• Leigh

Skills Coaching Weekend - Day 2

We awoke to rain and high winds - wonderful, asking for two days of decent weather at the start of February was a bit much to expect and we had been lucky the day before with the glorious sunshine but I did initially think it would have been much nicer if it was sunny and dry !

The plan for today was to meet Andy at Lady Cannings between 8 and 8.30am and spend some time on the trails there putting some of the skills we had learnt the day before into practice, we would then move onto more natural terrain out in the Peaks where I would be forced to meet my nemesis head on - Rocks !

Let me expand on this weird fear of rocks.... There is no logical reason behind it, I've never had an 'off' on rocks or hurt myself on rocks but I have always had this illogical fear of riding them. I think my brain believes that if I crash on loam then it's 'soft' whereas if I crash on rocks then it will not be pleasant, it also see rocks as slippery surfaces and wet rocks as the MTB equivalent of riding on an ice rink. There is probably some sort of stupid logic in this but because of that I have tended to avoid very rocky areas and trails - especially if they involved steep descents as well, this was something I wanted to get sorted.

We loaded the van and set off for Lady Cannings, the drive there was spent mainly in rain, drizzle, mist and fog but we made good time and managed to avoid the mad people who were running up and down the roads near Lady Cannings in dark clothing with no sort of lights or reflective clothing - did they not realise it was foggy/misty/rainy and they were barely visible ???

We arrived about 8am and pulled up next to Andy in the car park, "The view is wonderful over there" Andy stated pointing at a bank of fog and mist in front of us - we would have to take his word for it as at this time you literally couldn't see further than 30ft (the pictures below are when we got back to the cars at the end of the day so you can see he wasn't joking about the view). We unloaded the bikes, got kitted up and I realised I left my knee armour at home, oh well I now have to face rocks, actually wet slippery rocks and without any armour - I'm sure I'll be fine (well that's what I kept saying in my head lol !)

We started the climb to the trail head and straightaway realised that wearing our glasses may be a problem today, the mist/drizzle/fog/rain mix (yes there really was all those elements) quickly covered the lenses with a fine mist of water which made vision difficult and as soon as you stopped you steamed up. So now I have to face rocks, wet slippery rocks, with no armour and limited vision.....

We did a top to bottom run of Cooking on Gas which is a great trail to get ourselves warmed up a bit, trying to remember everything from the day before and putting that into practice. We then spent time sessioning some of the berms learning the best lines, body positioning, where and how to brake, foot and crank position etc slowly building up speed and confidence. We were very fortunate as at this time we still had the whole place almost to ourselves - I suspect the weather had put people off as it was still wet and misty and there was a lot of glasses cleaning and defogging going on lol !

On one of the runs down my Wife Celeste (you remember her from the earlier blog post - she's the one with a hint of hooligan about her lol) decided to exit a berm in a more unconventional way.... She was leading us down the trail and entered a left hand berm nice and high and at some speed, perhaps a little too high and perhaps a little too fast and realising this she focussed on the top edge of the berm which was her undoing as that is where she left the trail to go have a lie down in the undergrowth. I suspect if she kept looking where she was meant to be heading she'd have made it.

When Andy and I got to the scene she was sitting in a hole waiting for us to come and pick her up ! She had managed to break the peak off her helmet, scratch her face on some brambles and collect a number of bruises but on the whole was in one piece - more importantly the bike was also OK ! We fished her out the hole, Andy cleaned up her scratches and checked over the bike before we headed back down the trail to the end. During this time just like we did at the downhill runs the day before at Pines we used this time to observe some other riders who had now turned up as the weather was trying to clear up a bit, as before it really was an eye opener to see how badly some people rode these trails but probably thought they were 'smashing them' !

The next stage of the day was to move onto the more natural trails and environment so we headed out of Lady Cannings on our way towards Blacka Moor and the infamous Devils Elbow. We headed up a fire road for a bit realising it was still raining once you got out of the woods and ended up at the top of a very rocky descent that led to the road we needed to get onto. Now I will be honest here and say that normally if presented with the descent that was before me I would probably have attempted it and almost certainly given up and walked the majority of it as my 'self preservation' mode would have kicked in - especially as it was still wet and drizzly and before me lay a descent of wet slippery rocks. Andy had a chat with us, gave me some extra pointers and set us off down the first section of the descent - OK so I didn't go down it like Steve Peat but I didn't do too bad in the end. We regrouped at the end of the first section and had a quick chat ready for the final descent to the road, now here I need to point out that my Wife loves this kind of terrain so was in her element so Andy sent me off first and told Celeste when possible she should pass me and just shout this to me when she was going to pass - now I was not having this, maybe this was some clever mental game by Andy to make sure I stayed off the brakes or just my male pride at not wanting to be overtaken by my Wife but that descent was faster and smoother (and rockier) than I have ever done and I never got passed..... At the bottom of the descent I looked back up to what I had just sailed over and really could not believe what I had achieved without any issues - what a confidence booster !!!!

There are some pretty good views to be had...

A short road section followed and then we were at the top of Devil's Elbow - at the time I had no idea that's where we were as Andy informed us of that once we got to the bottom but he once again broke the descent into 3 sections, went through what we would encounter and how to approach it and off we went. Steep, wet, muddy, rooty, rocky all things I would not normally want to ride but I gave it a good go. There were a few bits where I took the wrong line and lost momentum and had to unclip (worth noting riding this sort of terrain until you're experienced with it is probably best done on flats) but I got down the first section still in one piece. The second section was the hardest and but I kept going and finally got my 'flow' on the final section and got to the bottom almost looking like I knew what I was doing ! Celeste needless to say found it far less difficult but at the end of the day she didn't pass me on the previous descent so that's all that matters lol ! Some things that got reinforced from this descent is your tyres grip WAY more than you give them credit for, look ahead not down, speed is your friend and clipping back in can become really difficult just when you don't want it to be - and the main thing for me was that I was so busy focussing on riding the best line my brain didn't have a chance to think 'wet rocks your going to slide and crash' which in a way helped me trust my bike a lot more !

We then started on the long climb back out which involved some walking and pushing of bikes where we were overtaken by an E-biker as he 'drove' his way up the hill - we met him again a little further up the trail where he had his bike upside down as he had a puncture and broken off his valve. Rather unfortunate for him he had no spare tube, so we gave him one of ours, he also had no tyre levers which were duly loaned or pliers which we lent him too - in the end Andy even put the tyre back on the rim for him ! He really did not strike me as someone who really knew what he was doing - sadly for him with his 2.8 tyres our 2.3 tubes really didn't inflate enough to allow him to ride so it was pushing time for him and his e-bike for the next 6 odd miles........

Andy and Celeste on our way back to Lady Cannings....

After some more walking/pushing/climbing we were at the top of the field and being blasted by rain and wind and heading back to Lady Cannings. The descent in was another long rocky track though not quite as steep as what we'd ridden previously but Andy explained that one side was far rockier than the other so we could take an easier line down if preferred. Now normally that would be where I would be heading, but with my new found confidence I headed to the right hand side and started to thread my way down, off the brakes, head up and I might even say I flowed to the bottom - rumour has it there was even a daft grin on my face !!

One final climb and we were back at the trail head with just enough time for a run down 'Blue Steel' which was a real blast and I managed to remember (almost) all that I had learned over the last couple of days and really enjoyed the run down until the horrible little climb out at the end.

Back to the car park, bikes put away, clothing changed, coffee poured and a good old chat about all things bike, all things we'd learned and the skills we now had to build on going forward.

So to sum up..... This whole weekend was awesome, I learnt so many things, I dealt with some demons and rode terrain that I would normally struggle with, I have more trust in myself and my bike's abilities and never felt once that I was being 'taught' - that's a point I think needs saying again, Andy's coaching style is so natural that you don't actually realise you're being coached, it just felt like I was out riding with a mate and I think that is why he is such a good coach. I've now added more skills I can build on and these will just let me draw even more enjoyment from my riding.

If you want to invest some money into your biking, yes you can go buy some shiny bling which may add something to your experience or you could invest that money into yourself and some coaching - believe me you will get far more from that than any shiny part ! I will certainly be booking further sessions with Andy in the future.

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