I had my first coach when I was seven or eight, he was my Dad and whether it was climbing at Idwal slabs, mountain biking or kayaking. He had a technique to help me achieve what I needed to get the job done. I wasn’t very competitive as a kid, but as I grew up my hunger for competition grew and with it my understanding of how to bring out the best in other people.
When I came home one day and announced I was going to enter a bike race, my Dad said, let’s go to the forest. He found a circuit, like an XC course and timed me again and again and again. The truth is I had no idea what I was getting myself into and my Dad helped me to realise just how much this was going to hurt and how deep I would have to dig to get to my dream of racing elite. It worked.
After a few years I hit that shiny ‘elite’ status I had been dreaming of. It was funny because on reaching elite I thought that would be ‘enough’ it wasn’t. I had to train harder than ever and actually my body and mind were a bit over it. I looked for a new challenge, I had always been quite good at endurance so 12 and 24 hour races seemed a good step up, the technicality of a 12 or 24 hour solo race was exciting too having to plan out food and think about being mentally as well as physically prepared. I made it to my first 12 hour solo podium and decided now I could go further.
The Trans Alp Bike Race was a seven day stage race across the Alps like nothing I had done before but I had a good grounding in training and so to start with I did what felt right, but something was missing I’d go out on long rides and completely blow up, I was doing unstructured weight and interval training. I needed a guide to help me get to my goal or I was in danger of not getting to the start let alone the finish. I reached out to a mountain bike coach, someone who had far more experience than I did and he helped build a plan that suited my lifestyle and got me to that finish line.
Within a few weeks my training had completely changed and with my coaches guidance I was seeing improvements. I was already good at training and able to push myself but the problem was I didn’t know what I didn’t know, so I couldn’t possibly of structured a plan like my mountain bike coach because I didn’t have that knowledge and expertise to create it.
Being a coach myself I love helping other people progress and it’s nearly always the small things that help riders to really feel more confident on their bikes or help them understand how to flow faster through the trail. As British Cycling would say, it’s all about marginal gains. These are the things that you either know or you don’t and having a coach can really help because they can see what you can’t.
If you aren’t convinced on getting a coach, here are some reasons why maybe you should.
You’re already quite happy riding round your local trail centre with mates. You have made progress and feel you can teach yourself.
This is a great start, but there are probably parts of your mountain biking that you haven’t considered. An experienced coach will pick up on these small things and help you correct them to make you more efficient.
I’m learning at my own speed.
Coaching isn’t about rushing the learning process it’s about improvement through streamlining. We are all time crunched, why spend months practising something on your own that a mountain bike coach could help you do in a day?
Coaching costs money and you’d rather not spend it.
This is a fair point, coaching costs money. Biking itself is not exactly a cheap sport, so I guess it comes down to how much you want to get out of your mountain biking time. If you are looking to go faster, then coaching is certainly a good investment, better than any carbon handle bar! In my opinion anyway.
Get in touch with me about how I can help you with your mountain biking, whether you are dusting off the bike after a few years off or looking towards new race goals, I can help.
Nothing quite gets your heart racing like mountain biking, hitting the trails, zipping along on two wheels through singletrack.
As a beginner it can be a challenge to navigate through wheel sizes, suspension set ups and handle bar length. I remember my first mountain biking adventure as a 10-year-old riding my ridged Raleigh bike from Halfords on a holiday to Slovakia with my Dad and Step Mum.
Sometimes the hills were so steep my Dad had to tie a rope to the front of my bike and ‘tow’ me up them! But I loved the singletrack and the exhilarating feeling of racing downhill, trees whooshing by as my mountain bike gripped the ground with its knobbly tyres.
I like to think my skill level on a mountain bike has improved since those early singletrack days! Here are my top tips for beginners looking to start mountain biking:
Go to a bike demo! Before spending your hard earned pennies on a bike, it is worth riding a few to see what works for you. The best way to do this is at a bike demo day or hiring a bike so you can really test it. Riding around a shop car park is not going to help you know if that mountain bike is the right one for you, far better to go and get it muddy! Your local bike shop and trail centres are good places to start on finding demo days.
A quality bike helmet is one of the most vital bits of kit you can buy. Making sure it fits properly is the next step, you should be able to get two fingers between the top of your helmet and your eye brows, the plastic pieces on the straps should be a cm under your ear lobes, this stops the helmet rolling back and the chin strap if you look down should be tight enough to keep the helmet in place but not so tight that you can’t breathe.
So, Bike, check. Helmet, check. I would also recommend getting a good pair of biking gloves and safety glasses to protect your hands and eyes.
So you’re ready to hit the trails! Mountain biking is great fun and these next few tips will help you enjoy your time on the bike.
Move around the bike – mountain bike tyres are knobbly so they grip the ground, don’t pump them up rock hard unless your planning on riding on the road or up steep hills, this will give you more grip and with it more confidence in your mountain bike. Practise leaning forward, backwards and side to side when you ride on non-technical ground to feel how the bike handles. Moving around your bike helps keep it flowing down the trails.
2. Cornering – When cornering your mountain bike do all your braking before the corner, enter the corner wide and exit on the inside. Look around the corner and use the banking (berms) to help carry your bike around the corner.
3. Look ahead – Riding through singletrack, obstacles will appear quickly as you glide through the trees, to be able to react and look for the smoothest line you need to look ahead down the trail.
Mountain Biking Utah
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Anyone can be a passenger on a bike. Like with any sport to become more confident and able it’s a good idea to get professional coaching. On a blustery April weekend eight women from across the UK descended on the South Downs to improve their mountain bike skills. I teamed up with local guide Sean Howell from Marmalade Mountain Biking to deliver a fun weekend of biking, good food and Pilates, all that was missing was sunshine!
The weekend started with coaching from Queen Elizabeth Country Park, the home of my mountain bike club, Pedal 2 Pedal. The ladies worked on the fundamental bike skills, balance, body position and cornering. Getting your body into the right position and being able to move around the bike is a key skill when riding a mountain bike, you need to be able to flow down the trail keeping your 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.
Lunch was provided by a local chef who served up a beautiful selection of salads, pastries and of course cake to keep even the hungriest of riders satisfied. After lunch the girls hit the new blue trail at Queen Elizabeth Country Park to put their new found skills to the test.
Kaz who took part said
“I had an amazing weekend of Ladies MTB tuition with Hannah, it was so much more than had expected! I chose this 2 day course to regain confidence after a mishap 18 months ago. I learned new skills riding off little drops and riding burms. Hannah explained things well and gave great support to achieve riding skills on the mountain bike which in turn created lots of smiles. With a wonderful lunch and meeting like-minded ladies all achieving something from the course.”
My confidence just grew and grew with day 2 riding the South Downs lots of ups and amazing downs putting all that we had learned to the test. With Hannah and Sean guiding and supporting us all the way. I feel very fortunate to have found Hannah to open my eyes to new adventures on the bike. With many thanks I am one very happy lady to be back out into the countryside.”
Another key aspect of cycling is body conditioning and core stability, the girls were treated to a private Pilates class in Rowlands Castle by local Pilates instructor Stacey Merritt after winding down the girls were ready for a pub lunch and to talk all things bike.
Bright and early Sunday they headed to Cocking Hill on the South Downs to meet with local mountain bike guide and trail expert Sean from Marmalade MTB. Sean took the girls on a whistle stop tour of some of the best trails and viewpoints along the South Downs including The Goodwood Estate, Kingly Vale and the Hooksway.
The weekend was designed for ladies who have a little experience off road but wanted to increase their ability and go somewhere new to explore. They all left with smiles on their faces and a new enthusiasm for mountain biking one they will hopefully share with their friends. My aim is to get more women out on bikes and introduce them to this fantastic sport. This is hopefully the first of many weekends Sean and I will run.
If you would like to improve your skills or get out and explore some new trails get in touch or head to Pedal 2 Pedal for more information.
Evening guys and girls I thought I’d give you a little inspiration for a summer adventure. How about grabbing your mountain bike and heading to Mallorca? Interested? read on….
Mallorca is a beautiful island in the Mediterranean Sea, a 2 hour 10 minute flight from London.
It has stunning beaches, beautiful hinterland charm and amazing hiking and mountain biking trails, with a mild and biking-friendly climate all year round.
Although the entire island is great for mountain biking, you can find the largest variety of rideable terrain is in the Eastern part of Mallorca, which is near Artá, Cala Millor and Son Servera. There are many single tracks, a nature reserve with a great selection of rideable trails and gorgeous coastal tracks in this region.
Mountain Biking in Mallorca is legal, however there are no legally built single tracks with berms or jumps, as 90% of the island is in private hands.
Mallorca’s hidden single tracks are best found by hiring a local guide who can show you the best spots without too much road riding and getting lost.
CaMi-Bike, where you may rent super high-quality bikes and book guided rides in different levels.
The owner is a young lady named Roxy, who has been living in Mallorca for 9 years and has specialised in Mountain Bike Events, private coaching and group skills courses and also offers private guiding for groups. You may contact her via Instagram: Roxybike_mallorca or on Facebook.
Mallorca is a hidden gem for mountain biking with absolutely amazing single tracks, gorgeous views and mostly great weather. If you are looking for the perfect family bike & beach combo holiday destination, Mallorca is a the choice!
Thinking about the Olympics and trying to channel my inner Laura Kenny as we made our way through the beautiful Olympic park towards the velodrome at Lee Valley.
Walking inside the flying saucer-shaped building and up into the café gave a sense of the size of the velodrome, it was bigger than I expected! After a quick cup of tea it was time to get changed and make my way to the famous ‘track centre’. Walking down the corridor where so many inspirational people had walked was incredible I loved watching the Olympics in 2012 and now to be here where the magic had happened felt like a real treat.
Coming up into track centre really gave the sense of the scale of the velodrome standing in the middle I felt very small and the corners looked almost vertical! I was soon ready to ride picking up my bike, in the purest form, no gears, no brakes just the power in my legs to control my destiny, whether that was to be flying off or staying up right, at this point who knew!
After a talk through the safety points of not being able to stop pedalling and using pressure to slow or speed up the bike we were allowed on the dark blue ‘safety zone’ this was the inner circle of the track and was flat. After a successful lap and a cheeky extra lap as I couldn’t stop we were allowed on the Côte d’azur a light blue 17 degree angled part of the track once we were riding around our instructor pushed as to go faster and faster, it was odd thinking of speed as safety instead of the other way round. The other odd thing was that you didn’t really have to steer the bike, the angle of the track and your speed turned the bike, no need to lean on the corners. The hardest part was remembering that to slow down you had to put resistance on the pedals to slow your cadence this took some practise but I felt happy with it and was ready to move onto the track!
Staying on the black line I worked up my speed and confidence before venturing out towards the blue line. The corners of the track were a 45 degree angle and to ride higher you needed more power, getting up to speed in the short straits was hard but after a few laps I made it above the blue line, the bike clung to the wooden slats of the track as we spun round and round, it was hot work staying high up and navigating the other people also having their taster session.
It was soon time to leave the track, another challenge of slowing down and grabbing the railings! I left the velodrome feeling accomplished and happy that I didn’t fall off! Riding around a velodrome was fun, I haven’t met a two-wheeled sport I don’t like yet but mountain biking is still by far the best in my opinion.