A beginners guide to mountain biking

A beginners guide to mountain biking

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

  1. 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

I hope you found this helpful! For more mountain bike coaching advice please subscribe to my newsletter.

Happy trails!

Guest Post – Jayne Thompson Wild Camping

Guest Post – Jayne Thompson Wild Camping

Hi sorry for the lack of blogging lately I have been working on a really exciting project and it has taken up a lot of time. More on that to follow….

My next guest post is by Jayne who I met on the Whole Earth video shoot with Challenge Sophie. Jayne has been on some incredible bike packing adventures and is a wild camping expert! So I thought it would be great if she could share with us a wild camping, bike packing story.

I’m a 33 year old northern lass living in London who loves to escape the city. I was introduced to hiking and camping about five years ago and it soon consumed my weekends and holidays. Then three years ago I started cycling and last year chased my dream of going on a long bikepacking trip.

I quit my job after ten years in the IT industry and set off for the Scottish Hebrides islands for a solo twelve week trip which entailed many nights of wild camping along beautiful secluded coastlines. There is nothing quite like the feeling of waking up surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature and you don’t always have to go on a long trip or holiday to enjoy a night of wild camping.

My first wild camping experiences happened back in 2015 when a friend and I decided to embark upon a year of Microadventures which involved a wild camp night once a month on a ‘school night’.I was very lucky to have a friend crazy enough to join me because it can be a daunting prospect to consider going out for your first wild camp with someone, let alone doing it solo. So, when I saw a post on the Adventure Queens Facebook group earlier this month from someone wanting some company on their first wild camp, I jumped at the chance to help a fellow camper and to make a new friend.

This is the story of our camp out in the New Forest

Guest Post by Chris Astill-Smith on swimming the English channel for charity

Guest Post by Chris Astill-Smith on swimming the English channel for charity

I’m Chris Astill-Smith, 25 years old from Devizes, Wiltshire. There were a couple of reasons why I chose to swim the channel, the first one being that I wanted to set myself a serious challenge, a challenge that would only be possible with a lot of hard work and dedication. I’ve always been a strong swimmer since a young age but never a professional. I used to swim for my local club from ages 12-18 and was more of a sprint swimmer, so when I decided to swim the English Channel I had no endurance experience, let along open water experience. The second reason was that I wanted to raise money for a small charity, one that was close to my heart called Dreams Come True. Dreams Come True is a small U.K charity that helps kids with life-limiting conditions achieve their dreams. I didn’t want to choose a large charity, where all my fundraising efforts would just get spent on admin or marketing costs, I truly wanted to be able to help those that needed it the most. In total £23,500 was raised for DCT from my swim and I’m so happy to have been able to meet lots of the children who’ve directly benefited.
 My 3 top tips for anyone thinking about swimming the channel would be:
1) Take on other big swims prior & learn from your mistakes. I took on Lake Windermere a year before my English Channel swim. Lake Windermere is an 18km swim in the Lake District. After only 4 months of training this was a huge challenge and to this day it still remains the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. I tore my right bicep tendon after about 10km and stupidly decided to carry on in such pain. It took 4 months of rehab to recover from that injury and had to completely change my technique. However, if that hadn’t of happened, I may of never decided to change my technique and never completed the Channel.
2) Test your feeding plan. It’s so important to keep testing which foods your body can handle while swimming. Numerous times my body would reject certain foods during my training which proved crucial to the big swim. Nutrition is so important when doing any long distance swim because without it your body just won’t be able to go the distance.
3) Don’t waste time in the water. Another big tip would be to not waste time taking breaks across the channel. First of all you have the tides pulling you up and down the Channel, so any time you’re not swimming you’re being pushed further up or down with the tides. The tides get much stronger closer to France so the closer you are to France before the tides change direction the more chance you’ll have of making it. Another reason why you don’t want to be wasting time in the water is that when you’re not moving you’re body is getting cold. You have to keep generating heat to keep warm. I was spending between 30-45 seconds on each feed, that was enough.

Guest Post – Basecamp Nutrition creators Michelle and Tom

Guest Post – Basecamp Nutrition creators Michelle and Tom

This post is a little different instead of a story of adventure I asked Michelle Reed creator of Basecamp Nutrition, bad ass mountain bike racer, and of course super team mate for the Bike Trans Alp to share some nutritional wisdom and recipe selection to getting those pedals turning through the winter.

But first.. an introduction from team Basecamp.

Hi everyone, my name is Michelle.

I am a South African currently living and working in Germany. I am a qualified BSc (Hons) Nutritional Scientist and currently completing a Nutritional Therapist diploma. I have a great passion for living a healthy lifestyle and helping others create the same for themselves and their families.

My aim is to further my studies to become a sports nutritionist and to always keep up with the latest and greatest in the world of nutrition, to educate those who require my services. 

Remember health is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.


Hey guys, my name is Tom.

I am currently living and studying in Bayreuth, Germany. I am doing my masters in Sports Economics with a focus on competitive sports. 

As a competitive cyclist, currently riding for a German mountain bike team, Kreidler, I have gained a lot of experience regarding what to eat and what to avoid.

With all the knowledge Michelle has and my experience as an athlete, we hope to present you with a lot of great recipes that will support your healthy lifestyle.

Never lose the fun when cooking and eating! The recipes presented here should only give you an idea. You can (and should) adapt them to your very individual taste.

Healthy recipes for winter training

 In my (Michelle’s) opinion an athletes performance revolves around 3 aspects; head strength, physical fitness and nutrition. Nutrition is one of the easiest ways to help improve performance and keep your body well conditioned.

Training through winter is never an easy process and it is the time of the year when many are preparing for their upcoming season. Come rain or snow training comes first to ensure you are earning that 1% over your competitors. The long hours in the saddle are accumulating to set up a strong base for the new season.

With intense training and a change in conditions, your body is put to the test in more ways than one, which makes taking care of it highly essential. This means supporting its processes in order to ensure that you are recovering quickly and not catching any colds along the way.

As a natural process with the increase in training, comes an increase in cortisol and inflammation. Cortisol is a stress hormone that is not only secreted at the sign of a stressor but also during intense and prolonged exercise. This natural increase has a tendency to lower immunity, which is why during this time many athletes battle with illness.

In order to help support your body by strengthening immunity, aiding digestion and absorption of nutrients and regulating inflammation, it is important to eat foods that hold the properties to do so.

Here are the links to our healthy recipes to keep you going through winter.

Breakfast – Warming raspberry oats

Lunch – Broccoli salad

Dinner – Pumpkin soup

It’s almost time for Autumn to say farewell and Winter to rock on!

It’s almost time for Autumn to say farewell and Winter to rock on!

Winter riding doesn’t have to be a frosty affair it can be good fun and very beautiful especially if you are prepared.

“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”

My advice would be look at what rides / training you want / need to do then head to trusty (or not so) BBC weather forecast and look at the week ahead this will help you plan longer rides on days when the weather is better and shorter sessions in the rain.

One thing to mention on this is that if you’re doing sprints, wet / icy weather and slippery roads are not a good combo so be ready to change your session accordingly if you can be flexible in your training around the weather and expect that, it will rain, you will get wet and it may be cold for the first 5 minutes until you warm up then riding will be enjoyable.

It is true what they say there is never the wrong weather just the wrong gear.


My top kit list would be:

  • Grip Grab overshoes – warm and dry feet make riding in wet and cold weather so much more comfortable. Make sure you buy a size that hugs your shoes I recommend The Hammerhead, it is a warm and waterproof coated neoprene winter shoe cover. Designed and tested to keep your feet warm and dry in wet and cold weather conditions.
  • Altura Night Vision Evo jacket this versatile jacket is labelled for ‘commuting’ however I love mine for every occasion it’s great for training the big vents on the sides give adequate breathability whilst knowing I have the waterproof and high visibility factors Altura say: The Night Vision Evo features lightweight, waterproof, windproof and breathable fabrics in a soft touch 2 Layer Altura Shield™ EVO fabric, which help to keep you both dry and warm on your rides. You then have the benefit of critically positioned reflective details and an ingenious integrated i-Lume™ rear flashing light to ensure you are easily seen. With the addition of NV360° performance you have 360 degrees of reflectivity for maximum after dark visibility from all angles.
  • The cloudburst glove from Grip Grab is waterproof and windproof glove, like slipping your hands into hot water bottle covers whilst you ride with a soft fleece lining. The OutDry® Waterproof and Breathable membrane makes the Cloudburst gloves that will serve you well as an all-round high-end glove.

Riding through winter tips:

  • Early mornings are stunning wake up and get out before the sun rises and watch it come up also a bonus around Christmas is seeing everyone’s Christmas lights!
  • Put a little warm water in your bottles if riding in freezing conditions to stop it freezing.
  • Get your kit on the radiator ready to go!
  • Check your tyre pressure riding in a lot of mud – decrease the air in your tyres to help with grip
  • Get a good pair of lights, ideally helmet and handle bar Exposure lights are fantastic but pricey for a cheaper option search amazing from 1000 lumen lights
  • Invest in thermal underwear and a good rain / windproof
  • Let people know where you’re going and how long you will be out

Great Glen Paddleboarding – Guest blog Helen Reed

Great Glen Paddleboarding – Guest blog Helen Reed

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Hi folks! Here is the second in my guest blog series from Helen Read.

Helen was always really active as a youngster, getting involved in anything and everything she could, but lost the outdoors in her 20s. When going through a period of anxiety and depression, her friends persuaded her to train for and attempt to hike the Welsh 3000 that reinvigorated her love for the mountains and fresh air.

Ever since she has been on a quest to live the adventurous life that she is truly passionate about and helps her regulate the stresses of daily life. Whenever she has the opportunity she will be up a hill (or possibly under one) or on the water generally avoiding cities. One downside of liking so many different adventure sports is that it takes a very long time to improve ability, so she is currently planning a year away from work living the van life round Europe in order to focus more time on each one.

Go Helen!



I woke up in my camper-van to a misty morning at the foot of Ben Nevis. It was the second week of my adventures in Scotland and I was feeling the difference between my normal office days and daily mountainous excursions that I’d had for the last 10 days.

By the time I persuaded myself to get up it was 10 and after stocking up on food for the coming trip I eventually found myself at the top of Neptune’s Staircase by lunchtime and the start of my adventure.

It was a strange feeling paddling away from my van and into the unknown, About 20 minutes in and Scotland did what Scotland does best as it started raining, luckily I was already togged up in my wetsuit (overkill) and waterproofs (entirely necessary) and it was a canal stretch so the water was calm, making negotiating the scout group not too troublesome.

Happy despite the rain

My first lock didn’t go entirely to plan. The first pair was inexplicably open so I paddled through, hoping there would be a landing stage in the middle that could hop out at so I’d only have to portage the last bit, but unfortunately not, so I had to paddle back out and walk around.

This was my first attempt at portaging and was not my most graceful. As it was such a long way I wanted to do it in one, so I put all my baggage in the paddle board bag (which luckily has wheels) with the paddle sticking out of the top, and the paddleboard in the other hand waddling up the tow-path, having to stop every 15m or so because my hand hurt. 20kg of board is quite a lot on one tiny handle! For future locks it wasn’t quite so far so I tended to do 2 trips, except for when the lovely lock-keeper at Loch Lochy insisted on giving me a hand.

It wasn’t long into my paddle that I realised I had forgotten to bring the little map that I had been given when I picked up a key for the lock facilities. So at that lock, I thought I’d carry on, still feeling pretty fresh at 4.30 because I started so late. That was a mistake.

Leaving Gairlochy

As I rounded the bend, heading east from Gairlochy lock, I discovered I had just set out on a loch. It wasn’t long before the exposure had let the wind pick up the water into little waves that made balancing extremely tricky and led me to resort to kneeling. I intended to follow the navigation buoys effectively through the middle of the loch, but not far into my voyage the topography to the west meant the wind began funnelling and it wasn’t long before I had been blown across to the east shore.

The waves seemed to be bigger the further down the lock I got and to keep direction I was paddling 3:1 on the right. Not wanting to fall in on day one I did my best not to end up side on into the waves.

Kneeling meant that all my balance and suspension was being done by my lower back, by the evening I was beginning to get back spasms and was in a lot of pain. I did find a couple of beaches that seemed to belong to hotels and in one instance wandered up to ask if there were any rooms because all I could dream about was a cosy bed, but I was out of luck.

Pretty sky, pain face

Meanwhile, there was a stunning sunset going on and I was torn between wanting the pain to stop and being so happy and grateful for being there at that moment to see it. I know it’s a view I could have gotten from a layby on the adjacent road, but feeling so isolated as the only person on an unpowered vessel in that whole loch just made it feel magic.

That solitude also let me give myself permission to cry, yelp and moo (don’t know why) every time my back seized up and there were points where I tried to stretch it out but got a wave to the face, so had to reserve that mostly for beaches.

The moment I first caught sight of the next lock was joyous though as it signalled the return to canals and I got an amazing night’s sleep even in my horrible little coffin tent.

Laggan Locks

The next day was completely different. The canal passed through woodland and had a Scandinavian feel about it. By lunchtime the cloud had burnt off and it was a lovely sunny day. At this point I wished I hadn’t got a wetsuit on as I was getting pretty toasty, but I hadn’t really bought any alternative clothes that I was willing to get wet- preferring to save my PJ’s for night time. On the plus side I didn’t get sunburn either!

Read about the rest of Helen’s trip on Trek and Trade Winds.

Top tips for getting started paddleboading:

1. Give it a go, most kayak places near still water now also hire out paddleboards so you can get a taster or whether it is for you.
2. Build up your confidence, there are sessions and lessons you can go to to improve your technique and make other paddling friends
3. Board selection: my board is inflatable so I can get it in my flat and big enough to hold 2 people so I wasn’t worried about bag weight; but there are some boards designed for surfing and other ways of riding. Decide how you want to ride (maybe do a taster of each type) and ask advice from the other people on the set up which will work for you.
4. Get out there! Stay safe and consider how the weather will effect you. Wind is hard to paddle against because your body acts like a sail and it picks up waves.

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