What is ITAG?

What is ITAG?

I.T.A.G stands for International Trail Ability Grading and was created for mountain bike coaches to encourage standardisation and safety out on the trails in the UK.

When I (Rafe, art of the Beyond the Mud team) dreamt up I.T.A.G Framework at the tail end of COVID after watching all these new riders emerge from their isolation I saw some amazing talent, a lot of progression, but a lot of riders who had learnt to run before they could walk. I wanted to create a framework which could give riders a ‘check list’ as it were of what skills to work on first.

I developed the framework alongside several coaches at Beyond the Mud and other organisations to ensure we had a wide range of expertise and opinions. The framework is built upon a natural progression of which skills a rider would need, from beginning their journey into the world of bikes, on green trails, all the way up to becoming a racer or free rider!

I have laid out the 9 column with 6 sub categories. Each sub category is a skill the rider must complete. Once the rider has completed all 6 and demonstrated them to the coaches they can be awarded their Tag, (a coloured paracord bracelet) their certificate and a poster. Once complete the rider can move onto the next column.

You might note the sliding scale of colours along the bottom of the poster. This indicates the trails the riders skill level would best suit. These are aligned with international trail grading markers to keep riders safe.

Here at Beyond the Mud we use this system during our summer camps and when working with groups of children on the trails. We have also started using this ethos with adults we coach too.

A Comprehensive Guide to Mountain Biking

A Comprehensive Guide to Mountain Biking

Welcome to Beyond the Mud!

As passionate mountain biking enthusiasts, we are thrilled to present this comprehensive guide that will equip you with the knowledge and skills necessary to embark on your mountain biking adventures. Whether you’re a beginner exploring this exhilarating sport or a seasoned rider looking to enhance your skills, this guide will provide valuable insights and tips to help you navigate the trails with confidence and joy.

So, let’s dive into the world of mountain biking and discover the thrill that awaits you!

1. Gear Up for Success: Before hitting the trails, it’s essential to have the right gear. Start with a well-fitting helmet, gloves, and comfortable clothing suitable for the weather conditions. Invest in a mountain bike that matches your riding style and preferences. Ensure your bike is properly maintained, with brakes in good working order, and suspension adjusted to your weight and riding terrain.

2. Master the Basics: Understanding the fundamentals of mountain biking is crucial. Learn proper body positioning, such as bending your elbows and knees, keeping your weight centered, and looking ahead. Practice shifting gears and using your brakes effectively with one finger. Develop your balance and coordination by maneuvering over obstacles, cornering, and braking safely. Building a strong foundation will boost your confidence and set you up for success on the trails.

3. Choose the Right Trail: Selecting the right trail is key to an enjoyable mountain biking experience. Start with beginner-friendly trails, (green and blue at trail centres) that offer smooth terrain and gentle slopes. As your skills progress, gradually challenge yourself with more technical trails featuring steeper climbs, descents, and obstacles. Research local trail systems, consult trail difficulty ratings, and seek recommendations from fellow riders or local bike shops to find trails that match your skill level and desired experience.

4. Safety First: Mountain biking can be exhilarating, but safety should always be a top priority. Ride within your limits and be aware of your surroundings. Carry a basic repair kit, including tools, spare tubes, bacon bits and a pump, to handle minor mechanical issues on the trail. Stay hydrated, protect yourself from the sun, and apply insect repellent when necessary. Lastly, inform someone about your riding plans and ride with a buddy whenever possible. Both Garmin and Strava have beacon technology so loved ones can track your activity and be notified if there is a problem.

5. Skills Development: To become a more proficient mountain biker, dedicate time to skills development. Attend mountain biking clinics or workshops to learn from experienced riders and instructors. Practice specific techniques, such as tackling steep descents, navigating switchbacks, and climbing efficiently. Work on improving your balance, bike handling, and trail awareness. With consistent practice and a growth mindset, you’ll steadily progress and conquer new challenges. Take a look at our courses here.

6. Respect the Environment: As mountain bikers, we have a responsibility to protect the environment we ride in. Stay on designated trails, respect trail closures, and avoid disturbing wildlife and vegetation. Leave no trace by carrying out your rubbish and minimising your impact on the surroundings. Participate in trail maintenance and advocacy efforts to ensure the sustainability and preservation of the trails for future generations.

Congratulations! With this comprehensive guide to mountain biking from Beyond the Mud, you are equipped with the knowledge and skills to embrace the excitement and challenges of this incredible sport. Remember, mountain biking is not just about conquering trails; it’s about immersing yourself in nature, pushing your limits, and experiencing the thrill of two wheels on the dirt. So, gear up, explore new trails, and let the adventure begin with Beyond the Mud as your guide! Happy riding, and may your mountain biking journeys be filled with exhilaration, discovery, and unforgettable experiences!

Easter Mountain Bike Camps

Easter Mountain Bike Camps

Over the Easter holidays we were delighted to welcome over 50 children to our camps. Using the new ITAG framework which we helped design each group from beginners to advance level riders worked on their trail skills and bike handling working towards the new ITAG grades.

Each ‘grade’ is achieved by the riders being able to do six skills, these skills are tailored to suit the grade of the trail the rider can then complete safely. At the end of each grade the riders get a band which shows the colour trail they are now ready to safely negotiate.

Over Easter we awarded several beginner (green) trail bands and a few learner (yellow) bands too. The idea of the grades is to help riders understand what they need to focus on to become better as they have a clear pathway to follow.,It also helps coaches know what riders should be able to achieve already in a competent manner.

If you would like to join us this May our bookings are now open. 

Get on your bike this summer, join our mountain bike camps

Get on your bike this summer, join our mountain bike camps

Hit the trails this summer with our highly qualified and passionate coaches. Ready to take your young mountain bikers skills to the next level. We have camps for all abilities and our aim is to deliver a fun
filled session which builds confidence and ability riding off road.

Get on your bike this summer, join our mountain bike camps for children aged 6 to 15. The aim of our camps is for children and teenagers to learn in a safe and fun environment. Enjoy time outside and get to meet
new friends all whilst learning how to be a better mountain biker.

Mountain bike kids camps based from Queen Elizabeth Country Park, we offer fun filled coaching sessions for children 6+. Bookings open now.

Beginners Camps – on these mountain bike camps for beginners we look at the principles of riding a bike off road safely from body position, pedalling and gear selection. Our beginners camps tend to be for riders aged between 5 and 8 years old. However if you have an older rider who is not used to riding off road we would suggest starting here.

Intermediate Camps – these are perfect for riders aged 7 to 11 who are used to riding off road single track trails graded green and blue. On our intermediate mountain bike camp we shall build on their skills working with each young rider to improve their bike handling and confidence. Techniques they may learn could include front wheel lifts, manuals and track stands.

Advance Camps – For riders over 11 years old riding blue and red trails with confidence. On these camps we may include the fundamentals of jumping, race practise and drops. These camps are sometimes run from a private location near Frimley or from Queen Elizabeth Country Park.

All sessions are designed to be fun and challenge all abilities of cyclist. By keeping the groups small we will work with each young rider to help them achieve their full potential.

Adventure Rides – Come and explore the South Downs National Park with us, mountain bike adventures for the over 8’s. Rides will include basic map reading, plenty of rest and snack stops, mountain biking related games, basic map reading and trail skills as well as the chance to have a real outdoor adventure. Our 3-hour adventure rides are suitable for competent riders, able to use their gears effectively, over 8 years old, riding blue trail centres with confidence on both the ups and the downs.

How to Improve Nutrition & Recovery – Insights from Elite Cycling Coach, Scott Bugden

How to Improve Nutrition & Recovery – Insights from Elite Cycling Coach, Scott Bugden

In this video, Coach, Scott Bugden from Swiss Cycling Track Team explains to Michael how you can use nutrition and recovery to optimise your cycling performance.

Michael is a Level 3 British Cycling coach who works with cyclists across a range of disciplines, developing fitness, skills and competitive performance. He is a keen bike racer, currently focusing on Downhill and Enduro MTB. He has a strong endurance background, having raced at a National Level in XC, Road, and Cyclocross.


To get in touch with Michael about performance coaching please head to his website RideAbout.

Mountain Biking adventures for kids

Mountain Biking adventures for kids

Over the summer holidays we ran our famous mountain bike camps for kids, these 90 minute sessions are all about building trail skills for young riders in a fun and relaxed environment where they can learn at their own speed and have plenty of time to practise their new skills. All camps take place from our base at Queen Elizabeth Country Park in Horndean, Hampshire.

Every child gets a medal as a well done at the end of the session.

Our mountain bike camps are suitable for riders as young as 5 providing they are able to use their brakes properly and have no stabilisers. We split the children into ability categories as much as possible because this means they learn with those at a similar level. We run three groups beginner, intermediate and advance. Our advance camps take place from Queen Elizabeth Country Park as well as a secret location in Surrey.

All of our coaches are British Cycling qualified making sure we deliver the best in grass roots coaching and beyond. Our camps run in every school holiday and dates can be found on the website as well as our social media channels. If you would like more information on camps or any other riding query please get in touch.

Here are a few pictures from our camps.