Anyone can be a passenger on a bike. Like with any sport to become more able it’s a good idea to get professional coaching. Last weekend we headed to the Surrey Hills for a weekend on some of Southern England’s finest Singletrack.
The weekend began with coaching from Leith Hill, using the famous Summer Lightning trail. The aim of the day, increase your ability to flow effortlessly down the trail with minimal excursion. How did we achieve this?
By getting into the right position and being able to move around the bike, keeping movements free and not jerking the bike around, which happens with bad technique and a lack of confidence, because you tend to be more ridged. We also mastered manuals ready to get over those tricky trail obstacles and pop off drops.
Lunch was provided by local chef Joanne Sorg, who served up a delicious packed lunches, no sandwiches in sight! Of course there was also enough cake to keep even the hungriest of riders satisfied.
After lunch it was time to focus on strengthening and stretching those muscles. Lying under the swaying trees, the group worked on their core stability during Pilates specific for cyclists. Pilates focuses on the ‘inner core’ of our bodies, developing strength from the innermost structures and works outwards. Rather than working our bodies through muscle isolation, Pilates focuses on posture, strength, mobility and flexibility from head to toe. Moving the body in complete flowing movements, not isolated parts. Read more about the benefits of Pilates for cyclists here.
Sarah who took part said
One of the best biking weekends I’ve attended! Hannah is a great coach and her confidence inspiring style resulted in great changes in my riding over the course of the weekend. The small group dynamic makes it really easy to learn and at no point did I feel out of my depth, though I was most certainly encouraged to push my boundaries in a good way. Highly recommended! Plus the food is fantastic!
Bright and early Sunday we met with our guide Sean from Marmalade MTB at Holmbury Hill. Sean led the group on an adventure down some of the best trails and up to the best viewpoints in the Surrey Hills including Barry Knows Best, Yoghurt Pots and Telegraphs. Of course, no trip to the Surrey Hills could end without a trip to the famous Peaslake Village Stores for a cheese straw!
After a full days riding we headed to the pub for a pint and to share stories from the weekend and talk about where our next adventures on two wheels may take us.
Thank you to our wonderful clients for a fantastic weekend of fun, we hope to see you on the trails again soon!
If you like the look of our Surrey Hills weekend why not join us in June!
If you want to be a ‘better’ cyclist you just put in ‘more miles’ right? Although to a certain extent yes, there are significant benefits to come from ‘off bike’ training such as Pilates.
Having a strong core can make it easier for you to climb and move around the bike. But many of us neglect our core muscles in favour of a few extra hours on the bike. A strong core can help revolutionise your cycling technique, whether you prefer skinny or fat tyre antics.
So, what is Pilates? Pilates focuses on the ‘inner core’ of our bodies, developing strength from the innermost structures and works outwards. Rather than working our bodies through muscle isolation, Pilates focuses on posture, strength, mobility and flexibility from head to toe. Moving the body in complete flowing movements, not isolated parts.
Why is Pilates good for cyclists? Besides the recognised benefits of taking time out to focus on you, in a calming and relaxing environment, it can actually improve your cycling form, efficiency and power. But how I hear you say?
Develops a strong core and back for stable upper body.
Builds cycling specific strength and muscle control.
Increases flexibility and helps relieve tightness in cycling specific muscles.
Reduces pain and discomfort from long stints in the saddle by building strength and stability in your muscles.
Breath work helps to speed up recovery time as well as building focus and mental stillness needed for tackling trail features.
Helps prevent and avoid injuries by creating an all-round more functional moving pattern.
Increases balance by working on muscle control, this transfers to the bike, when you’re moving around the bike.
What some cyclists I work with have to say:
“As a cyclist I fall foul of not stretching, but with Pilates it gives my body a wakeup call, stretching to relieve tension, working on my core, but also giving that hour to unwind mentally. Try it!” – Matt
“Since doing Pilates, my posture on my bike has been much improved. I feel more stable and have less pressure on my hands. My breathing is more controlled and I’m very aware of my shoulders – I consciously try to keep them relaxed and down which relieves tension in my neck and through my arms, which in turn makes cycling more comfortable. ” – Karen
How often should you do it? There’s not really a set rule to the regularity with which you should do Pilates. If you only have one hour a week, you will feel the benefits. Spend time working with a good instructor, try and get yourself into a small group, not a class of 30! Although you will still gain benefits from being in a bigger group, in a smaller group the instructor can give more hands on correction and support to you as a client helping you make the greatest gains. Most instructors will also help you with exercises you can do at home on your own as well. The stretches in a Pilates class especially can be done after any ride including hamstring and hip flexor stretch both excellent for cyclists!
What will a first Pilates session typically look and feel like? The first thing to note about Pilates is there is a lot of information; don’t panic if you come away from your first session with brain fog that is normal. Pilates is about controlled movement patterns so expect to spend time finding and engaging your core muscles. Each movement should flow and you may feel the breathing and coordination seems a little strange, don’t worry after a few classes it will become clear. You should leave feeling relaxed, energised and like you have used muscles you never knew existed!
If you would like more information on my Pilates classes or to book a bespoke session for your cycling club please send me an email.
Drop offs come in all shapes and sizes, from rock steps, tree stumps/roots or purpose-built obstacles. Learning to negotiate these by jumping will help your trail flow and improve your riding.
At some point on red graded trails you will come across a drop off. In some cases these can be rolled, but sometimes and to add some fun they will need to be jumped. Rolling will only work with smaller drops. The bigger the drop the bigger the risk of catching your chainring and going for flying lessons, something we all try to avoid!!
Start with learning how to manual on a flat field (video on its way) then progress to little curb sized drop offs where if you get it wrong it won’t matter too much.
Enter at jogging pace
Spot your exit point
Pump down and back as you manual off the lip of the drop off, pushing the bike forwards
Try and land two wheels at the same time, if you are landing onto a downward slope your front wheel may get there first
Remember to keep your weight down and back, heels down
Once you have got your manual technique sorted on smaller drop offs it’s time to look at bigger drops. With more speed you can just slide your weight back and need less pump to get you over the drop. These will usually require a bit more speed and the entry and exit lines become very important. As you enter the drop off you need to commit, come off the brakes and spot your landing. On exiting let the bike land before cornering or braking, in an ideal world, look where you want to go!
Try walking a new line before riding it so you can spot the best line through the feature.
Thank you for reading, check back for more posts on mountain biking and Pilates soon!
Learning to ride a mountain bike is easy. Learning to ride a mountain bike really well is harder and takes practise and patients. However, get the basics right at the start and you’ll enjoy every minute you ever spend on your mountain bike.
Once you have the basic principles of riding a bike like, how to brake and use the gears. There is a whole world of new skills to learn that you can develop to take your riding further and faster.
There are two key elements to mountain biking, physical effort and mental awareness. It’s only when you combine them together that you can effectively start pushing your riding boundaries to new heights.
Mountain biking involves your entire body. Your core muscles, back, shoulders and arms all play a role alongside your legs and lungs. Mountain biking is a great cardio workout and to a certain extent is non load bearing on your joints which is great! This changes when you start jumping of course!
This is possibly the harder part. Mountain biking can be as much a mental game as a physical one. The belief in your own skill and ability holds a lot of riders back and it’s worth working on your mental ability to flow through a trail as much as the physical.
This is true for a lot of ‘extreme’ sports knowing what you are capable of and how far you can push your own limits is what keeps us safe and that mental ability to read a situation and keep moving forward and commit is key to riding a mountain bike smoothly.
Top tips for starting out mountain biking.
Relax, breathe and smile!
This is really important, to enable you to flow through the trail. Stiffen up and grip hard on those bars and you make your life a lot harder. Try to breathe consistent steady breaths from your rib cage. Visualise what it will feel like to nail the section of trail in front of you.
Look where you want to go…
You don’t find a lot of straight, smooth trails when mountain biking. Every trail evolves and you need to ‘read’ the sections as they approach. To do this you need your eyes up looking where you want to go. Pick the smoothest line of travel where possible to allow the bike to flow and maintain traction and speed.
Effective pedalling comes from being able to pedal in circles think about scraping your foot backwards, like your wiping something off your shoe, at the bottom of the pedal stroke and flicking your ankle as you return to the top of the revolution.
Cadence is also important don’t plummet to your lowest gear at the sign of an incline instead try and keep your feet moving at the same pace and when you cannot maintain your rpm (revolutions per minute) change gear.
The front and rear wheels both deliver traction, this keeps you gripping the floor and driving the bike forwards. On flat ground you’ll be sat on the saddle or up in the neutral or ‘ready position’ this is where you pedals are level (unless you are pedalling of course) your knees and elbows are bent and fingers are covering the brakes. In this position you are ‘ready’ for trail features with your feet well away from tree stumps etc… Both wheels are weighted due to your position over the centre of the bike. As the terrain changes from flat to up or downhill, you’ll need to adapt the position to slightly further back. For climbing this works in the opposite direction often you have to push more weight through your arms to maintain traction on the front wheel, remember not to unweight the back wheel or you will slip out.
You’ll need to constantly adapt the position as you feel the grip or lack of it from each tyre and make the necessary body adjustments to suit. Relaxing and looking where you are going help to make this achievable.
Lower pressures will provide more grip and when you are leaning your bike into a corner or tackling rooty trails, grip is king. Running too little pressure will expose your rims to possible damage and snake bite punctures. It can also cause tyre sidewalls to fold and deflect. More air pressure makes the tyres feel like they run faster, it will be easier to climb but you will lose a little grip.
Brakes – you have two, use them both!
As a child you probably learnt to only use your back brake, maybe you used your front once and ended up in a heap. Although your back break is needed to control your speed your control comes from the front brake on a mountain bike. This becomes especially important on steep terrain when too much back brake allows the bike to skip sideways you need to be using that front brake for traction and control.
The side leg lift engages the oblique abdominal muscles and promotes lengthening of all the major muscles. Focus on keeping your hips stacked and stable as you squeeze your glutes and lift your legs. Side leg lifts work the abdominals, especially the obliques, as well as the inner thighs. Lifting the legs together keeps the inner thighs and glutes engaged as the abdominals pulled in and up, developing core strength and balance.
Lay on your side check you can see your toes then bring your head back into alignment
Top arm either bent to support you or on a ball to add to the difficulty
Inhale to prepare
Exhale and raise each leg individually, maintaining that core contraction