A big group is definitely a challenge but on the positive side there always seems to be a great atmosphere and lots and lots of fun! And today was no exception.
Philip and Rebecca had the most experience in the group having done quite a lot of riding before such as trail centres in Wales so it was no surprise that they both picked up skills fairly quickly. Jo and Michael had the advantage of having done the beginners course in the months before and both still remember everything they had learnt despite only having had the opportunity to practise on the odd occasion. Poor Will was unfortunately thrown in at the deep end as descending skills were concerned (no lack of fitness that was for sure!) but despite this made fantastic progress although at a slightly slower pace. I often find that it takes a little while to get experienced road riders to leave the comfort of the saddle and start moving their weight on the bike.
The first part of the morning was spent mostly going uphill which wasn't particularly popular with Jo from Lincolnshire even though she struggled far less than most people that come on the courses! But once we got up to the top the fun began with doing different types of descents, from loose rocky ones, to drops and steep narrow descents. After a nice lunch in the sunshine at the local pub we spent the afternoon introducing "pumping" the bike as part of doing bunny hopping and built on this to start jumping off drops instead of rolling them. I was witness initially to both severe front wheel landings as well as big back wheel landings but straight away they adopted the correct changes and soon there were some beautiful jumps to be had, with Michael in particular just smiling with joy at the wonderful feeling of having had "air".
Once this section was completed there were the final challenges of steep drops and very difficult rooty bits to clear. It was clear that the group had by now a very good idea of where and when to change their weight distribution on the bike although some extreme positions at times meant that Phil provided us with a beautiful endo (stopping with the back wheel up in the air!) and Rebecca with a manual (riding with the front wheel in the air!) that could have had a happier ending in respect of Rebecca's cycling shorts! But most importantly they proved to themselves that they could ride harder stuff than they normally would attempt.
Great day with plenty of laughs and smiles despite some bruises, cuts and nettle stings!