• Leigh

Skills Coaching Weekend - Day 1

So where do I start with this one, perhaps it should be to admit that like most people I think (or should that say thought) I had a good idea about my abilities on a bike and I wasn't too bad a rider. Like most I have picked things up along the way, watched YouTube videos, read articles etc. and knew what I was good at and what I wasn't and tended to do the things I was good at and avoid the things I wasn't - also worth pointing out here I also avoided the things I didn't like and wasn't comfortable with as well but suspect that's the same for most people - it's about fun at the end of the day isn't it ?

I've thought about going on training and skills courses previously but like a lot of things it never happened so last year when trying to decide what to get the Wife for Christmas the idea of a day's skills coaching came into my head - at this time it was a days course for her but over time this morphed into a weekend of training and skills coaching for us both which I want to tell you a little bit more about now.

The first choice was who to get as a coach, well there really wasn't a choice in all honesty as it had to be Andy Hampshire at Performance MTB

I've known Andy for a number of years and regard him as a good friend, I've seen him coach people before from the club I belong to and I know he is very passionate about helping people achieve their goals. He'd also ridden with us both before so had a good idea about our current abilities so we got in touch with Andy and booked in a weekend's coaching.

First step was completing the Rider's Profile which gave an in depth breakdown of our experience, how we rated ourselves in a number of areas and any areas where we wanted to focus - I was totally honest on it and scored myself truthfully pointing out my bad points (fair few of those) and my good points (far less of these). There were then more conversations with Andy to expand on some of these points which allowed him to tailor the two days specifically to our needs.

Day one arrived and we headed to Sherwood Pines with the added bonus of the sun deciding to come out which made me question the three layers I was wearing ! A quick chat and we started with some back to basics...

Now we all know how to brake and corner don't we ? Well the fact is you probably don't do it nearly as well as you could - Andy took us through how we SHOULD be doing it, laid out some cones and got us practicing whilst he video'd us so he could show us where we needed to work on areas. I've always had a problem turning right lol, left hand turns/berms/bends no issue but turning right has always been far less natural for me - some extra focus on that and I soon lost that problem. More coaching and further advice coupled with the braking session we started the day with both tied together perfectly and really had me cornering faster and smoother than I have ever done previously or even thought possible!

Next came 'the Skinny' - there is probably a correct term for what it was but imagine a piece of wood no wider than your tyres which you had to ride onto and then ride the length of - sounds easy doesn't it, well it is once you know how to do it properly but starting off was quite hilarious as I managed only a few feet (more likely inches) if lucky ! Once you focussed on what you needed to do it came naturally but stopping yourself from reverting back to bad habits was difficult to overcome !

Next was bunny hopping - an essential skill for out on the trail but one few people can actually do - starting with small ones and working ourselves up to bigger logs Andy took us through popping the front wheel and lifting the rear to get over obstacles - doing one wheel or the other isn't that hard, the skill is turning them into one fluid movement...... Nearly forgot - we also did a session on track stands too - where I learnt my balance was best described as crap, I will blame the very high winds that day for my inability to remain still !

Then we moved onto the Sender Ramp and straight away my Wife Celeste moved into her comfort zone and found this the easiest skill to learn - anyone who knows her well will know she's a bit of a hooligan on the quiet....

Andy took us through how to launch and land properly and keep momentum going and helped you realise that the way you normally did it actually slows you down - just like cornering you think you're doing it right but you could do it SO much better - next stop Crankworx lol !! The funniest part for me was my Garmin exclaiming 'Great Jump' every time I did one !

And that took up all of the morning so it was time for a well earned break and some food.

The afternoon was to put some of these skills into practice and session certain areas to embed them - also a couple of new skills were learnt in between these sessions.

We first headed to somewhere knows as 'Carnage Corner' - those who know it will know what it's like but imagine a 180 degree right hander, you descend down a steep rooty track and right at the bottom hang a tight 180 right turn back on yourself straight back up another steep rooty off camber ascent - I have tried this dozens of times and NEVER made it round the bloody corner let alone back up the climb so didn't hold out hope of managing that but once again Andy broke it down into sections, gave tips and then WOW I did it ! I then did it again, and again and again and then instead of picking the easier line back up I was hitting the harder rootier line - I was doing Carnage Corner and doing it faster every time, my Nemesis, a corner that caught out professional XC riders at the NPS round, countless Time Trial riders and friends but I was managing it - I could have ended my MTB career there and been happy lol !!

Next came the quarter stroke/pedal technique - very useful when you roll up to an obstacle on the trail and need to clear it - not to mention handy for starting wheelies..... enough said.

To finish off day one we headed to the downhill runs - another opportunity for my Wife Celeste to let out her inner hooligan. Using the skills we learnt earlier in the day for launching/landing off drops etc we sessioned a few sections - this gave us a real opportunity to also watch other riders and you could quickly see how their techniques on the whole were much slower than the way Andy had shown us - momentum and flow were our friends !

We finally finished the day with a top to bottom run of one of the downhill runs and headed back to the car park all smiles, heads full of new skills and ready for day two. I'd learnt to trust myself more, definitely to have more trust in my bike and what it can do and I'd conquered Carnage Corner - what a day and loved every second of it.

Day 2 was to include Lady Cannings and some of the Peaks - I will write that up soon and get that published - that day was even better than this one !

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