Sunday, 21 November 2010

Mountain Bike Skills For Riding Up Hills

As you know from numerous blog posts such as: "Roxy and the Nettles", "Egg and the Dangerous Black Cow", "Flatness", "STC Duathlon 2010" and "Battered, Bruised and Blinkin' Dirty", my degree of success in all things mountain bike related is slim to none. A ride is considered a triumph if I fall off no more than twice and only have one puncture.

Fortunately I'm not the only one out there lacking off-road finesse, so we arranged a basic mountain biking skills course with our local instructor, Colin.

Once we had spent the best part of an hour discussing the intricate details of changing an inner tube, we grabbed our bikes and headed for the dangerous and demanding terrain of.. a car park. In a moment of sheer comedy genius it was in fact the car park of a Medical Centre that we would be learning the essentials. Thankfully none of us needed medical attention as we mastered the ultimate biker's balancing act of the track stand (read "mastered" as "tentatively tried with lots of squealy noises").

We then rode into Shaftesbury and were faced with Gold Hill; famous for being the hill in the Hovis advert. It is a gloriously picturesque cobbled street. So quaint it is, that at first you don't notice the ludicrous steepness of it. After briefly admiring the view, the realisation hit that we were expected to cycle up this monster of a slope. I gritted my teeth and went for it. As the incline increased, the gears dropped and I was trying desperately to keep my bum in the saddle. I knew at this gradient if I tried to stand up I'd end up wheel-spinning and falling off - and the members of the public that were currently looking quite impressed would know I was actually a big loser. The tilt of the slope was so severe that it felt I was perilously close to falling backwards. I fought to keep the front wheel in contact with the ground on the last, even steeper section and breathed an enormous, wheezy sigh of relief as I topped out.

Once we'd all gotten to the top, Colin told us - with a massive smile on his face - that we'd be going back up it again later and we'd all find it loads easier apparently with our new "going uphill" skills. Everybody looked like they had just lost the will to live. 

We went on to learn all about correct gear selection, body positioning, the 'neutral' riding position and weighting and unweighting of the front wheel. This all culminated with us heading into the forest to practice our cornering on tight bends and moving about on varied terrain. It was all going so well until I somehow managed to lean the wrong way and perform what I thought was a wonderfully delicate slow-motion tumble into the leafy. forest floor.

The day finished back at the hotel with another dose of cakey temptation. I quietly ate my apple and pretended not to care that everyone else was enjoying big slabs of chocolate loveliness.

Despite not managing to stay upright - based on my aforementioned grades of accomplishment - the day was a resounding success with some excellent new skill acquisitions. Four hours absolutely flew by and as we overran we didn't have time to repeat Gold Hill with our new found ascending know-how - gutted!

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