- MIAS Vs SMBLA – Fight!
Did my L2 MIAS about a month back. No experiemce of SMBLA
As with all these qualifications, there's a lot more to be being a guide/mountain leader than having a piece of paper saying you've passed a course.
The group we had – some had never ridden MTBs before – didn't have their own helmets, gloves etc. One woman was on a hybrid (rode pretty well considering) and the assessment was a lap of Llandegla red that took us 5+ hours to do. The skills teaching part – most of the group couldn't do the skill they were attempting to teach, so that was a little comical to watch. The mechanical/bike setup segment was pretty hilarious too. Everybody passed the course.
Would I want to be hurt and stuck on a hillside with them? A resounding no, other than the 2 mates I'd done the course with who each have 10 or 15 years worth of riding under their belt, and who I'd trust to look after me.
Not saying the courses are worthless, but you need a LOT of practical experience & knowledge to back up the piece of paper before you can call yourself a guide or an instructor.Posted 9 years agozangolinMember
SMBLA is more widely recognised + is backed by BC via Scottish cycling.
SMBLA takes longer to get – 2 days of training plus one assessment day.
Went down the route of SMBLA myself.
Would agree with what JonEdwards says about backing it up with experience + knowledge.
Don't forget you will also need a First Aid qualification.Posted 9 years agoIvanDobskiMember
Just spoken to the CTC people and they do sound really good, cheers for that. It's a bit of a minefield picking qualifications etc for mtbing, at least with the SPA/ML/WML you have a standardised system deliverable anywhere.
I agree 100% that you need more than a nice certificate, luckily I've about 15yrs of walking, climbing and biking so I shouldn't be quite as bad as some people on the course. (He says, fingers crossed!) Also got the first aid thing planned as well.
Just out of interest, on the MIAS L2 were the others there with the intention of doing guiding etc in the future or were they there to get a more rounded intro to mtbing?Posted 9 years agoSigmaFMember
I'm trying hard to resist projecting too much of a harsh opinion here but…..having either read the course content/completed a course/employed people and given direction on which courses to take as a pre-requisite….I'd say the following…..gulp!!
None are really worth the cost/paper they are written on……!!but, some do switch your mindset to thinking more about group management/dynamics than others……skills development/teaching is a different matter….
In the UK, given a choice, look at the SMBLA MBL with the cyclewise guys……those guys do add some value to the basic course content as a function of their riding/guiding experience and teaching ability…..from what I gather, they also have their own course penned (as did we)….one for the future….
CTC technical leader……an offshoot from the old OTC programme……no real opinion……but, in years gone by the OTC programme sat somewhere between the MIAS and MBL….
Jon – I hear you'll be following me down the Mega course?Posted 9 years agoCaptainMainwaringMember
Can only speak for the TCL SMBLA stuff, which does seem to be widely recognised. As above, two day course plus one day assessment (I still have to do the assessment). You do need reasonable bike skills to pass even this level – wheelie, manual, trackstand etc.
More importantly it teaches you how to teach the skills to others, how to manage a group, do risk assessments, navigate etc – not necessarily stuff that even some experienced bikers can do. Plus you have to show a logbook of 20+ rides over the past 12 months, with at least 1 being 6+ hours.
You also have to do a full 2 day first aid course before you get your certificate.
Don't know about other courses, but probably shows why the SMBLA stuff is well recognised – it is pretty thorough even for the lowest levelPosted 9 years agowalleaterMember
Jon Edwards and SigmaF raise good points.
I did the SMBLA and REC first aid courses and passed both. BUT…..it also seemed impossible to fail them! On the map / compass / actual guiding section of the SMLBA course, one person acted as lead guide for a section and sent us round in circles, to locked gates, up and down pointless climbs etc, and still somehow managed to 'pass' the section within the quite tight limit. Hmmmmm…..Posted 9 years ago
The REC first aid course was a bit of a joke. When checking over an 'unconscious' person, I could have stolen their wallet and ran for the border, and still passed! There was no assessment at all from what I could tell.RayMazeyMember
I think it is very important to remember that MIAS, SMBLA, CTC are awarding bodies, not course providers. To say that one is better than the other, is I feel, a bit of a sweeping generalisation. Much will depend on the quality and experience of the course provider.
That said nobody will turn you into the best Mountain Bike Leader in 2, 3, 4,5,…………days. However, a good provider will without doubt give you a good foundation to work from.
The following link may help.
Ray MazeyPosted 9 years ago
Just seen the thread and can comment in more detail on the SMBLA but also on the links between the awards.
At present the SMBLA is the only one on the BC qualifications framework, the only one recognised, promoted and funded through the National Skills Academy and the only one that was recognised by AALA (as it was) at the highest level as accrediting people to take groups into high mountain terrain without the addition of an ML qualification board through the MLTB.
This is one of the reasons I took CycleActive down the road of the SMBLA ten years ago.
However, an award is only as good as the people delivering and the people assessing. I'm now part of a small group of Mentor Tutors for the SMBLA looking at the development of more CPD courses, more assistance and mentoring for newly qualified tutors, and more robust quality control right through the system. I also sit on the main committee and know that our chairman is already in the first stages of talks with the CTC and MIAS about how – in the long term – the awards can be better aligned.
In the long term there needs to be one clear standard and i don't think anybody doubts that every award has its merits. Personally I'm glad i am with the SMBLA because the governing body status and added recognition it has achieved (including being the only award recognised in France, provided it is held with an IML and French language competence) all add up to a strong market leading presence, in my opinion.
Cheers,Posted 9 years ago
Just to give a little more detail on the MIAS Award. This is the only award to receive accreditation from the NVQ awarding body (ABC) this is why MBI decided to offer the MIAS award. On top of this, the MIAS award has also received the Learning Outside The Classroom Quality Badge –
The award is used by the MOD, Police Service, School Teachers, Youth Training Services, Skill Course providers and Holiday Companies both in the UK and overseas.Posted 9 years ago
Looked at all 3 main awards SMBLA, MIAS & CTC( formally OTC). All have similar syllabus and they all have AALA approval. SMBLA is the only one not requiring a WGL/ML for mountain terrain although it is limited with some confusing criteria which SMBLA themselves are a little vague over. Also all LEA’s that I have dealt with require WGL/ML even with SMBLA as they say if you get a major mechanical you are now walking anyway! Have to agree that good skills & leadership are just as important as the piece of paper and sooner all awards get together and agree on one NGB the better.Posted 9 years agoPaulyMember
Did my MIAS Level 2 on a course run by a good friend. Very well run; if there was anyone who I'd want to be stuck in the wild with it would be him, but +1 for
JonEdwards – Member
Most of them were outdoor pursuit centre instructor types (watersports for the most part) looking to broaden their portfolio, or scout leaders who needed a piece of paper to prove they were qualified to lead kids on a towpath or round a park.
Completely agree that the 15+ years of riding experience comes into it more.Posted 9 years agostevomcdSubscriber
The diverse range of qualifications around in the UK doesn't do anyone any favours. It would be great if everyone could get their heads together and come up with a nationally-recognised qualification. This might also give us a better shout at getting our qualifications recognised abroad. British Cycling are currently putting their own qualification together, so it will be interesting to see what comes of that. I'd like to see something similar to the BASI ski-instructor system, with a relatively straight-forward entry level, but becoming increasingly modular at higher levels, that way you can get qualified to the level you need for what you want to do.
We went for SMBL because it does appear to be the best recognised, has the back-up of British Cycling as the national governing body and also has easy instructor/guide insurance options (through BC).
I thought the courses (TCL then MBL) were good. As someone who was already both a competent rider and navigator, I found TCL pretty easy, but it wasn't a total give-away – the afore-mentioned scout leaders etc would have had to work hard to get through it. MBL was good, learned a lot in lots of areas – coaching, group leadership, personal bike skills, etc. I don't really use the navigation techniques taught as part of the course because we tend to ride within an area we know well (I just carry a map & compass as a back-up) but I would if I was leading a ride in an area I wasn't familiar with.
MBL is definitely no give-away. I know/know-of quite a few people who have failed it (including some already well-qualified outdoor instructors). The level of bike skills required is high (you should be nailing Laggan black as one example of a test venue) and they're fairly strict on the navigation and stuff as well.
We did most of ours with Jules Fincham up in Aviemore – highly recommended.
As with any training course, getting the qualification is just the start. The training can't cover everything and I see it almost as being inspirational – I came out of all of them buzzing with stuff I wanted to go away and find out about and develop, whether in my own riding or in coaching.Posted 9 years agoGraham_ClarkSubscriber
Interesting to see that even though BC back the SMBLA award they didn't just use that one as their own, badged course and they are going down another route to get their qualification….Posted 9 years ago
As for providers, MIAS and SMBLA are the awarding body and it is then delivered by private companies, the CTC awards are only delivered by CTC staff and so they are both accrediting body and provider, so (one could argue) they are more likely to have consistency of delivery and quality standard.mountain-nicMember
I'm MIAS level 2 – chose the course because it was local (in Glyncorrwg) and it recognised my BELA navigation qualification. The actual course was OK and everyone passed, however we were all good riders with lots of bike maintenance experience. There were 3 guys who failed to show on day 2, but was told they would have passed if they made it in. As a parent, I would not have been happy trusting them to take my kids out!
Now enrolled for the SMBLA, I think it is the way to go. CTC and SMBLA are getting closer, really the only stumbling block is money and control, well that's what I concluded after hearing them both present at the recent Welsh Cycling event in Llandridnod.Posted 9 years ago
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