Saturday, February 23, 2008

AQR Training Day1

Uphilla decided he'd like some skills training this year and last Saturday he signed up for a days tuition with A Quick Release at Sherwood Pines.

Intreagued by the proposition of some serious MTB banter and an opportunity to see if my "trail and error" technique was any good - I joined our good buddy. Brumster also tagged along not that these training days struggle with attendance.
After some initial delays waiting for riders (from Bristol) and a geezer with a non existent front brake we all (18? of us) ripped off into the woods for a warm up. The weather was warmer than it has been of late, was dry and I was pleasantly surprised to find the trails were absolutely perfect for hooning around.
After reaching a suitable spot we were then asked to execute three loops around a short course that incorporated a bit of variety (bumps, downhill, cross camber, uphill, sand and roots) whilst the instructors (Ian, John, Paul) assessed our ability :-O After which those that were signed up for day#1 were then separated into two groups (novice & competent) with a smaller 3rd batch heading off for their day#2 tuition.

Fortunately our gang were all deemed "competent" and approx half a dozen of us headed around the corner for...

Morning, cornering.

After plenty of words from our tutor we were zipping around another short test track with the focus on 3 corners and trying to link them up nicely. Not only that Ian gradually introduced different techniques to help our cause. Actually all the additional thought soon had me wondering if I shouldn't have brought along some stabilisers ! Auto pilot and instinct honed over many a fall is where I ride and having to focus on body position, feet, ankle inclination, brakes, turn1, turn2, turn3, looking ahead, cranking "his way" and I was soon all over the place. With a gentle guidance from the master, loop after loop followed and we all gradually improved. It was interesting to hear how we all had different "issues" and yet some common points of improvement. I found it very enlightening.

Lunch, bike set-up.

After a quick sausage cob our tutor went over each of our bikes and suggested improvements which soon has us all fumbling with bars, stems, brake levers and shox, etc. As Uphilla pointed out later, the cost of the day was worth it for this alone. After which we all felt the rigs were now handling much better.

Afternoon, uphill & downhill.

After another group blast through the tight'n'twisty forest (Cannock is easy in comparison) our day#1 groups switched around with us now focusing on uphill technique - "groan/sigh's" abound ;-) "Teach" again covered the basics and after the intial grunmbling I think we all pretty much breezed the opening route, though we'd all failed to look far enough ahead :blush Heavy breathing was common place as we'd all been asked to max out our technique's by cranking up in bottom cog. Thankfully the hills were short.

Moving over to hill#2 we negiotated a loose turn and cranked up a sandy slope with relative ease. Being first up the slope I quickly fell fowl of the loose sandy right hander which was down to my own daft line asking too much, too late of the front hoop. At least it allowed the others an opportunity to clear it first time :p

Hill#3 a different beast with a deceptive root lofting the front wheel and tired legs meant few of us cleared this.
Moving on to "downhill" we again went through the technique and as Sherwood isn't that hilly we were tasked with descending as slow as possible and shifting weight according to the terrain. It sounds easier than it turned out to be for some, especially the chap with just one brake !
The rest of the DH tuition involved steepening descents with gentle reminders of what we'd already forgotten ;-)


All in all I had a great day and although non of us learnt anything earth shattering it was good to come away with plenty of pointers for improvement. Now we just had to drill in the new techniques before returning for day#2.
I'm sure that the skills learnt will prove useful on the trail and help us to be more efficient, even ride longer :) I'll admit that I was initially sceptical of covering the basic's but now feel confident that everyone would reap some reward.
I personally think 6 weeks is a little too short to go back for the second day and more advanced techniques. I thunk it might take a while to bed in that we've just learnt before taking onboard even more. But then again perhaps they're completely different skills to take in. What say you fella's ?


uphilla said...

Thanks for the account, Farqui, more detailed than mine would have been :-)
Not sure the cornering session helped me that much only time will tell. As Farqui says, much is instinctive now, but I think we can up our game with some of the tips. The suggestion that we can lean the bike over more may be something to think about.
Ian is paid to set up bikes for xc racing, so his input was greatly appreciated , we all got busy with Allen keys!
Up and Downhill tips will be most useful, I suspect. Again nothing ground breaking, but useful stuff.
Not sure what I expected from the day, certainly no major advances, but feel it was well worth doing. It was, if nothing else, good to have confirmation that actually our riding is OK, it is now up to each of us to take it to another level if we wish.
Enjoyed the company - a friendly and enthusiastic bunch, also interesting to ride in the Pines - obviously a popular spot with lots to explore.
Still pondering about doing stage 2, thinking it might be better to work on fitness first :-(

Dan Howell said...

The thing we all took away was that modern full-sus machinery really flatters your abilities and makes it so easy to tackle the nasty stuff with ease. This leads to the problem of not focusing on proper technique or picking up bad habits because, thanks to the gear we're using, the bike still performs 80% and that's good enough for most of us.

By learning the new skills of how to do it properly, then maybe one day I can get 100% from my bike - but it's going to take some practise :-) !

Cornering was the most useful lesson for me - learnt a lot there. And the "obstacle clearing" lesson, and how to do a proper bunny hop (not a british one). I also did what's probably my longest ever wheelie - but don't get excited, it was still probably only 2 or 3 metres :-D

Watching Ian was very... "humbling"...