In my whole mountain biking "career" I have never had any proper skills training. I just blagged my way through single track, roots and drops. I can't even do a proper bunny hop and my attempt at a wheelie would embarrass a 5 year old! Shocking, I know. So I decided to get some skills coaching. Who better to ask for this then technical rider extraordinaire and 15 times Irish XC Champ and 3 x Olympian Robin Seymour who has more than 20 years of experience and is one of the most technically skilled riders I know. He makes riding a bike look easy. Riding a bike over supertechnical terrain that is!
Anyhow, Cait and I both signed up for a skills course with Robin in Djouce Woods. Now, those who know Djouce know it's one of the most versatile woods for mtbing. It's easy to see why Robin is this good - he's got the best mtbing playing fields practically right in his back garden. Djouce has something for everyone, fireroads, draggy climbs, steep climbs, technical climbs, great views and some of the best deluxe singletrack hand built by above named individual. If XTC, benchcut, GC and Bulldog don't ring a bell with you, then you haven't experienced some of the best trails in Ireland yet.
Anyhow, we started off and did a few front brake stopping drills, trying to get a feel for your rear wheel lifting and the force pushing your body forward. I couldn't really do it, due to a traumatic experience when I tried it once before, crashing and hurting my thumb so badly that it took over a month to heal up again. After that we did some singletrack descending. Cait and I got all the corners on benchcut perfectly, the dry weather just hiding my lack of skills. Riding over roots and line choice was another interesting topic. Soon we moved on to some climbing technique, ending with Cait and I trying to see who gets furthest pedalling up an almost vertical downhill trail. In almost perfect hovering position we both faltered at the steepest bit, with Robin bouncing up and down the trail effortlessly and making us look like total beginners. After some more fun singletrack and out of the saddle climbing, climbing using your speed, and descending like pros and going down steep drops (elbows out!) we finally arrived at my most fun bit: riding over a log. It is unbelievable that I never really knew how to lift my front wheel over something - using the pedals to pull your front wheel up - I just didn't know how it was supposed to work. But after a few attempts and detailed instruction I finally understood what I was supposed to do!!! I couldn't stop riding over that log, so happy was I that I finally knew how to do it.
And on this high we concluded a very useful and informative session. I can only recommend doing such a skills course, even if you consider yourself an experienced rider. What I got out of it most was that it's all the little things that count, a little tweak on the climbing position here, a better line choice there, your weight more to the front there etc. It is all those saved microseconds that add up in a race, as well as riding more efficiently so that you've got energy left for when you really need it. And somebody as experienced as Robin can easily see where your own personal weaknesses are and how you can improve on them. Now where do I get a log for my back garden......?
If you are interested in a skills course with Robin give him a call or e-mail me if you don't have his details and I'll refer you on.