Different types of skills for use on the hills

Map reading compass skills
Location Location Navigation

I have been suffering with a bit of a cold so decided to take it easy this weekend but still get outdoors and hit the local hills.

Ahead of my upcoming British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Award course with Wye MTB and in the absence of logging an actual ride, I decided to get out and practice some navigation skills.

 

Its pretty tough to test your own navigation skills in your own “back yard” but it doesn’t hurt to grab a compass and a local map and practice some navigation and compass bearing skills.

mans best friend
Little helper

Note:

I try to use OS Explorer maps (the orange ones). They  are at 1:25,000 scale, which basically means every 4 cm on the map equals 1 km. As the name suggests these are great maps for exploring the outdoors as they show such details as footpaths, rights of way, open access land and the vegetation on the land.

Black and White Mountain Biking

Do or Do not

“Do or do not. There is no try.” Yoda said this to Luke Skywalker in The Empire Strikes Back

The whole Dagobah sequence in Episode V is full of great lines and is a favourite part of the whole franchise for many fans, as we watch Luke struggle with his powers and see him fail and refuse to believe he can do it.  Yoda is a harsh but calm teacher who watches him make his mistakes, shakes his head when he refuses to listen and eventually lets him learn the hard way that he isn’t ready. #SpoilerAlert (really after all these years?) he duels his Dad who is actually Darth Vader, and has his hand chopped off. Sorry if this was news to you!

Anyway I went to Dagobah this weekend and found some cool jumps! Or was it Endor?

Black and White

There was a point to this (and thanks Jonathan for the pics btw), and that is that some times is just like that in mountain biking. You can’t try to ride down that hill, or go off that drop, or ride that skinny line; you simply have to do it or not do it. Ok , so the amount of success or pain or mud that ends up on your face at the end depends on some luck and hopefully some learned skills, but basically you have to do it.  What I mean here is the “doing it” part doesn’t necessarily mean you get it right, it simply means you have had a good go at it.

But there are some  gap jumps and large drop offs for instance that allow for almost no margin for error and I use the qualifier jump on Dai Hard at Bike Park Wales as the example here. Its a proper gap, not too wide really, but wide enough to get in your head and the landing is either on the transition, or well, not! These you simply have to do – 100%. Because 90% might mean a new wheel. 75% a cracked frame and 50% a visit to A&E.

How do you learn to jump something that has such a consequence if you get it wrong? You can go and see Tony Doyle at UK Bike Skills, this will help loads trust me!  Then once you have done this, you must go and practice, practice and practice what you have learnt some more until you are so confident you can do it that when you approach that jump at BPW you know you are going to clear it before you even start rolling towards it. There can’t be any doubt.

But while some jumps require a simple black or white approach (watch Red Bull Rampage this weekend and you will know what I mean) there are in reality plenty of places where you can get a little bit grey. A table top is a perfect example.

Find one you’d like to clear and practice.  If you don’t make it you’ll land on the top, you can roll it slowly or you can hit it at speed.

Find or even build a jump in your local woods. Now you have control over the height, control over the landing and everything that happens in between.

I only wrote this post so you could see some pics of me in the air!  However the jump in the picture was a jump with a lot of grey. You could jump 4 foot or 14 foot and so long as you landed up right you did it.  The aim is to land on the transition of course (around 9-10 feet from the take off), but in between is ok too.

#BikeParkWales – penblwydd hapus

Was this really the first time I had been this year? There have been a few race/events, camping, weekends away bikepacking, North Wales big mountain and trail centres and Lake District (wow I’ve been busy)… Anyway I recently returned to BikePark Wales for the first time since October 2015 and I forgot how much fun it was!

Its unusual for me to not take a photo or video when I go out on a bike. I like to remember the day and  photo does seem to serve well to do this. But this time, no camera, no phone and no GoPro – purely focused on my riding and not worrying about the camera being on or stopping to snap a mate or a view. How different was my GoPro footage going to look from the last time anyway?

The usual trails were ridden, can I say “shredded”?, I’m not really a shredder or a ripper of trails though some times I think I’m doing just! Anyway, we did the usual Blue / Red mash up with a bit of Black peppered here and there for good measure.

Sixtapod is the gang’s usual favourite for a warm up, but this time we went straight for the new Blue/Red mix of Terry’s Belly and Hot Stepper.

Terry’s Belly was a highlight addition to BPW last year lauded as the longest blue descent  in the UK. Its good fun with berm after berm threading you through the trees and steadily down the hillside just out side of Merthyr Tydfil but I did find it a bit repetitive.

But now the Hot Stepper section was open, breathing some Red graded life into the top section of this 4.6km smooth trail. The teaser trailer from BikePark Wales showed a trail with a more natural feel to it than its berm heavy brother. Taking some steeper lines down the mountain side and opening up at time to give you a choice of drops and lines to take it really is one the most fun trails I’ve ridden in a while.

The only down side is you have to finish with the bottom end of Terry’s Belly. As I said above its a great swoopy trail with some fantastic berm action – its just it gets a bit repetitive towards the end and I long for some more roots and drops.

I guess this is my personal taste. There is nothing wrong with a long bermy trail if you like that sort of thing.  My preference is something more technical.

This is the beauty of a bike park! You can mix up your trails, have break from the lumps and bumps and ride a smooth trail. Or test yourself through a black section before going back to the comfort of your favourite trail.

Starting at 10am means that come 4pm the arms are aching, the brake pads are thinning and the beer is calling. The end of another visit and for me personally another day of learning a little more about me and the bike – mostly I learn how I need to push myself more when it comes to jumping.

Oh and by the way Happy Birthday BikePark Wales – 3 years today!