Diary of a Megavalanche Virgin Part 2: Skills Time

If you’ve never really been interested in racing a mountain bike and wouldn’t really describe yourself as a mountain biker, then what better introduction to the world of competitive bike riding than the one of the toughest mass-start enduro events out there? Actually, there are plenty of better introductions but a challenge is supposed to be challenging – let us introduce Jenny, Megavalanche Virgin. You can catch up with part one here.

With the weeks counting down before she needs to line up on a glacier in France, it’s time to get training…

This weekend I headed back to North Wales to visit my sister and bro in-law at Campbell Coaching for a few tips on technique and to find out what they had to say about my current riding skills. It’s easy for some just to head out on the bike and ‘ride it like you robbed it’ but when someone points out to you “why don’t you try it like this?” it all starts to come together for me. So in damp windy Wales, I took a ride down one of their mini woodland trails for Bob to assess me. Once he’d seen how I was riding, it was time for him to give me a hand polishing some of my basic riding techniques and point me in the right direction.

I’m not one for much ‘air time’ on my bike but always thought that I should be popping the front wheel up on drops and rock gardens but Bob taught me that this isn’t always necessary. Sometimes it’s better to push the bike down into the drop as you can control the bike better, especially when there are multiple drops or if you don’t know what’s coming up next on the trail.

I also tend to go as far over the back of the bike as possible when riding steep and technical terrain as this feels like it safeguards me from going over the handle bars. However, I learnt that by staying a bit further forward than I would usually do and weighting the front wheel down, gives me more control of the bike and allows me to move about a bit more. It also means you can see a bit further down the trails as your not just staring at the back of your stem! Bob now seemed happy with my ability over rock gardens and general body position on the bike.

Jumps are something I’ve never really done much of – but I would like to do more. Keeping it nice and simple, first I rode the jumps with my wheels staying firmly on the ground, keeping my head level all the time, bending legs and arms when bringing the bike up and straightening them whilst going back down. Bob then used this to move onto ‘pumping’. Pumping is a way that you can utilize your momentum to keep your bike moving forward without having to pedal. This progressed into a front wheel lift, then to landing the bike.

We also practised getting my speed correct for the corner before entering it so that you aren’t braking in the corner (nobody likes braking bumps). Bob also made sure I was dropping the outside foot to weight the wheels into the corner and keep a firm grip on the track as well as looking towards the next corner, not at the current one.

We finished off with a play on the mini downhill section. We pretty much put together the basic skills such as dropping heels, looking ahead and weighting the bike correctly – and trying not to fall off…

I feel I know what I should be doing on the bike now such as looking a head, moving my pedals about a bit more instead of just keeping them level all the time and opening up my body position on the bike (instead of the foetal position) but putting theory into practice may take a while longer. This has been a good first step towards my training as far as bike handling goes and only more time on the bike will concrete it in place. I found my afternoon’s skills training gave me a foot in the right direction with regards to what I need to work, training and building my confidence on the bike over technical terrain.

Next time I aim to start work on my fitness, mental and strength training. I plan on getting out climbing more too…

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