First Step towards Adventure - Mountain Bike Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre
Posted on July 28, 2016 @ 10:57 AM in
With mountain biking becoming increasingly popular in Northern Ireland, isn't it about time you got a handle of it?! Find out how OutdoorNI’s Bev Pierson got on when she spent a day learning the basics at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre.
Having bought a shiny new mountain bike last year (but not really knowing how to ride it properly) I booked myself onto Tollymore National Outdoor Centre’s First Step Mountain Bike Skills Course, which is an introductory course to the skills required to ride mountain bike trails safely.
Tollymore National Outdoor Centre is located on the edge of Tollymore Forest Park with a beautiful backdrop of the Mourne Mountains. Making the setting even more spectacular was the fact that on the day of my course there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun shined all day!
After arriving at the centre and waiting for the others to arrive, I was able to have a quick chat and a coffee with others who had arrived before me as I was curious to see why they had booked onto the course. Some of them had heard about the new mountain bike trails and wanted to give them a go and thought this course would give them the confidence, one lady had been bought the course for mother’s day and some of the women just wanted to get out and try something new. Our two instructors for the day were Emma and Amy, who were both excellent at delivering and tailoring the course to the group but were also very approachable making the day really relaxed and comfortable.
But before we were able to do any mountain biking it was off to the stores to get sized up for some essentials…a bike, a helmet and some gloves.
We started the day off in the centre’s car park practising the position of the pedals on a bike (which should be in the same position of the arms on a clock if they were placed at 9am and 3pm) and shifting our weight back and forward on the bike to improve our balance. To put our skills into action we were given a limbo kind of exercise to try, instead of having to explain it I made sure I took a photo of one of the ladies doing it…
Next up was to give the weight shifting a go on the centre’s skills course, which has been designed for this exact reason. I found it’s really only once you get onto this type of terrain that you really feel the difference when you apply the skills you’ve just learnt. Before our mid-morning coffee break we spent some time learning to ‘pop up’ onto kerbs in order to gain the skills to help get over rocks and obstacles whilst out mountain biking. The next item on the agenda was to master the art of braking and cornering as these are very important skills to have when out on the trails and again we practised them in the car park before using our new found skills out on the skills course. This took us all the way up to lunch where we rewarded with a delicious bowl of homemade soup and sandwiches. Though what I was really looking forward to was the famous chocolate brownies that the instructors had been talking about all morning which we enjoyed on the terrace of the centre with a cup of coffee whilst the sun beamed down on us.
After lunch it was time to pull everything together that we had just learnt and put it all into practise on the trails around the centre. This was definitely the highlight of the day for me as we got to mountain bike through the dense and dark forest with the sun glimmering down through the trees and at one point even encountered some buzzards circling above us. The trails we were riding really tested us on all the skills we had learnt that day especially when having to shift our weight backwards so we could tackle a steep downhill section - which we all tried and succeeded in not falling off!
Once back at the centre everyone was raving about their day and were even enquiring about the next course they could do. I think everyone on the course will agree with me when I say that I learnt far more than what I expected to from the day and tackled obstacles and drops off that I never thought I would have been able to! All thanks to Emma and Amy!
Beginner, intermediate and advanced courses are available at Tollymore National Outdoor Centre whether you are coming alone or looking to book in a group for a session. As well as mountain biking the centre deliver a range of courses including, canoeing, navigation and climbing. So don't miss out and contact the centre directly to find out more.
Click here to read part 2 of this blog series and find out how OutdoorNI's Sarah Nelson got on when she attended one of Tollymore's First Steps Canoeing Skills courses- 'First steps towards Adventure- Canoeing Skills with Tollymore National Outdoor Centre'