Slightly overcast morning in SwinleyForest for the Ladies Beginners Course but the sun did make an appearance! All the ladies were on the course for similar reasons.
Tania is local to the forest and has ridden some of the trails but wanted to come on a course to learn some basic skills on how to do it properly and gain confidence.
Esther has done some mountain biking with her partner. She found that she lacked confidence on the trails he had taken her on so thought it would be a good idea to get some coaching to build her confidence, especially for tackling the narrower singletrack trails.
Emma, Esther’s friend is new to mountain biking so wanted to learn the basics. She has recently become a new Mum and wanted something she can do with her friends to have that all important “time to yourself”. Mountain biking is ideal to escape from it all and have a great time with your mates.
To start with we carried out a safety check on our bikes making sure they were in good working order. After a quick chat about helmets, gloves and glasses we rode out into Swinley Forest along one of the fire tracks.
Firstly we covered gear changing and the basic technique to climbing. After a few minutes playing with gear changing and pedal stroke we rode a small climb using our gears as we went.
After this we covered the most fundamental skill to mountain biking…….. the body position to adopt when riding off road. Sometimes referred to as the “attack” position”, I prefer “ready for anything/control” position incorporating being out of the saddle, dropping the heels, wrists and looking ahead.
Although the ladies found this a bit unnatural to begin with by the end of this practice they were all looking more flexible and relaxed on their bikes and were amazed that something so simple could make a huge difference to confidence.
Following on from this we then talked about braking and the best way to brake efficiently and in control. We did a little exercise with braking to show how important it was to have your body weight in the right place when braking. Again the ladies were quite surprised that knowing a few basic skills makes a huge difference to your confidence on a bike.
Next we moved on to cornering. After a brief introduction on how to move their body around on the bike I got the ladies to practice this by getting them to ride round a short coned course. They all got to grips with this very quickly so we moved on to a flat corner to put this into practice. Emma was moving around well on her bike but needed to work on her “looking”. Esther and Tania were getting the correct leg down for cornering but needed to relax and try to shift the bike over a bit more.
We then went to a section of Stickler 3 to introduce linked cornering and some more technical sections of singletrack. By the end of this practice they were linking the corners nice and smoothly. Each time they rode this section I could see their confidence growing.
To end the session and as the groups confidence had come on so well I thought I would challenge them a bit further than I would normally on a beginners course and ride some more singletrack with a few “trail features” to test them on. We first looked at a “roll in/mound” which I could see made them all a little apprehensive. However, we discussed how best to tackle such a trail feature and they then all rode it brilliantly. We carried along the narrow singletrack which twisted round trees to give them the chance to use all their new skills.
Before getting back to the Look Out we played about doing some slow speed manoeuvres which encourages good balancing on the bike.
It was a great group today. For me as a coach it’s lovely to see the confidence grow as the session progressed and also to be able to push their level of riding on. Hope to see you out on the trails soon. Have fun