In an ever greater number trail centres across the UK, provision is being made not just for the keen mountain bikers but also for kids, families – and in the most progressive centres – for people that have disabilities too. It’s not just about providing trails with a surface that’s wide and smooth, but in more and more cases, it’s about offering something that challenges and is an exciting experience to people who might otherwise be excluded.
The recently built MinoTaur trail in Coed Y Brenin, North Wales, is a fine example of this. The trail is wide enough for people using ‘adaptive mountain bikes‘, three or four wheeled bikes that are usually hand cranked, but the mix of swooping berms, rollers and fast sections make it massive fun to ride for anyone, whatever their age, experience or ability.
In order to give even more people the opportunity to experience what adaptive mountain biking can offer, the ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ adaptive mountain bike project decided to offer the first course tailored to giving mountain bike leaders the specific skills and information they’d need to take adaptive mountain bike riders out on these trails.
Here’s their report:
“The inaugural Leading Adaptive Mountain Bikers course took place over the weekend of 5-6th November at the Coed y Brenin Trail Centre in Southern Snowdonia. The course, hosted by the ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ adaptive mountain bike project, was developed by Cycling Projects, the people behind ‘Wheels for All’ adaptive cycling centres, and SnowBikers, who train mountain bike leaders. The unique nature of the course drew in mountain bike leaders from across Britain, with candidates travelling from as far as Scotland and Cornwall.
Having already bagged a lovely day, weather-wise, for the ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ launch a couple of weekends earlier, we considered ourselves pretty lucky to get another couple of bright crisp autumnal days to form a colourful back-drop to the weekends work. There were a number of different objectives to achieve with the LAMB course; firstly to raise the profile of adaptive cycling, secondly to give mountain bike leaders the confidence and background information to include adaptive riders within their groups, and thirdly to accredit leaders so that they can access the ‘Challenge your Boundaries’ bikes and equipment at Coed y Brenin.
With the normal clamour to unpack hand-outs and set up projectors, Day-1 got underway with a look at different ability groups and the implication of different impairments on cycling activities. The leaders had a look at the different types of bike available, and some of the further add-ons such as seat supports and pedal extensions that would help the rider get more from their cycling experience.
With some theory under their belts, the group moved on to what were some of the favourite sessions of the weekend: the bike try-outs. Cycling Projects had brought along a wide range of adaptive bikes, from side by side tandem hand-cycles, to low-slung recumbent pedal trikes, and the group were quick to try them all.
There was some discussion about who might benefit from the different bike types, and the riders took part in exercises to simulate the experiences of some perhaps unexpected users: riders with visual impairment. To the trail centre visitors unaware of the course, the sight of a number of blindfolded riders working their way around the car-park under verbal instruction must have raised some eye-brows.
Day-2 drew the focus in a little from adaptive cycling in general onto adaptive mountain biking in particular, and also the issues of leadership with riders of such bikes. With a few worked example, it quickly became clear that the planning and leadership strategies needed for adaptive riders were no different than for any other group, and the candidates set about working on gaining the background information that they would require.
First thing was to get to grips with some real adaptive mountain bikes, seek out the unfamiliar technology and new rider set-up regimes, and get to grips with common mechanical problems and potential short-comings. Next was to get out and ride the bikes on a skills course to pull together some basic coaching points.
Again the leaders found that, though the format of the bikes was different, their understanding of the principles of riding could still be applied. Finally the group set out on a short journey down the newly constructed MinorTaur trail (built wide enough for adaptive mountain bikes) to look at some of the issues of group management, such as the average speed of the different bike formats. The climax of the ride was the ‘Slipway’ descent, a series of 10 switch-backs in short succession. This put such big grins on riders faces, that they had to go back to the top and try it again!
All in all a great couple of days which was well received by the candidates and trainers alike. Well done everyone..