not would have considered riding. The trails were very flooded in places and traction was difficult on some of the climbs but it was more than compensated for by the beautiful view and warmth from the autumn sunshine!

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Beginners course 011010

It wasn't the coldest day or the windiest but it certainly was the rainiest! Unbelievable amounts of rain fell and my backpack slowly filled up with water as the zip had decided to finally break! Gayle and Russell were wonderfully enthusiastic and thankfully very fit so we managed to complete everything on the beginners course as well as a few intermediate course things despite the horrendous rain. They did have to deal with very slippery conditions and paths that had turned into streams but still enjoyed themselves which bodes well for their future in mountain biking, but not only that, they also managed to apply all the right skills to ride very difficult terrain while making it look really easy. Despite the roots looking really slippery on the last drop off, they didn't hesitate for a second and rode off it with ease and in control. Great day despite the weather!

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Beginnner course 280910

Today I was joined by two very cautious women, Emma who only got a bike in July after 20 years of not cycling and Sarah who had fallen off her bike twice, both times resulting in fractures. The key was to gradually build their confidence up, sort out body positioning and other core skills. Sarah confessed to always going very slowly but found that with the right technique increasing her speed wasn't difficult. We progressed on rockier and harder terrain and steeper slopes and at the end she tackled the drop-offs and even enjoyed it! Emma had to get used to her saddle being higher and a new way of getting on and off the bike, something that sounds trivial but off road can be quite hard work. She had no problems with riding steps and drop 0ffs and also got faster and more confident as the day progressed. I was so proud when they both rode down the last descent which has plenty of scary features such as rocks, boulders, drop offs, mud and water. They looked really relaxed!

Hi Emmy,
Thank you so much for the couse today. I've learnt so much about controlling the bike by weight distribution and I feel so much more confident tackling tricky downhills using the techniques you taught us. I only bought my bike 3 months ago after just over 20 years without one, so you must be a good teacher! I'd recommend the course to anyone wanting to build their confidence and learn some key skills.

Your blog post is a very accurate account of the day! I found it really challenging, but you were so patient and encouraging. I managed to do stuff that I would never have imagined myself doing, and what's more, it was fun!

A great day, in a great location, with a great teacher - thanks!


Sunday, 26 September 2010

Intermediate course 250910

Peter and Michael, both in their 60s showed that age isn't relevant when it comes to riding off road. Both were very experienced and attended the course to check whether their self-taught skills were correct and hopefull add new riding techniques. Being quite local, loose and rocky descents as well as big drop-offs weren't an issue for either of them. By showing them how to "pump" the bike, and play around with weighting and unweighting the bike at the right times, they were bunny hopping and jumping off drops by the end of afternoon.

Stephen had a lot of experience of road cycling and had recently started mountain biking in Cumbria where he is based. To prepare himself for the very technical terrain up there he had opted for the intermediate course. Despite injuring his coccyx during the wheelie practise he bravely carried on and did the biggest rear wheel lift I've ever seen! Sean made us all laugh with his extreme enthusiasm for everything and everybody and did really well through out the day. Having done quite a bit of riding ever since he was a kid starting off on a BMX, it was just a question of putting in place the rules that determines the optimal body position on the bike as well as finding out how much difference looking in the right place will make.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Beginners course 220910

John took the opportunity of a quiet mid-week session and lovely sunny weather to pick up some off-road riding skills. He had a lot of experience of cycling in general and very quickly absorbed and put into practise all the different techniques used for technical terrain. We spent long enough on each thing for John to perfect them, which didn't take long and it was interesting to hear his thoughts on things as he analysed each technique and how he thought he had done on them. He was often more critical than I was! He also happily threw himself down a few extra things that I was trying out for the first time on a course. The only blood shed was from my own leg as I got tangled in brambles trying to get some good photos, since John didn't provide a single unplanned dismount during the whole day!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Beginners course 190910

There was only a brief moment of sunshine in between the hours of constant drizzle! Thankfully the poor weather did not put off the enthusiastic group that attended the course. Louise, Victoria, Diane, Andy and Phil were all wet and covered in mud by the end of the day and had experienced the terrain at its slippiest and muddiest. A gentle start in the morning to put the core skill in place on easy terrain was followed by a large chunk of climbing practise to get up to the loose and rocky areas for the afternoon. The group managed to both climb and descend over slabs and loose rocks and had a go at most of the very hard and rocky descent which is next to my house with the occasional dive into the grass on the side! At the end the big drop off was made even harder by Louise and Phil as they unintentionally took a novel route and added an extra drop off to the existing one just to show off! Next time I take a group photo I'll try and make sure we aren't obscured by a saddle!

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Beginners course 080910

If punctures come in threes then Chris shouldn't have any for a long time. Thankfully he had brought enough innertubes! Apart from getting very fast at fixing punctures, he also get very good at riding off-road. He went from, as he described it in the morning, relying of a good set of brakes; to blasting down drop-offs in the afternoon. He had done quite a lot of cycling through his life which made it easy for him to adopt the small changes that makes a big difference to off road riding, which paid off in increased confidence and hopefully lots of fun mountain biking in the future!

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Intermediate course 290810

Despite a wet start to the day, the sun eventually appeared along with very strong winds which nearly saw me ending a demo headfirst into a quarry! Dawn, Colin and Stuart had joined Chris and James from Saturday’s course to build further on their riding techniques on the intermediate course. Despite the groups mixed experience level (Stuart had been riding intensively for 5 years and Colin for 15 years, while James still was finding the mtb geometry completely different to the BMX he was used to) everyone managed to ride everything and most techniques were grasped quickly although obviously not perfected (nobody learns to wheelie in 10 minutes!). By the end of the day the group were fully aware of the "physics" behind mountain biking being able to put weight on back resp front wheel in bunny hops/front wheel lifts as well as beginning to compress the bike to make it light or heavy and the importance of smooth and constant speed. James and Chris had improved quite a lot since the day before despite their legs being very tired from biking two full days in a row. Dawn refused to be beaten by any climb while Stuart made everything look ridiculously easy!

Hi Emmy,
Thanks for a great couple of days training, you've given me the
confidence and knowledge to try stuff I certainly wouldn't have before.
If I'd have attempted some of those descents we did on Sunday before I
would have certainly been off the bike loads, so I am really pleased
with the progress in a short time frame. I've already been practising
track stands on the back yard and will be out putting some of the other
skills in practice tonight.
Thanks again,
Chris Pike

Monday, 30 August 2010

Beginner course 280810

After a few weeks holiday it was nice to get back to coaching again, although the weather could have been a lot better. Braving the rain showers Chris, James, Suzanne and Hef showed great enthusiasm and picked up lots of new skills as we attempted to ride harder and harder terrain. The morning was spent putting in place the core skills such as bodypositioning and where to look along the trail etc while in the afternoon there were plenty of opportunities to put the skills into practise! Everything was made quite a bit harder by being covered with really slippery mud! They all were confident enough to ride the big drop-off at the end!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Beginner course 020810

Stuart booked his whole family in for a skills course as his boys were getting more and more fond of mountain biking. The boys picked up the skills very quickly and the same for the parents, so maybe it is genetic! It was particularly rewarding hearing the youngest at the top of the longest climb saying "I'm in love with climbing but I don't know why!". No participant has ever said that before! They are now practising their newly found skills around the Peak and will be back on Friday for the intermediate course!