Nick Jackson reports on the club skills session with Chasing Trails at Dalby on Sunday 11th October. Attending were: Nick, Luke, Bren, Pete and Anne, Jackie, Siobhan, and Garth – plus Steve the trainer.
Drop-offs: my worst fear. Unfortunately my 13-year-old son decided to nail the huge one-foot drop on his first attempt. There was no room for me to cry off. But I managed it too, as did everyone else, using the new tricks we’d learned earlier in the day.
The day was designed to give everyone an insight to some basic but fundamental skills that would help us hit the more tricky trail obstacles with a little more enthusiasm. (If I hear ‘speed is your friend’ again, I think I’m going to cry.)
We met up at Dixon’s Hollow at ten o’clock, our trainer Steve did the introductions and we were soon underway. First up was braking. Use both, Steve told us – they work better together. Next up was the ever-useful manual (i.e. lofting the front wheel without pedaling). By the time we’d perfected these two, we were off onto the trails.
Not all of the trails. Half of the red route was closed off due to a triathlon. So we did the red route out from Dixon’s. Soon we were at the bomb holes. ‘Big arms’, Steve told us. It was a way to prevent being dragged down an obstacle by your bike – riding the bike rather than being a passenger. We perfected that then moved onto drop-offs (see above). I’m sure it was higher when I went over!
After lunch it was time to get air: jumping. Along with everyone else (except Brendan) I didn’t realise that getting air is about preparation just before take off and not about blind faith and white knuckles. When you’ve mastered it, you simply just stand up on your bike at the right moment, you make sure you don’t twist the bars and – hey presto! – you’re getting air like a bad boy. That’s what it felt like. I didn’t jump that high, but the principle is a good one. We all managed to get both wheels off the ground by the end of the day.
After hitting the switchbacks we learned that if you look where you want to be, remarkably, your bike goes there. (I feel I need to apply this rule to obstacles too: my tendency is to stare at them and ride into them.) Switchbacks are about looking as far around the bend as early as you can to spot your exit. If you keep your legs spinning, your bike will do the rest.
Our final decent to the Dalby visitor centre took in that wonderful piece of the red route through the pine needle-laden forest floor, which flows down to the car park after you negotiate the rooty hole in the wall. There were no offs at that bit; the tricks learned earlier paid off and everyone cruised over it with confidence.
The main thing many of us got out of the day was that it’s not only faith in your bike, it’s about how you use your weight: rather than just holding onto the bike, you need to use the bike as a tool. It’s easy to say these things, but I think time and training really help. Next time you come across an obstacle on the trails, don’t just blast over it – go back and do it again and again until you get it right. I know a few people who will after this session.
Some gems that I came away with were: ‘big arms’ on a drop-off; stand up on a jump; use both brakes; and look at where you want to be, not where you don’t. Trainer Steve also recommended that everyone try flat pedals some time. He said it helps with fitness, balance and confidence.
I really recommend this kind of training even if you already know how to do stuff – it useful to re-affirm or refine what you’re doing. If you don’t know this stuff, you’ll learn even more!
Thanks to Steve the trainer, and well done to everyone who took part. We all thoroughly enjoyed it.
More pix over in the Gallery.