Astounding Adventures – Mountain biking Skills Day
On Saturday 11th September, Matthew Saxon and I took part in a mountain biking skills training day run by Astounding Adventures www.astoundingadventures.co.uk The course we took part in was Core Skills – Fundamentals. Astounding Adventures are a collective of fully qualified mountain sport coaches based around the length and breadth of the British Isles. Their network of coaches are able to bring a wide range of mountain sports courses direct to your doorstep including Hill Walking and Rock Climbing, but of course to us the most important being the offering of Mountain Biking Courses!
Astounding Adventures offer skills courses for Mountain bikers including courses for beginners, a course for singletrack skills, an advanced skills course and a mountain bike navigation course. Along with this they can also offer a bike setup and trail side repairs course and adventure race skills coaching. First aid courses are also available
The course was offered to mountain biking clubs in the Yorkshire area and SOC opted for sending a relatively new rider, Matt, and myself who has been riding for over 20 years but have not had a great deal of formal training so the reviews are from differing perspectives. Here’s what we thought:
The pre-course joining instructions were all clear; the chosen venue being Yearsley Forest. There were 9 riders on the day and we were spoilt by having 3 coaches – normally the ratio would be 6 riders to 1 coach. Our coaches were Danielle Sheridan and Jessica Weston, both senior coaches for Astounding Adventures and Simon Weston, who will be providing coaching in the Yorkshire area in future. Following refreshments, we were asked to outline our current level of expertise and what we wanted to get from the day. A basic safety check of our bikes and helmets was also carried out - a good reminder of the things we should not just take for granted. The coaching included demonstrations followed by practice and then feedback and more practice.
What the course covered was as follows:
Bike safety checks
Core body position
Dynamic weight shift
Negotiating trail obstacles
Having ridden for 20 years, I was familiar with the ground covered but I am more than happy to admit that my learning to date has been informal and therefore bad habits have been learned and needed to be broken! I thought that the learning points were put across very clearly and effectively with well executed demonstrations. Also a lot was covered in the time we had from riding with our belly buttons touching the saddle; controlled braking so we could stop where we were told to, without skidding; weaving in and out of a series of cones to try and hone our cornering and manualling over increasingly larger obstacles.
The skills taught apply at whatever level you are riding and, if applied correctly, will help you to ride trails faster, smoother, confidently and also be able to stop safely at the end!
It was interesting to observe how well the new riders took to the skills, learning quickly and mastering the skills. Before Matt came on the training he hadn’t done ‘manuals’ or dynamic weight shifting as it is called. By the end of this session, he was clearing log obstacles with confidence. Here’s Matt’s take on the day:
“Before I attended the fundamentals course I knew very little about cycling theory and had never really thought much about my riding technique. So before the course began I expected that I would benefit quite a bit from it, and thank fully I wasn’t disappointed. The coaches were very knowledgeable and delivered the training in increments to ensure we knew the basic principals behind each skill. Worryingly I was surprised at how little I actually knew about cycling and even basic equipment: New pedals, helmet and a fork service were quickly added to my shopping list! The underlying theme to each skill was efficiency and effectiveness; we covered braking, going over obstacles and cornering, as well as basic ride positioning. I quickly picked up the theory behind the new skills and felt more confident as a result. I would definitely consider having more coaching and would certainly consider another Astounding Adventures course. I know that my riding hasn’t instantly improved as a result of the course, but at least I’ll now have the added dimension of trying to practice and become proficient in the new skills as I ride”.
For me the training gave me plenty to go away and think about and to try to make sure I continue to apply the learning to my riding. If I was to be starting mountain biking as a beginner I would find the tuition very helpful and would definitely recommend new riders to take up training along the lines of the fundamentals course offered by Astrounding Adventures. For those riders like me, who think they know what they are doing, I would also recommend some investment in your skills – whether it is a case of going back to fundamentals or stepping up to singletrack skills, that is up to you. With a course costing as little as £60 per person, it is a relatively small investment to make but will have a significant impact on your riding. The price tag is also low compared to some of the gear and clothing we buy to take part in our beloved sport and will probably last longer too!
For more information log onto www.astoundingadventures.co.uk or call 0800 756 6999
Judith Turner – Chair of Swaledale Outdoor Club