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by Darren N Thu Sep 16, 2010 9:14 pm
About a month ago I went on my very first mountain bike trail ride in Dalby Forest with my family and found that I was absolutely clueless in terms of technical skills. I struggled up and down trail hairpins like a lame elephant, fell over logs like a blind giraffe and rolled down descents like a pregnant walrus. I loved the fun of it all but desperately needed to acquire some skills…or trainer wheels!

After speaking with Clifton CC’s own Simon Weston, he kindly arranged for me to take a mountain bike skills course last Saturday, 11th Sept, with Astounding Adventures ( - and it was a fantastic day! I did the full day ‘Fundamentals skills’ course at Yearsley Moor. The course included body positioning (free wheeling out of the saddle with no hands!), dynamic weight shift (flying along with my butt over the back wheel and chin on the saddle), effective braking (stopping suddenly at speed without skidding - because ‘skids are for kids!’), negotiating trail obstacles (leaping logs with ‘manuals’, ie. shopping trolley straight arm pushes), cornering skills (sailing down a slalom course at speed) and negotiating steep terrain (launching down descents without a parachute!).

It was a fascinating day! There were 3 coaches (Jessica, Danielle & Simon) for 9 students. I borrowed my son’s very basic mountain bike, had no mtb-specific gear and rode in hiking boots! I not only learned what to do, but importantly why to do it. I now understand the various forces which apply to a moving bike and how best to harness those forces for my own benefit. These skills not only apply to mountain bikers looking to rapidly progress their existing technical competencies, they also translate readily to roadies looking to vastly improve their technical skills on descents, brake areas and tight corners. All road racers should take note, I wish I’d acquired this knowledge years ago!

At the end of the day, we were taken on a guided one-hour blast around the trails of Yearsley Forest and I found my bike-handling ability had sky-rocketed to a near-stellar level. I was hurdling roots and fallen logs without braking, I was hurtling down steep, muddy descents with a strange sense of control and was flying through trail chicanes without dropping speed. When I look back at my first trail ride at Dalby Forest a month ago, I had transformed from a timid toddler on trainer wheels to a half-pipe hero; and the best bit was – the fun factor was increased exponentially! So if any mountain biker or roadie wants to take their cycling skills to a whole new level, check out Astounding Adventures, or even better, have a chat with Simon W. There obviously are more advanced courses available as well. Now I just need to buy a bike so that I can have a go at Mtb Marathons! :)

One of the other participants on the Course was fellow Clifton MTB rider, Emila Z. Emila sent me some of her thoughts about the course, detailed here:

“I am really pleased that I signed up for the Astounding Adventures MTB Foundation skills course run on 11 September 2010. I was not sure what to expect and how much I could get out of this course but it was a real eye opener in terms of how much there is to embrace, learn or improve on my current riding. Although I am quite a mountain biking novice, I felt quite confident in my riding abilities and I was assuming that the skills would come with experience rather than course tricks! I could not have been more wrong.

Danielle, Jess and Simon within couple of hours had shown me how to apply the simple laws of physics to ensure that I stop when I need to, get over the obstacle easier, tackle the corners with more skill and ultimately become a faster and better rider. They showed me how important is the positioning on the bike and focusing on my vision ahead. I will now definitely think about and try to apply all the things I was shown so that they become second nature and I can get rid of bad riding habits.

I was also really impressed with how much attention was put into making sure that each rider on the course received instant feedback which helped to improve skills in jumps, cornering or braking with every attempt. Practice is everything!

Also, if you are a girl who does not really know much about how your bike works or even if it is actually safe to ride, as part of the course you will be shown some simple checks you can do yourself before setting off. Priceless!

I would recommend this course to everyone who wants to be serious about mountain biking, gain more confidence and learn from professional riders in a really friendly and fun atmosphere.”

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