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New bike or new skills?


You may think that investing in a better bike will give you more confidence but why not try upgrading your skills instead? A few coaching sessions can go a long way towards you having more fun on a wider range of terrain. It’s definitely cheaper than buying a new bike.

I started mountain biking in my mid thirties. Not a clue how to do it so I just made it up as I went along. I would often bombard experienced riders with “how do I slow down without going over the bars” type questions. They were very patient with me and I did slowly improve.

So a few years after starting my mountain biking journey I decided to book a coaching session.  I had to go right back to basics, even to just where I placed my feet on the pedals. My confidence did increase, I felt less like a passenger on my bike, but after a while I plateaued. I was happy riding cross country but anything too steep/rocky/rooty would often see me tighten up. It was frustrating as I knew half of it was just a mental block.

Having met Al and Ed from Pedal Mtb quite a few times I knew that they would be great to work with. I’d run a coaching/yoga weekend before. We’d had lots of great feedback and I was keen to run another. After chatting to Ed he kindly offered me a place on a coaching day at Coed Y Brenin. I could check out how they operate and see whether it fitted with my events.

As I sat in the Coed Y Brenin café holding a warm coffee and looking out over the misty conifers I thought about the day ahead. I was signed onto their Tech Course. Challenging terrain, roots, steep sections and drop offs. Would I cope?

We spent most of the morning playing on a flattish section of fire road. Sound easy, boring maybe? Far from it. It was mild for November and Ed’s drills had us peeling off layers. We went over the basics and practiced cornering, manualing and pumping.  Ed made some excellent points about where most of us go wrong and how to put it right. He explained the pump in the best way I’ve ever heard. It made sense.

After a play on the skills area (where I actually manualed at the top of a roller like a pro – woohoo)  we headed towards my nemesis. A section of wet roots with a rocky rooty drop that I always sneakily get off and walk down, well not today. No chance of escape. Ed showed us the best line, I gave myself a little pep talk, took a deep breath and just rode it. It felt good. I had conquered something. I could see that having the few nuggets of information about how to approach obstacles and using the right body position made a massive difference in the mental game. It’s not a new thing but it felt like a lightbulb moment to me. I am always teaching people to stand up taller and guess what, it works on a bike too.

After a quick lunch we rode out onto the trails. My other nemesis Cain was first up. This trail is hard. Its rocky, technical and doesn’t flow. After a rubbish first attempt I went round again. This time with Ed’s encouragement I rode the whole section for the first time.  We continued around the trails using all of the techniques we had learnt that morning and what a difference it made. On our return we were shattered but buzzing.

Since then I’ve held onto that confidence. I’m riding faster, cornering more smoothly  and riding more efficiently. I still need to master the elusive bunny hop but I can’t believe how my riding improved from just one focussed day.

We have a coaching and yoga weekend at the end of March. So if you feel like your riding needs a leg up then why not join us and see what happens.

From terrified to tearing up the trails. A days coaching can put a big smile on your face

This post is from my heart and was originally posted at VeloVixen for their Cycle Happy stories.


As a mountain bike guide I ride with a lot of different people. In any group of riders there can be a huge range of abilities and fitness. Something that I notice is how riders with maybe (but not always) less technical ability or fitness than other people in the group tend to give themselves a hard time. This has two effects.  It drains energy. Constant worry and stress about not being good enough or about making people wait is literally a huge waste of energy that you could be using to ride up the next climb. It also just puts your mind into a negative cycle and you can defeat yourself before you have even started. Thinking “I am rubbish on hills” or “I am going to be the slowest” is setting yourself up to be just that. Its much better to give yourself positive affirmations and set up a more positive loop in your mind. When I am teaching yoga I often tell people before attempting a difficult looking pose – see yourself doing it first. Its amazing the effect of creating a mental image of success has. I use this technique myself on a regular basis. Lastly apologizing constantly to people tends to get a bit old. Try saying “thank you for waiting” instead and see the difference in the way people will respond.

The point I am trying to make is something that I try to encourage both in Yoga classes and when I am guiding. You are good enough. We put ourselves under so much pressure that the very things that we are there to enjoy become burdens. So what if you are slow up that big climb, even if you get off and push. You are there to enjoy the ride, spend time outside and be sociable.  Each time you ride your fitness will improve, you will ride further and maybe faster.

If you enjoy the experience instead of beating yourself up chances are that you will want to ride more.

I’m not saying that we shouldn’t make an effort to improve our skills or our fitness. Its just the attitude we do it with that makes the difference. Not being afraid to fail, give things a go. I am going to do it anyway even if I don’t make it then at least I have tried! The very fact that you are out there riding a bike and having a go instead of sitting on the sofa doing nothing means that you are more than good enough.

Being positive about yourself also gives other people permission to do that too – it’s a win win situation. It is also an attitude that tends to permeate the rest of your life which can only be a good thing. So enjoy riding your bike and lets create an inclusive community within cycling to encourage more people to enjoy the sport.