OutdoorNI.com does…Mountain Biking
Posted on November 7, 2012 @ 11:08 AM in
OutdoorNI.com does Mountain Biking is the latest in our regular blog feature OutdoorNI.com does - which is our opportunity to showcase the exciting outdoor activities available in Northern Ireland.
OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson spent an afternoon mountain biking with Rock and Ride Outdoors at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre. Here’s how she got on…
With Northern Ireland set to become the go to place for Mountain Biking in 2013 I decided it was time to learn a thing or two from the Mountain Biking experts at Rock and Ride Outdoors. A collective of three of Ireland's most qualified and experienced outdoor instructors the company offers introductory sessions, skills courses, coaching and qualifications in Mountain Biking, Rock Climbing, Mountain Skills and Mountaineering.
I wasn’t the only keen one from the office and so it wasn’t long until a few of us were heading down to Tollymore National Outdoor Centre to meet Ian Bailey aka the Rock and Ride mountain bike expert. A biking fanatic with over 25 years of MTB experience he is one of only two qualified MBLA tutors in Ireland allowing him to deliver the industry leading Trail Cycle Leader courses, the internationally recognised MTB leadership and guiding qualification – so we knew we were in good hands! Never one to be a ‘look, no hands’ kind of girl I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive about the whole thing. After a quick introduction ‘Hi my name’s Sarah and I don’t like speed or corners’ it was clear Ian was going to have his work cut out, thankfully this didn’t phase him and he was confident he would make a mountain biker out of me by the end of the session.
Gloves, helmet and shin pads on (I was taking all the protection I could get!) it was time to hit the saddle. Wanting to see how well we rode, our first mission was to ride around on the safety of flat tarmac. As we rode about Ian kept a watchful eye on us all to see where our strengths, or in my case weaknesses lay in order to make the training as beneficial and unique to each individual as possible.
Our first lesson of the day was all about weight shifting – one of the most basic yet essential skills needed for any mountain biker. This involved us all having a laugh as we attempted to sit on our back wheel and ‘kiss’ our front wheel. Next it was time for the fun part, wheelie time! A crucial element to master before hitting any trails. Having never successfully pulled off one in my childhood I was excited at the prospect. It’s a shame it doesn’t carry as much kudos when your 23 year olds as opposed to 7 but better late than never! After amusing Ian with our feeble attempts he soon relented and showed us how it’s supposed to be done giving us tips and encouragement as we rode round - I’ve never seen somebody be so enthusiastic about a half an inch high wheelie! We then tackled manuals (a type of wheelie that can be done at speed and relies on weight shifting). As we perfected our technique, working on an individual basis Ian helped us develop our skills whether this be pushing the more experienced to go that little bit further or getting me to do a manual without bursting a blood vessel from concentration! Putting what we had learned into practice we then tested our skills on our first obstacle – the curb, proving you don’t need a purpose built trail system in your back garden to practice technique. Manuals sorted it was then time to attempt the trickier rear wheel lift. Explained and executed effortlessly by Ian lets just say it didn’t come as easy to some of us! However we were reassured that this was pretty hard to tackle so practice was needed.
Now we had learned the basics properly Ian assured us we were equipped to deal with anything that came our way on the Tollymore skills course - a purpose built 1.5km course packed with technical features. Although slightly tentative on my first time around the course, the time spent at the start of the session had given me new found confidence to have a go at things I never thought I could have handled on a bike previously. After winding round the trail it wasn’t long until we all stopped to tackle the first main obstacle of our route – a narrow log ride. One by one everyone attempted to keep their balance, at this point I was more than happy to volunteer as official photographer but after watching everyone else I decided to man up and give it a go. Somehow I managed to not even make it onto the log, falling off on the run up instead – a new record I’m sure. However with nothing hurt but my pride it wasn’t long until I was taking inspiration from that 90s chumbawamba classic ‘I get knocked down but I get up again’! Whilst I opted to keep trying this others in the group tackled the boardwalk berm successfully showing what some expert knowledge and the right instruction can achieve. Second time round I knew what to expect and took on the trail with a lot more confidence. I may not have broken any speed records but the adrenaline was most definitely still there!
Speaking from a complete beginners point of view I learnt a lot from the session and feel one hundred percent more equipped to ride on off-road trails than I did before. However I can also safely say that the more experienced participants in the group found it just as beneficial if not more so with the expert instruction allowing them to take their skills to the next level. The topic of conversation in the office the following morning, it didn’t take us long to come to the unanimous decision that mountain biking with Rock and Ride Outdoors is a must!
Rock and Ride Outdoors
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Our session was just a taster of what is covered on the Rock and Ride core skills session (which includes a few very handy maintenance tips) so whether you want to start from scratch or are a novice mountain biker who wants to up your game this is the perfect course for you!