Friday, 30 September 2011

Private skills day 290911

Dave managed to pick the hottest day of the year (!) to come and have a day of skills. He was a good rider already, particularly when it came to climbing (both with and without bike!) but felt that his descending needed a little work. Throughout the day we did various descents and drops and by moving his weight with better timing and also with more controlled braking he seemed to master everything with ease. Drops offs featured highly during the day. This included rooty, rocky and man-made ones and even the very steep nearly vertical drop towards the end he had to ride three times as I repeatedly messed up with the camera. Jumping off drops was also quickly mastered and I'm sure he will get some good use out of his adjustable seat post! Very enjoyable day with almost tropical climate!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Intermediate course 260911

It is extremely rare that I feel I should have even harder terrain available to push people's limits but today was one of those days. Alex, Andy and George ride together in Rugby and had booked to come to concentrate on skills. Enjoying messing about on bikes throughout their lives, they had already built up a huge arsenal of talents (as demonstrated straight away by George wheeling up the hill after having performed an effortless power assisted front wheel lift over a step). This made for an extremely fast paced day where to some extent only their fitness was the limiting factor. Wheelies, bunny hops, track standing, drops and jumps were already in place (and to great extent better than my own!) and anything remotely scary was ridden in seconds! Courtney who came on the previous days beginner's course also got swept up in the fast tempo and continued to build on the skills from the previous day.

Once the we had covered everything that was part of the course it was clear that the remaining time should be spent just riding cool stuff and in the same furious pace as earlier we set off to the other side of the valley and added more rocks, roots and massive steps to give the lads an opportunity to use all their capabilities and have some fun. As it turned out, the skills were already there (and I think they knew that already...) but the day provided them with the opportunity to ride new type of terrain at a challenging but fun level of difficulty and the day was made even better by the glorious and warming sunshine!

Beginners course 250911

It wouldn't have been accurate to label today's course as a beginners course, yes, we did take it from the basics to start with but it was immediately obvious that both Courtney and Robert had both done a lot of riding before. To make sure they didn't get bored we quickly progressed on to harder terrain, making sure that the smaller details were in place which involved the usual culprits of looking too close to the front wheel and not quite being relaxed enough to move well with the bike. Steps, drops and rocky descending were all dealt with and included a few extra bits that time and skills allowed for which made it a lovely day out. We finished ahead of schedule just as the sun came out!

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Beginners course 200911

Dave and Robert were booked on this very drizzly and grey day to receive a thorough introduction to mountain biking. I am glad to say that the day ran so smoothly there is almost nothing to blog about! Both were good bike riders but neither had been off road much other than easy level paths and Robert didn't even own a mountain bike. The fairly easy morning session was quickly completed and the scariest thing up to that point were the geese at the cafe wanting to steal our sandwiches!

The afternoon showed me the determination of these two chaps as they demonstrated very good climbing technique using all the skills showed to them earlier to make it up one of the rockiest tracks in the area. All other techniques were also put in place quickly and the highlight of the day was showing them the big rooty drop! Usually there is some hesitation when people are confronted by it (especially in the wet!) but I had hardly finished demonstrating it before Robert had leapt up on it with his bike and before I knew it he had been down it twice! Dave didn't take long to follow and it seemed like they would have gone on riding the drop forever until eventually we had to move on to finish the last descent down to the end of the course.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Intermediate course 180911

Today was easy, not only because both participants were called Alex, but also they were very quick to learn. This was fortunate as we had to change the order of events of the day as the little quarry I use for some of the riding contained a camera crew filming two singers performing what sounded like folk songs (it was hard tell as Alex's disc brakes were louder than anything else as we not so quietly left to have an early lunch).

After lunch we started the bunny hopping, something that they had never tried before. It was amazing how quickly they picked it up, not only improving their manual front wheel lifts by using their body rather than arms but also quickly including very good back wheel lifts. It is always interesting to then put the two together in to one movement as for some people it takes quite a long time to get right but for both Alex and Alex this happened on their very first attempt!

We then moved on to do more drops and jumping and the pattern throughout the afternoon was for me to tell Alex, the lad, to move further back behind the saddle and to tell the other Alex, the lass, to not go too far back!

Roots, drops, chutes and bends, all were ridden very well and it was great to see Aleksandra ride the last drop of doom right at the end of the day!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Intermediate course 080911

Andy came for the beginners course earlier in the summer and was now ready for more skills. Having quickly adopted all the beginners skills and used them to full effect in places like the Forest of Dean and Coed Llandegla, one of the main things he now wanted to achieve was jumping.

To achieve this we needed to build up a repertoire of skills useful for being in the air. Starting off we did wheelies was good practice for putting down your front wheel straight and getting used to it being in the air and later we added bunny hopping to promote moving your weight on the bike, not only important for the take off when jumping but also important for nicely balanced landings.

Initially Andy struggled with lifting the back wheel, but  we tried different techniques to get his timing and movement right so that by the end he was doing wonderful front and back wheel lifts. I am a great fan of flat spiky pedals but after a slip on his pedal Andy pierced his shin properly (I nearly felt sick looking at the injury!) and I had to get the first aid kit out. I can now see why some people prefer SPDs in this respect. By encouraging him to move his foot forward to have the pedal more under the middle part of the shoe he will hopefully avoid further injuries.
Even though we lack some of the pumptrack style jumps we do have a good drop to start jumping off with enough height to make sure you get a feeling of being in the air. It took Andy a few goes to get his weight far enough back to stop the front wheel dropping too soon but once he managed it, there was no turning back and he did one great jump one after the other.

I like to push the boundaries on the course and take people out of their comfort zone and with the weather having turned the ground into a mess of mud and slippery roots the last challenge wasn't easy, but that didn't put Andy off. As usual the camera doesn't show how steep it actually is, but trust me you don't see what is coming until you are actually riding it, it is that steep. And Andy didn't have any problems riding it what so ever!

Beginners course 070911

It was definitely an autumnal feel to the day when Chris came to the beginners course. He was a keen road cyclist but felt mountain biking could be a better option for the winter time. It was immediately obvious that he had done a lot of cycling previously. Despite not having been off-road much he looked very comfortable on his mountain bike that he got only 6 weeks earlier.
Every instruction was put in place immediately and once we went past the stage where before the course he would have got off and walked rather than cycled, such as steep steps, it was a delight to see the smile on his face after finding out that it was relatively easy to ride. As he was the only one on the course and he was making such great progress we also did a few intermediate skills such as track standing and jumping off drops and even with these additions we finished well ahead of schedule.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Beginners course 040911

Today was an example of two participants with very similar ability but on  two very different bikes. Emma on her budget Apollo hardtail and Cath on her brand new lightweight long travel suspension bike that she had only used twice before the course. So how did they get on? The answer is that both did very well indeed but not entirely without incidents!
Both managed the climbs very well, although Emma had to work very hard as she lacked the spockets on the rear cassette that would have provided her with easier gears for climbing with. She made up for this with shear determination! They were both very good at listening and immediately putting into place the techniques on the course, which was demonstrated in very quickly learning to set off on climbs, negotiating tight turns, drop-offs and front wheel lifts.

So did this make them immune to crashing?... well no. Grabbing of the brakes is a reflex which a lot of beginners suffer from and for Cath, whose brakes were the most efficient brakes I've ever come across on a mountain bike (and I'm not exaggerating here), this caused a couple of very impressive over the bar incidents. I am glad to say that it is a stage that passes quite quickly as not only will her brakes loose some of that immediate "bite" with time, but she will also be more able to fine tune her finger action with a bit of practice. Her ability to get back on the bike straight away for more riding was very impressive! 

Brakes that worked well wasn't a problem for Emma as not even the strongest squeeze of the back brake could provide a skid of the back wheel even on a loose gravel descent, which was hugely disappointing for her, although at least it saved her from going over the bars!
At the end after comparing the bruises and scratches we finished the day in the late summer sun and judging by the enthusiasm I'm sure they both will be out riding the trails very soon regardless if it is on a budget hard tail with rim brakes or a top of the range full suspension bike.