David Windebank, Author at Wye MTB

New to Mountain Biking?

British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership
David showing how to set your brakes during a trail side repair session

New to Mountain Biking? 

Covid 19, self-isolating, social distancing, all new ideas, and things which we have had to adapt to and have become part of daily life and may well continue to be for some time.

One important aspect of the current “Lock Down” is the ability to get out and exercise which is great for physical and mental health. We are fortunate, as we live in the Wye Valley and just a 5 minute pedal to a purpose-built traffic free cycle route which links Monmouth to Symonds Yat East, deep in the Wye Valley. We use this cycle way to access the kilometres of forest fire tracks which make up the Wye Valley.

During our daily rides it appears that more and more people are choosing to dust off their old bikes and head back into the natural environment. When the official “Lock Down” finishes will these new cyclists continue with this new pastime, and if they do, will they choose to cycle further afield?

This blog aims to give you a step by step guide on how to progress from riding in your local area to riding further afield, like in the beautiful Wye Valley or surrounding areas such as the Forest of Dean. Off road cycling, is not something complicated, it’s simply riding a bike off the national highways, where you don’t need to worry about cars, vans and lorries overtaking you. This lack of motorised vehicles allows you to get away from the pollution, focus on the natural environment and provides the opportunity for  everyone , including less confident riders to safely get out  on their own or perhaps with their kids,  safe in the knowledge they don’t need to have to deal with traffic.

Women only guided rides, Mountain bike guides, Black Mountain, Brecon Beacons, South Wales, Wales, MTB guide
Guided ride in the Brecon Beacons

Step 1: Decide where you would like to Ride.

Apart from the Wye Valley, the Forest of Dean would be the closest area to go for our next cycling adventure. The Forest of Dean is steeped in industrial history, has hundreds of kms of woodland, a number of visitor centres and a dedicated Cycle centre called Pedalabikeaway which has an off road family cycle trail leaving right from the café, sounds perfect? More on that in Step 5.  

Step 2: Equipment.

Mountain bike leadership kit, British cycling Mountain bike leadership, Guided rides, training the guides, Moutain bike leadership South wales
Mountain bike leaders need lot of kit

You will need the obvious kit, a bike would be useful, cycling helmet, sports clothes, food and water. One of the biggest barriers to cycling away from your local area is being able to transport your bikes easily, but this is where cycle centres like Pedalabikeaway help. They have a full fleet of bikes which range from family touring bikes, tag along for the small ones right up to Electric Mountain Bikes, all can be hired for a half day or a full day, and are kept clean and well maintained by the dedicated staff The cycle centre also provides the hire of cycling helmets, somewhere to fill your water bottle, café, secure car park and toilets. The onsite bike shop offers the cycle network maps which help guide you around the off road cycling route, if map reading isn’t your strong point, don’t worry, you can also book in with one of the British Cycling Mountain Bike Guides from WyeMTB who  can tailor your experience just for you needs.  

Step 3: Let the Adventure begin.

It is always worth popping into the bike shop and asking the staff if there is anything you should know about the loop you plan to ride; the staff are locals and love to share hints and tips with you about the local riding conditions or your planned routes 

Step 4: Have a plan of action.

Check the weather forecast and pack accordingly, if it’s going to rain pack an extra layer, if it’s going to be hot and sunny, extra water and sun cream should be packed. Make sure your mobile is fully charged, not just to capture great photos and videos of your adventure, but also for you can call for help should you need to. A great phone app which is FREE is OS Locate, if there is an incident the emergency services might ask for your location, OS Locate will give a pinpoint location with 2 letters and 6 numbers, don’t worry you don’t understand what they mean, the emergency services will know, just open the app and hit go!

Step 5: Route options.

The Forest of Dean offers a family trail, 11km of off-road cycling which will take between 60mins and 180mins depending on how many photo and picnic stops you make! The trail is “hard pack” which makes for great riding for all abilities. The loop has off shoots which access local towns and villages like Coleford, Lybrook and Cinderford, so you can top up your water bottle or even grab some lunch. The loop is clearly way marked all the way around making it a great route for your first adventure.

Mountain Bike Specific Loop – ‘The Verderers’ a name steeped in the history of the Forest of Dean– 11km of single track, this means the cycling traffic only travels in one direction. The trail is graded Blue and is a step up from the family trail, want to know what a blue looks and feels like? Then why not ride around the family trail where there are 5 extras add ons which split from the main trail and allow you to experience what a Blue grade of trail looks and feels like.

Mountain Bike Specific loop – ‘The Freeminers’ 12km in length is one more step up from The Verderers trail and is graded Red meaning Extreme. This trail is single track and you can follow the way marked trail straight from the cycle centre. The Freeminers will follow some of the Verderers trail so you will know what you are getting yourself into.  

Advance and Down Hill trails – The forest of Dean and Pedalabikeaway also hosts a wide range of dedicated downhill mountain bike tracks which are not for the faint hearted, these should only be attempted if you have worked your way through the grading system, starting simple e.g. family trail, blue trail, red trail and then the easy downhill trails should be accessed first. These trails will require a dedicated Mountain bike with a minimum of front suspension, again which can be hired from Pedalabikeaway, you may also want to consider extra personal protection for example a full-face helmet body armour or other pads.  

Step 6: Developing those skills.

Mountain bike coaching in the Forest of Dean, Group Mountain bike coaching, Mountain bike coaching, MTB coaching, FOD MTB, Forest of dean, South Wales MTB
Mountain bike coaching in the forest of dean

You have now ridden around the family trail, tried all the extra little blue sections and ridden around the official Blue trail but perhaps you feel you could have done better? Maybe it’s time for a Mountain Bike Coaching session? WyeMTB offers a staircase coaching style designed to take beginner riders of all ages right the way through to advanced Mountain bike riders. We offer regular group sessions as well as 1:1 session to focus solely on your aims and objectives to improve as a rider. Whether it’s specific skills and techniques or just boosting your confidence to hit the trails on your own or with your family WyeMTB can help.Our Mountain bike coaching sessions really allow you to gain or consolidate the key skills to enjoy your riding all delivered by our British Cycling qualified coaching staff, in the beautiful Wye Valley and surrounding areas 

Mobile phones and Mountain Biking

The use of the Mobile phones in Mountain Biking

I remember sitting in a GCSE English lesson many years ago. Our teacher had asked us to debate the increase of technology in the outdoors, at this point in time I was keen mountain biker and kayaker and saw no reason why technology should be in the natural environment. We had been given a paper to read and use it as evidence to base our discussions around. The paper was written by a new company called Vodaphone, yes it was that long ago! Vodaphone at that time believed that you would at some point in the future make a phone call from the top of Snowdon……. As if that would ever happen I thought!

Jump forward 24 years and things have changed a lot with the mobile phone industry, voice calls have been surpassed with video calling, apps keep the world informed of your every move and we are now able to take and record high resolution photos and video and share it from Snowdon and most mountain tops across the UK.

So what has this meant for WyeMTB as a mountain bike coaching, guiding and British Cycling Mountain bike leadership delivery centre?

Mountain Bike Coaching.

Mountain Bike Coaching
Mountain bike coaching session in the Forest of Dean

The increase in the apps which our phones can use is incredible. We run weekly mountain bike group coaching sessions in the Forest of Dean and bespoke mountain bike coaching 1:1 sessions throughout the week all based from Pedalabikeaway trail centre. Years ago we would rely on watching a client complete a set skill, a drop off as a example and give them verbal feedback on how to improve, we would call this ‘hot feedback’ but the coaching industry has proven lots of key information can be missed with this type of simple observation.

On our MTB coaching sessions, we now try to utilise the phone to capture a small video clips observing the client completing the skill. There are a host of apps which allow us to record and then play back the skill being performed. This is great and really allows the client to see themselves competing the skill in real time and allows our MTB coaching staff to slow the video down giving accrete coaching points. Once the mountain bike session is over these videos can be shared with the client who can review them at a later date and time.

Mountain Bike Guiding.

The increase of social media in society has meant that people like to document what mountain bike adventures they have been on. Our mountain bike guided rides across Wales have led us to increase our skills of documenting the days adventure and sharing with the clients and also sharing content on our social media channels. Remember if it’s not on Instagram it never happened 😉

Its really funning to see the change, years ago our phones could only provide use with basic features and definitely didn’t have the capabilities to take a photo, but now the phone is capable of taking pictures close to the quality of a basic DSLR camera. Even an armature can point and shoot and get a reasonable picture, I fall into this category. At the end of the guided ride clients are keen to grab the photos and videos off our mountain bike guides so they can share and reflect on their mountain bike adventure with us in Wales.

Madison, Whyte Bikes, Guided ride, South Wales, Guiding cross Wales
Sam descending as part of our Black Mountains Guided Ride

Being able to perform our jobs as a high-end mountain bike guides, lead groups down technical and remote terrain, ensure they are all safe and enjoying themselves, meeting deadlines throughout the day e.g. lunch and pick ups and capturing all of this on the phone is a true juggling act. During our British Cycling Mountain bike leadership training courses we do not talk or discuss this juggling act, so where do you learn it? Well, on the job!

British Cycling Mountain Bike leadership courses

Lets be far, our phones have evolved somewhat from the Nokia 1610, the phones which we carry around in our mountain bike guide packs are more like minicomputers. Each phone is set up to the desires and needs of their owners. My phone has lots of apps based around the environment, weather, social media and navigational app’s. Over the years as the technology within the phone has increased so too has my understanding of what they are capable off.

The biggest development I have seen with the app’s is through navigation, our 1st encounter with phone navigation was ‘View ranger’ a company which allowed you to purchase tiles of OS maps from areas which you were working in. For the first time ever, we could have the whole of the UK in scale 1:25k and 1:50k in our back pocket. With a click of a button the app would indicate exactly where you were, no need to relocate, no need to worry you might be in the wrong place, no need to spend time looking over a map to decide where you were and no need to unfold a huge piece of paper. What did this mean to us, FLOW if we were in areas we didn’t know we could utilise the app and increase the overall flow of our journeys. For the people who have attended one of our British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership courses you will remember that Flow is critical.

24 years since the first debate about mobile phone use in the outdoors my stance has changed somewhat, in fact I would say my opinion is that this microcomputer has become a critical tool. Our clients expect use to stay social on our social channels through videos and pictures, when people book onto one of our mountain bike guided rides they expect the trip to be documented and share with them. When people pay their money for mountain bike coaching, they expect to develop during the sessions and coaching pedagogy suggests that video feedback aids, develops and accretes coaching sessions.

View Ranger App on the mobile
OS maps on the Mobile phone

So what’s going to change in the next 24years……

Planning a new MTB Adventure for our clients

What does it take for WyeMTB to come up with a new guided ride?  Simply put….we get out on the bikes and explore some great riding locations!

South Wales and the Wye Valley host a number of amazing trail centres – like Pedalabikeaway in the Forest of Dean (ok, technically it’s just over the border in England but hey!), Cwmcarn in the Risca valley and the Afan/Glyncorrwg centres near Swansea. These sites have been at the forefront of Mountain biking in South Wales for over 15 years!

Times and riding preferences have evolved though, and not everyone enjoys long, pedally climbs to access trails, while others are just keen to maximise their gravity fed riding time!

Uplift days at trail centres and bike parks provide a popular way of delivering a gravity rush and have appeared at many of our favourite spots – Pedalabikeaway, Cwmcarn, Black Mountain Cycle Centre and not forgetting BikePark Wales.  All these sites show how mountain biking can really help support a community – creating new jobs and filling up the local accommodation, pubs and restaurants.

At WyeMTB, we really wanted to create uplift assisted rides with a distinct difference. Trips which allow you to really get off the beaten track away from the masses, giving you breathtaking scenery, amazing singletrack, and taking you to areas you might not be able to explore on your own!  We have spent years exploring the Wye Valley, Brecon Beacons and Black Mountains and decided to join up our favourite rides with access in our trusty Landrover – taking the strain out of the climbs, skipping the boring road bits and leaving plenty of energy to descend some amazing natural single track.

We launched two vehicle assisted guided rides in 2019:

Wye Valley Off Piste has rapidly become a South Wales classic. A dedicated uplifted guided ride around the Wye Valley taking in places like Tintern, Llandogo, Redbrook – starting and finishing from Pedalabikeaway in the Forest of Dean.  This trip has minimal climbing on the bike and takes in some properly challenging descents, with rock fests, flowy singletrack and technical, steep off piste trails. Plus lunch is in a brewery …what is not to like?

Our second day trip is the Brecon Epic, based in the Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales.

This ride is aimed at really getting you right “out there” to explore all the treats the Brecon Beacons has to offer. The trip is a return to the true core of mountain biking; big climbs (maybe even some hike-a-bike), amazing scenery all day, remote riding and some sustained mountain descents.

These two days out are really polar opposites of each other, so this winter we’ve tried to come up with a new trip – something sort of in the middle.   We have spent days and days in properly biblical weather researching some new descents and revisiting old favourites and we think we’ve cracked it.  Our new trip is called the Black Bomb, and is based around the Black Mountains near Abergavenny – delivering big scenery, remoteness, connection with nature and some mind blowing descending. Our 1st trip runs in South Wales on the 1st March – St David’s Day! Yes there will be some Welsh Cakes guaranteed!  If you want more detail please check the website and our next blog dedicated to the Black Bomb landing next week.

British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership

Mountain Bike Leadership

Mountain bike leadership, National Governing bodies and insurance. What’s is all about?

WyeMTB is an accredited centre through British Cycling which allows us to deliver their Mountain Bike Leadership Awards. David Windebank better known as ‘Windy’ was one of the original BC leadership tutors moving from the Scottish Cycling Mountain Bike program when it was updated in 2011, since then he has gone to become a Level 1, Level 2 and Level 3 tutor.

Last month saw Gareth Sheppard complete the tutor pathway under the watchful eyes of Rachael Crewsmith and Windy to become a Level 2 Mountain bike leadership tutor. Gareth brings a vast amount of experience to the WyeMTB team, leading the British Cycling Paralympic team to London 2012 and taking the Welsh team to the Commonwealth Games. One of the first level 3 guides back in 2013 the pathway for Gareth to becoming a tutor has been long but fulfilling journey!

What is the British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership award Scheme?

British Cycling (BC) is the national governing body of cycling in the UK. Over the years, BC have been focused on road cycling, track cycling and cyclocross. In recent years their focus has moved to more recreational cycling like Mountain Biking and this is where the leadership scheme fits.

Membership and Registration, why so much?

To become a mountain bike leader, you will need to become a member of BC and register with the MTB leadership scheme. If this is the first time joining a national governing body this will feel like a lot of money, it is, but you get a lot for your money!

The majority of the payment goes to the leadership department to affiliate with their Leadership scheme, and you will be sent a great 200+ page handbook based on the level 2 Mountain Bike Leader Award.  The cost also includes the compulsory Level 2 Safeguard training course and finally, this is the best part; once you are qualified, BC will provide you with public liability insurance which can be used when leading guided rides…. Amazing!!!!

British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership

The British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership scheme is split into 3 levels

  • Level 1: Currently a site-specific training course, used in conjunction with a British Cycling centre accreditation. There are some developments coming with this award, so watch this space!

 

  • Level 2: The MOST popular level and the one that most people enrol as their first step to becoming a mountain bike leader. The award is split into 3 parts
    • Training: 2-day event where the BC tutor runs through a range of topics, for example, trail side repairs, navigation, leadership styles and a number of practical sessions
    • Consolidation: at the end of the training event your tutor will sit down and create a development plan specific to each candidate. This development plan will look at exactly what needs to be done before assessment.
    • Assessment: 1-day event, a BC tutor will run through the criteria provided by British Cycling. The development plans are designed to ensure the candidates are ready for their assessment. The key to this is that candidates can present themselves then they believe they are ready.

 

  • Level 3: The top-level award and can only be reached if you have either completed the Level 2 award or hold an older MTB leadership award still recognised by BC e.g. MBLA. The award is split into the same three sections as the level 2 award, however the course is more intense and equips you with the tools to  lead sessions in wild and remote areas.

WyeMTB run all the above courses and dates for 2020 are live in our website. We run the course across South Wales and Cannock Chase. If you would like more information please drop us an email: Hello@WyeMTB.co.uk or call Windy on 07887998795 for more details.

Does your Guide’s bag really need to be that heavy?

 

Mountain bike leaders guide bag

CamelBak KUDO 20l

Guide bags come in a variety of shapes and sizes, but one thing is clear, if you are leading clients you need to ensure you have the correct equipment. Here at WyeMTB we like to split this bag into two main sections

1  Emergency group kit e.g. if a rider is hurt and needs medical assistance, do you have the provision to keep the group and the casualty comfortable and protected from the elements?

2 Bike repair kit

Avoidance is better than cure, so if the Guide checks their clients are carrying the following items;

  • a spare layer
  • a rear mech hanger for their bike
  • inner tube
  • their own medication

Additionally, by having the clients complete a full M check of their bikes at home, they should identify any issues with the bike before they head out on the guided ride.

Guided rides happen in a vast array of locations; the local park, the local trail centre in the Forest of Dean and the deepest darkest parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park. The further you move away from civilisation the higher the consequences are if there is a accident or a mechanical. Having a fully equipped bag  that is checked before every ride will help with these incidents.

The essential equipment for a British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader will carry in their guide bag.

  • Well stocked first aid kit – including trauma bandage, we keep this close to hand!
  • A comprehensive bike repair kit
  • Group Shelter, check our Blog on group shelters, and a survival blanket or Blizzard blanket
  • Extra layer for the casualty to wear if they have an off, ideally a synthetic layer works well as it hasgreat thermal qualities even when wet
  • Spare hat and gloves – This could be weather dependent however e.g. if its 30′ outside do you need these extras?
  • Nokia phone where the battery lasts for ever. Make sure you register it with 999 which allows you to text in an emergency if you don’t have mobile signal
  • Physical map of the area you are working in, a compass and the skills to use them both!
  • Procedures in place – late back, accident/injury, mechanical beyond repair
  • Energy gel – for those clients at risk of bonking!

 

Mountain bike leadership kit

Mountain bike leaders bag

WyeMTB run a number of short courses from Pedalabikeaway trail centre in the Forest of Dean, one of our most popular courses is Trail side repairs. If you want to bush up on those skills check the half day course out.

 

The Group Shelter – Just as important as your First Aid Kit?

Two group shelters both fit 8 people….. which one will you always carry as a Mountain Bike Leader?

Working as a commercial mountain guide requires you to carry some essential equipment as we have a duty of care to our clients. Carrying a well equipped first aid kit as a Guide is obvious, but over recent times, opinions on the group shelter or KISO (Karrimor Instructor Survival Unit – who remembers them?) have been conflicted on whether they are needed or not.

Emergency group shelters should be carried, but who uses their emergency shelter for sheltering from the wind, having a cuppa during a ride, or even doing some trailside repairs?  The word emergency sounds a bit harsh and over egged, we prefer the title of group shelter, and we use ours on a daily basis.

Over the years, group shelters have become more common place in the mountain bike leadership world, with better manufacturing techniques, well designed fabrics,  and reasonable price levels have seen an increase and a change in views that a Mountain Bike Leader should be carrying a group shelter

In the Winter of 2018, WyeMTB were introduced to a Welsh company called ‘Summit Gear’, their Supalite Bothy bag, is a real game changer. Their group shelters have taken all the great elements of the original KISO shelter, but striped out all the non-essential parts, but has retained some key features, ripstop silicone fabric, double sewed material, vent and life time guarantee. The icing on the cake, the shelter weight 320gs and has an insane packdown size, which is around the size of your fist for a good size 6-8 person shelter. We have had 8 adults on ours on a regular basis!

Whatever your choice in group shelter, don’t just leave it collecting crumbs in the bottom of your rucksack, get it out and use it!