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!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Beginners course 21/07/2012

Military precision is the term I'd use to describe today's beginner's course! Not thanks to me but thank to Paul whose military background was an advantage when it came to learning mountain biking skills. Even though he mostly was giving orders when in the army he excelled at obeying instructions as well and pretty much nailed every detail on the first attempt! I was quite surprised when he said that some things he would not have thought that he could ride before coming on the course as he was riding everything extremely well. Look forward to seeing him again in September for the intermediate course!

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Intermediate course 15/07/2012

I can immediate tell when I meet a fellow mountain bike addict and as soon as I met Sally I knew she was also one! She was on a works trip from Australia traveling all over the globe but couldn't cope with not doing any biking while being away, so booked a course! We were lucky to have nice weather (poor weather Australian standards but hey what can you expect with the worst British summer in history!) and the trails were slowly drying out from the recent floods.

Sally was at a stage where she was ready to move up a level even though she hadn't been mountain biking for much more than a year and the intermediate course was perfect for this. Being unafraid of speed and rocks, it was trying out some of the more narrow tracks that she hadn't encountered so much back home, that pushed her limits. These were soon done and dusted with as she wasn't one for giving up!

Track standing, wheelies and bunny hopping were all techniques where progress was made and she already wished she wouldn't have to wait until getting home to try them out more and practice; and I can just see her jumping off every little step, rock and ledge with a big smile on her face once she gets back home!

Fantastically pleasant and fun day, nicely finished off with some refreshments in the pub waiting for the train!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Beginner's course 13-07-2012

The fact that it was Friday the 13th didn't put Jim off booking on the course and as it turned out it was great day with no mishaps (apart from car trouble!) Having done some off road cycling already it was mainly to put the small details in place, such as slight changes to foot positions and showing him a few tricks to try and stay relaxed on the bike.

Every course I do I seem to talk more and more about how important it is to be relaxed as it is the key to being balanced and confident on the bike. By encouraging participants to look further ahead, asking them to relax their arms to let the front wheel go where it should go and making sure their body position is right, it is then just about exposing them to harder and harder terrain.

Jim picked everything up pretty much instantaneously and after only a couple of goes on obstacles he was getting things right and increasing his skill level as we went along. The rooty drop was no match for him at the end and he was pretty much ready for the intermediate course! 

Monday, 25 June 2012

Intermediate course 23/06/2012

It was lovely to see Matt again 4 months after him having done the beginners course and to see he had thoroughly got to grips with all the things he learned on the previous course. He was joined on the intermediate course by Nigel and Anthony, both with a lot of mountain biking experience. For all three the core skills required only minor tweaks and we were able to progress to intermediate level straight away. This consists mainly of stretching the skills to cover situations when the terrain present with many things happening at once or when relying on speed is impossible. For both situations track standing is invaluable as it gives the rider the ability to control the bike even when at a standstill instead of freezing up and dismounting.

The rest of the day was spent putting the frills on the riding by introducing bunny hopping and pumping the bike allowing for much more control over the front and back wheel separately. This was naturally followed by getting the wheels off the ground by doing jumps off a smallish drop. Up until the last descent we had had two punctures which by normal standard is a lot but compared to Thursday's puncture fest (5 punctures!!) wasn't too bad, but I spoke too soon as by the bottom of the hill I was the once with a flat rear tyre! All in all a great day with plenty of laughs and despite the really wet trails (some were like cycling through rivers!!) we ended up not too worse for wear back a the cafe.
Hi Emmy, Thanks very much for the photos and the reminder of the fun and enjoyment we all had on Saturday! Cheered me up following the depressing football last night. From my perspective, the day more than exceeded my expectations and the clarity and openness of your instructions and advice was very much appreciated. Thanks to you, I came home with a whole host of new ideas and techniques to put into practice on my local trails here in Sheffield and in the Peaks which I will be doing so, starting this evening as I tear up my rear lawn trying to get my rear wheel bunnies up!!! Thanks again for a very rewarding and very enjoyable course, made all the more pleasurable by the company of Nigel and Matt. Guys, if you are ever in my neck of the woods and fancy a day on the Peak District trails, please let don't hesitate to let me know. Kind regards all - and safe riding! Anthony

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Intermediate course 21/06/2012

Grey, drizzly and clammy would be one way of describing the day, but the participants more than made the day an absolute treat! I have always thought mountain bikers as being nicer than the average people based on my experience running the courses and today proved no exception. Toby and Chris turned out to be superb company and very quick learners. We were speeding along ticking one thing off after the next, until Toby got his first puncture. Thankfully the rain had eased off and it was nice having a leisurely chat while sorting the wheel out. It was only 10 minutes until his next puncture and we starting to think it was a bit funny! Add to that one more puncture from Toby and two for me and we had used up all the available inner tubes! Thankfully by this time we had accomplished a lot. By the end both Toby and Chris had evolved from being good bikers to being excellent bikers and not just being passengers on their bikes, but using the bike, pumping the trails and jumping off things to make riding more exciting and engaging! To top the good finish off even the sun came out and it started to feel like a proper summers day!

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Beginners course 190612

What a lovely day! Fiona was what I would describe as a proper beginner without any kind of off road riding experience having just bought herself a mountain bike. It is always interesting to have people without any experience as it is impossible to tell in advance how well they will do on the course. Not only do they have to get to grips with being on a new bike, but also simple things such as setting off and stopping still demands concentration and combined with being on very unfamiliar ground makes for a very steep learning curve. The reward is massive though, as they suddenly realize they can actually ride quite difficult stuff and slowly (or quite quickly in Fiona's case who mastered power-assisted front wheel lifts pretty much straight away!) getting to grips with the different techniques that are required for different situations.

We started with the very basics and made sure the positioning was right from top to toe and (while Fiona tried to keep it all in her head!) added more and more stuff as we went along! At one point in the afternoon Fiona let me know there was no more room for new things so we began the route back towards the cafe making full use of her new skills and confidence. I am absolutely certain it won't take Fiona many rides to absorb and perfect the things we practiced and for her to confidently ride all the superb trails near her home in Hayfield!

Monday, 11 June 2012

Intermediate course 100612

We were so lucky with the weather! It was sunny and warm and despite 3 days of solid rain even the state of the trails wasn't too bad! It was a pleasure to meet Anna again who came for the beginners course before Christmas and also to meet Ian. Both were keen bikers wanting to put the little extra touches to their mountain biking skills and give themselves a confidence boost.

As always the intemediate course started with a steady long climb, interspersed with power assisted front wheel lifts training, wheelies and trackstanding to break it up a little. Once up at the top we had a play around in the quarry which is ideal for demonstrating the need to look in the right places as well as having to cope with very narrow and steep descents.

Just before lunch we started breaching the topic of "pumping" the bike and to demonstrate the extra boost (and to force them to stay away from the breaks) they rode a 500 m undulating section without breaking or pedaling and found the advantage (and fun!) of pumping the bike instead.

After a lovely pub lunch in the sunshine it was back on the bike (and I'd be lying if I didn't say my legs felt somewhat tired on the first climb!) and off to do bunny hopping and jumping as further illustration of what you can do by pumping the bike and both participants were very quick learners. As usual we finished with the Vertical Drop of Doom where Ian decided to give a complete demonstration of the different body positions that can be used (two of which didn't work very well but didn't put him off in the slightest!)

Thanks Emmy. I'm so pleased I went on the course. With a lot of practice I'll hopefully master some of my nemis' of riding! Whilst the prospect of some obstacles was scary you had a way that made it seem possible. You're very clear at explaining things and bring great fun into the course as well. I'll be recommending you to my friends again!
Ian's big crash at the end still has me laughing... ;)
Thanks and all the best, Anna

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Beginners course 180512

It was lovely to see a group of quite different people all enjoying the same course and all progressing exceptionally well with learning new skills and increasing their confidence. Tony was a complete beginner only having been mountain biking for a few weeks, while Rebecca had a few months of experience but still had never ventured on to difficult terrain. Shirley on the other hand had mountain biked quite a lot in the past but only recently taken the sport up again.

As usual we started with easy terrain putting into place concepts such as gear changes and body positioning but within about an hour we had moved on to riding steps and drops starting off small and gradually making it harder through out the day. My job was easy as all the participants not only were delightful, but  trusted me and not at least themselves enough to feel they could  ride things well and they didn't disappoint. There were only minor tweaks here and there to make them find the optimal techniques.

After a lunch at the local pub where we were lucky enough to be able to sit outside despite the threatening rain, we finished off the curriculum with technical climbing, manual front-wheel lifts and singletrack before the day ended with exposing the riders to some properly technical terrain. Again they did remarkably well with Rebecca and Tony even riding the Devils Drop!
Hi Emmy,
Thank you for the photos, they look great!
I really enjoyed the whole day, even my crashes!!! I learned so much, and feel really confident now, as we did lot of stuff I would of never attempted before the course. I cant wait to get back out, although I will have to wait until I get my back wheel back from the LBS as it has a slight buckle and bent spoke now. Never mind the day was worth it, I think once I build my fitness and lose some weight I will improve and enjoy things even more!
I'll see you in a few months on the intermediate course.
Thanks and God bless,

Friday, 11 May 2012

Beginners course 100512

The key to building up confidence is to gradually ride harder and harder things and doing a skills course is a way of fast tracking the whole process and this is exactly what this group demonstrated. From being quite a nervous looking bunch in the morning freely admitting that anything pointing downhill was not on the top of the list of their preferences to turning into very competent riders with far better skills than the average biker in just a day!

Emma announced in the car park that she detested any size of drop off and it was difficult to believe that this was the same lady who relished at having a go at the "Devil's Drop" just hours later. Same with Phil and Ben who several times said they would never have thought they would ride the stuff they now rode with confidence.
The key change they all made was to look further ahead, which not only made them anticipate what was coming but most of all allowed them to relax so they could move with the bike instead of being rigid. Once being able to move around on the bike we explored shifting the weight around for different situations. As usual we added special tricks such as power assisted front wheel lifts, tight turns, setting off on a hill etc.
A really great day apart from the fact I managed to completely and utterly mangle my rear derailleur, but that is a suppose an occupational hazard and a small price to pay to see the happy and excited participants while they proved to themselves that they were far better riders than they had ever imagined!

Hi Emmy,
Thanks for the photos its great to see what we achieved!!
Phil and I thoroughly enjoyed the day.
Your tuition is very clear and easy to understand and your riding tips are invaluable.
It is amazing how even the smallest of changes in thinking and riding can make such a big difference to ability and confidence.
We will keep practicing I promise ;0)
Thanks again for a great day
Emma & Phil

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Beginners course 040512

Another quite nice day where we pretty much managed to escape the rain! Mark had booked on the course after seeing  a feature article about it in a magazine and thought it ticked all the boxes. He basically wished to make sure that he knew the techniques for riding technical terrain instead of just guessing especially since it was a few years since he regularly rode trails off road.

As usual we made sure every core skill was in place and Mark was very quick to pick up the little tweaks that were required to make sure he stayed balanced and was looking far enough ahead. We quickly progressed on to harder terrain and also since it was only him on the course managed to put in place a few extra things as a base for the techniques that are covered on the intermediate course. It was great to see him pick up some speed and confidently riding some of the tricky sections at the end and also riding the big rooty drop!

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Beginners course 280412

We were lucky despite the several weeks of daily rain and hale to finally have a day with some sunshine! Phil, Helen and Sarah came on the course to learn to ride more technical terrain and it was apparent very quickly that we had three people with very different approaches. Sarah would throw herself off anything in an instant (particularly impressive since she had just recovered from an accident where she broke both her knees!), Phil would take it slowly while being in complete control at all times while Helen had over a couple of years built up a lot of hesitation and nervousness when it came to technical descents and had to overcome her fear for each new obstacle. She made me really proud by riding the set of steps beautifully.

The morning was delayed slightly by Phil's chain snapping 3 (!!) times in different places due to some mystery cause that thankfully went away by the afternoon. Tight turns, rutted muddy descents, steps, climbing techniques were all dealt with before returning to the cafe for bacon butties and toasties in the sunshine.

The afternoon consisted of drops and emergency braking techniques before we tackled the most complicated technique on the beginners course which is the power assisted front wheel lift! Phil showed his strength here by instantly doing a 180 degree wheelie! By reining in his power he put the technique in place and rode really smoothly over the obstacles.

Once we were at the top of the hill we had a very rocky descent to tackle. As predicted this wasn't problem for Sarah who hammered down the descent with a permanent smile on her face, but by this stage Helen had reached the limit of what she wanted to put herself through and took it very easy. She felt that there were a lot of stuff to do with the core skills from the morning that she wanted to practice before she progressed on to harder things which was fair enough.

We worked our way down the hillside tackling all kinds of obstacles finishing with the big rooty drop. Both Sarah and Phil got a big adrenalin buzz tackling something that really doesn't look too nice but by the second and third time they were riding it with out any kind of hesitation.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Intermediate course 210412

It was great to be back out on my bike and do another course after almost a month of no mountain biking. I was unfortunate to have a spontaneous collapsed lung before Easter (just from sleeping believe it or not, absolutely no mountain biking involved!) and had to have a few weeks recuperation which coincided with the Easter break. Healed up nicely now but I can still use it as an excuse to not race up the climbs! And today the excuse was needed as both Chris and Brian who came to the course were incredibly fit!

The day was remarkably non-eventful (which is always good!) but nevertheless full of fun! Techniques and fears were conquered as we progressed up the hill to the tiny quarry behind Mellor cross. It is a great area as it has examples of pretty much everything you can  think of. Drops, narrow steep singletrack, tight turns and tricky ascents were some of the things we explored. Brian, who had ridden in the area before, rode loads of things he previously had only walked and Chris rode like a professional all day having very quickly got to grips with proper bunny hops. The most surreal moment was when a fellow mountain biker came down the hill with a Tesco bag over his helmet (presumably to keep the rain off) followed 30 seconds later by another bloke also wearing a bag! Must be the latest craze! Great day even though we got covered in plenty of mud because of the soggy trails, but then who has ever come back from a good ride completely spotless?!

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Beginners course 220312

What a glorious day Paul chose to come from Nottingham to brush up on his off-road riding skills. It was very easy teaching Paul as he so quickly grasped everything from body positioning and braking techniques. Since he was the only one on the course (and physically so fit that we were miles ahead of schedule) I threw in some intermediate skills on top of all the beginners once, which he also quickly mastered.

 I often find that people who don't ride a lot with other mountain bikers assume everyone else are much more skillful and braver than they are. So was the case with Paul but by the end of the day I tried to make sure he realized that he had achieved a very high level as he effortlessly rode things that many of my friends would never dare to ride!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Beginners course 170312

Despite the forecast promising horrid rain all day the sun shone on John, Anthony and me pretty much the whole day apart from 10 minutes of rain and hail. It was lovely to show them our local trails as John who lives less than a kilometer away had up until now not discovered the fantastic bridleways and cheeky forest paths that forms such a fantastic network on this hillside. Anthony who is from nearby Manchester also hadn't been to the area before and was pleasantly surprised how beautiful the countryside is, coming out towards the Peak District.

The day progressed remarkably smoothly and we finished well before the scheduled time as both participants despite being very new to mountain biking mastered everything pretty much on their first attempt and with big grins on their faces! It is especially nice to see people suddenly realize that you can let your bike roll over just about any obstacle you find in your way by using the right technique. Today this revelation instantly resulted in higher speeds and more confidence in both riders. To make sure the higher speeds didn't result in more crashes we also put some time in practicing emergency stops as well as how to deal with skidding etc. Toward the end, as usual, I presented them with harder and harder terrain to allow them to try out their skills to increase their experience and confidence until it was clear that it was time to round the day up and finish on a high with a last descent back to the car park.

Hi Emmy
You may remember from last week that I was taking part in an adventure race up in Grizedale forest this weekend. 
It was a fun event (even if some of the run sections were a bit steep!) and the tips I picked up from my lesson last week were really useful on some of the tricky downhill single track stuff. I felt much more confident and relaxed. 
Thanks again for your helpful tips last week.