As we approach week 11 of Covid – 19 restrictions we are starting to wonder, just how long will this last? Emails have starting to land asking the same question. Hopefully this blog will answer some of the queries.
One thing is definite, just as soon as we are allowed to open we will, our coaching, guiding and educational workforce are super keen to get going.
England, Wales and Scotland have taken the decision to adopt different strategies on how their countries will ease restrictions. Currently England are allowing people to travel for exercise, attend gatherings of no more than 5 people and take part in a wider range of sports. Wales and Scotland however are more courteous and have decided to keep tighter restrictions in place for a further 3 weeks. Visit Wales current policy is #VisitWalesLater, so please respect that.
This makes our lives really hard as as small business. We operate in both England and Wales, but we believe we now have a plan of how we will start to unlock the business which is considerate to all parties involved.
Firstly we wanted to thank all the clients who had bookings with us during this period and who have volunteered to transferred their bookings to dates later in the year and for the people we refunded, we hope to see you sometime in 2020. All your kind words on the phone and over emails have been amazing and truly humbling, Thanks so much.
The majority of our coaching courses happen from Pedalabikeaway in the Forest of Dean. The woods are owned and managed by Forestry England, and currently no outdoor operator is authorised to use their land for outdoors sports, however we are very hopefully this will reviewed in the next couple of weeks.
This will mean we will start the process of bring the business back on line. Sadly we do not have any fixed dates, but as soon as we do we will be shouting about it. We have a 5 step approach:
1:1 Guided rides based from Pedalabikeaway and around Forest of Dean and same house hold family guided rides
Open group sessions. We will follow current government guidance and restrict these sessions to 1: 5 ratio
Open group guided rides. These WILL NOT be vehicle assisted guided rides but a more traditional style, so you will have to pedal up some hills. More information will follow with regards to these trips
Mountain bike educational courses will be introduced, these courses will run from Pedalabikeaway at first, but once Visit Wales have given more guidance in 3 weeks we will advertise more courses in Wales if we feel we can meet all the demands of the Covid-19 guidelines
Vehicle assisted guided rides. This will be the return to our classic 1 day adventures across Wales: Wye Valley off Piste, The Black Bomb and the Brecon Epic
Multi day mini adventures. Some exciting news about these products will be released in due course
Our new How To Videos are now live on our You Tube channel.
We have decided over this period to produce a series of videos to help with all things mountain biking.
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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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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.
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.