Category Archives: Courses & coaching

Chasing Trails MTB group skills courses

MTB drops & Jumps course at Dalby 15th Aug

One-off half day drops & jumps course

As with the previous post, you may have already seen some info saying that courses are now only available as exclusive days due to shifting demand.

This is true, but one or two people still have gift vouchers to use for a place on a group course. This means there’s a drops & jumps course on Tues 15th August which you can book onto for a discounted price of £29 per person!

Start time will be 9:30am, finishing at 12:30pm. Start point will be the car park at Dalby opposite Dixons Hollow, at the far end of Adderstone Field.

The course will cover exactly what you’d expect – some reliable technique to ride drops & jumps reliably & predictably.

 
You can book a place here or phone to pay by card or bank transfer 
If you want to book more than one place you can change quantity on the PayPal page after clicking the button. It will only let you book places that are actually available!

Drops & Jumps 
Tues 15th Aug 2017 
9:30am – 12:30pm 
£29 per person

taking part in a group MTB skills course

Group MTB skills course Sun 23rd July

One-off foundation skills MTB course

You may have seen some info already saying that courses are now only available as exclusive days due to shifting demand.

This is true, but one or two people still have gift vouchers to use for a place on a group course. This means there’s a foundation/beginners course on Sun 23rd July which you can book onto for a discounted price of £49 per person!

Start time will be 10am, finishing at 4pm. Start point will be the car park at Dalby opposite Dixons Hollow, at the far end of Adderstone Field.

The course will cover:

  • gears
  • effective braking
  • off road riding position
  • how to roll drop offs
  • getting the front wheel off the ground
  • cornering
  • …and how to crash much less!
  •  
    You can book a place here or phone to pay by card or bank transfer 
    If you want to book more than one place you can change quantity on the PayPal page after clicking the button. It will only let you book places that are actually available!

    Foundation MTB skills 
    Sun 23rd July 2017 
    £49 per person

mtb skills refresher day

MTB skills refresher day

James’ thoughts on his recent MTB skills refresher day

Following on from my previous blog about my experience of skills coaching way back in 2011, I returned to Dalby Forest a few weeks ago and joined Steve from Chasing Trails for a refresher session.

The main aim this time was to focus more on skills that would benefit me in my cross country races, so gnarly jumpy stuff wasn’t on the agenda and neither were we going to be looking at Peter Sagan style no-handed wheelies…

Flow through the trail, free speed, cornering techniques and negotiating technical features were the key areas. And although much of this was covered in detail in my original session, Steve soon noticed once we were out on the trail that I had developed a few bad habits here and there.

I tend to do a lot of road cycling for fitness and sometimes can be off the mountain bike for a good few weeks at a time, living in East Anglia also means that I rarely encounter many technical trail features on my MTB rides unless I’ve travelled at least 100 miles towards some hills. As a result, my position on the mountain bike had morphed to closely reflect that of my road bike; weight well forward over the bars and the saddle height set somewhere near my shoulder blades.

Although I somehow managed to stay on the bike through technical sections, it was probably more through luck rather than skill. So we made a few minor alterations and tried to ride the same sections again. I now had much more freedom to move around the bike and could distribute my weight more accordingly to the conditions faced on the trail. There is a compromise between manoeuvrability and being able to actually get the best power from your legs for speed, so there needs to be a trade-off between the two. It’s still frowned upon to use a dropper post in XC, but it would really give the best of both worlds and the weight of such components is dropping (no pun intended) all the time.

I was also keeping my body too rigid when I approached rocky drops or other technical features and this demonstrated perfectly when I was unable to soak up the landing from a drop-off and ended up on the floor with my legs in the air. I’d consciously gone through the motions in my mind, but failed to execute it quickly enough. A second attempt with a more relaxed body and I was able to clear the drop faster and much more comfortably.

We covered cornering until I was a dab hand negotiating the multiple twisting corners leading up to Medusa’s Drop, a twisty downhill section on the Dalby red route, and also looked at how the most ridden line of a trail may not always be the fastest. A lot of the skill involved in maintaining speed isn’t just about power, but constantly reading the trail ahead of you and thinking where you can conserve energy rather than pedalling through sections like a runaway freight train.

Much of the training needs to be stored in the memory banks and practiced frequently over the following weeks to ensure you don’t forget and can apply it to your regular riding. I found the refresher course was a lot more beneficial than I expected it to be and it instilled new confidence in my riding and gave me a chance to find the answer to questions that have floated around my head when negotiating certain obstacles.

I went away from the session and entered a local XC race at Thetford Forest. Not quite the tech-fest you’d expect to be able to put those new found skills into action, but you’d be surprised…

The course was pretty much devoid of any serious climbing apart from one large pit that we rolled in and out of and a sandy incline through some tight trees near the end of the lap. Everything else was classic Thetford singletrack; tight, twisty and lots of rolling bumps between the rows of trees. Straight away I spotted how I could use the bumps to my advantage by ‘pumping’ through them and conserve my energy for later in the race. Sighting the fastest line through corners also meant I didn’t have to brake off my speed only to pedal hard to regain it again. And reading the trail way ahead rather than directly in front meant that I was ready to select the right gear to pass another rider on a sweeping corner.

As I’m more of a long distance rider than a race whippet, I usually struggle to keep up the pace in these shorter course events and tend to finish in or around the top 10. So I was surprised to roll over the line in 5th place. I think a lot of this was down to applying the skills training during the race to maintain my speed and conserve energy rather than just thrashing legs and burning out early like I always used to.

Next up are a couple of endurance races, a 6 followed by a 12 hour. Again an opportunity to look at ways of conserving energy and making free speed by pumping the bumps and railing the berms!

James

Also see James’ blogspot post for more info on the race itself

1 sponsored place is still available for a female racer. If you race XC, Endurance or Enduro & your riding skill needs to improve, get in touch!

Chasing Trails has a sponsored rider

James Deane is the first rider to be sponsored by Chasing Trails

It occurred to me recently that this would be a good thing to do…

Obviously it gets the word around that skills coaching is effective! It has to actually work for there to be any appeal..!

Many people just hope for the best, but everyone who’s had some coaching with Chasing Trails has been surprised with the progress achieved. One thing I’m always surprised by is the number of racers who avoid learning skills that could be the difference between a crash & a personal best.

James booked a 1:1 day in 2011 & we covered a fair amount in the day, so much so that he was inspired to tweet this:

Since then James started racing & replied to a facebook post/tweet asking if anyone was interested in being sponsored in the form of skills coaching. I knew he was serious about the racing; despite living down south I’ve often seen him ride past on the trails at Dalby while I’ve been teaching. Having gained a lot from the skills session way back, James was keen to build on it & refine things as well as refresh in case any bad habits had crept back in.

There’ll be another report from James shortly on his recent session, but enough from me. Here’s James’ thoughts on the initial day in 2011:

When I first started to get really serious about mountain biking, my adventures took me out into the wilds of the Suffolk countryside. A part of the UK that doesn’t boast epic hills, radical descents or even a remotely gnarly drop-off… But at the time, it really was all I knew about riding cross country and embarrassing as it to admit it, I did fall off quite a few times.

With time I grew more confident and started to venture further afield. First to Thetford Forest, then Cannock Chase and eventually over the border into Wales and to the Grand Daddy of them all, Coed y Brenin.

CyB was a total culture shock for someone who had spent their cycling life in the East Anglian flat lands. I probably walked/slid/fell down most of the descents and came home with more cuts and bruises than I’d have sustained in a round with Tyson in the ring.

I’d read about skills courses in magazines, riding buddies spoke about them in hushed tones but never admitted to having even considered them. Bravado is big in cycling and to admit you have a weakness will mark you out as less of a hard man (Just go on a bike forum and post on there that you are scared of descents and you’ll see what I mean!).

After considering the options – broken collarbone vs reputation in tatters with the biking hard men, I chose the latter and booked myself on a skills course with Chasing Trails. There are plenty of skills coaches in the country that you can choose from. Some are quite eccentric, others are quiet and unassuming. I chose on reputation rather than marketing.

Steve from Chasing Trails initially spent some time riding with me on the trails at Dalby, analysing my riding style and quietly building a list of things that we needed to concentrate on; riding position, how I moved my body weight in corners or in drops. These are things that you wouldn’t really think about until someone actually points them out to you.

With the bad habits ironed out, the next focus is on learning solid technique, understanding why it works and getting the skills into body memory. Body memory allows you to do the right thing before you have to think about it!

Like driving lessons, a skills course will not instantly make you into the greatest rider that ever lived. You still need to practice and develop your riding over time. But from a course you will come away with added confidence, knowledge and a better understanding of how to handle your bike and yourself when negotiating technical terrain.

Following the skills course I went back to Coed y Brenin and this time I had both the technical knowledge and the confidence to make it down all the descents on two wheels!

James

Chasing Trails is small (just me, Steve) and so there will only be space for 1 more sponsored rider. In the interests of balance this will be a female racer. If you race XC, Endurance or Enduro & you know your riding will improve with some skills work, get in touch!

Some recommendations for MTB wheel builds…

Just thought I’d put some thoughts down on wheel builds for XC/trail/all mountain. Hopefully this’ll be useful if you either build your own or you want a set built for you but you’re not sure what to go for.

Being upfront about things, Chasing Trails offers a no-compromise MTB wheel building service, so feel free to get in touch from the contact page on the main site if you’re interested.

Anyway, to components:

Hubs

I reckon from a few angles you can’t go wrong with Hope Pro 2 Evo hubs. Quality is great & has been for ages. The original Pro 2’s had occasional issues but it was all sorted pretty quick. If you like to keep the weight down they’re one of the lightest that can be relied on. They come in shiny colours, although for myself I tend to go for black… The noise the freehub makes does annoy some, but I like it, you can hear that it’s working! The EVO versions which have been out for a while now are also fairly easily convertible to the different axle standards, so if you relplace a frame or fork you don’t need to replace the hub. And Hope genuinely have after-sales service that you’d struggle to beat anywhere.

The design is well thought out – they start with a forging that’s the aproximate shape & CNC machine it so you end up with a strong but precise shell. The bearings are stainless cartridge units. So far I’ve never needed to replace a Hope bearing on my own bikes. Maybe good luck, but it’s worth mentioning. I never jetwash the bike though. Dalby & Peak District grit seems to have no effect on them.

Rims

I used nothing but Mavic for years. They always seemed plenty strong for the weight/price. I still like them, but in the last couple of years I’ve been using Stans NoTubes. They come in at similar-ish weights as the Mavic equivalents with a few lighter/stupidly light models as well. The advantages over Mavic is that they’re wider for a given weight, meaning if you like larger tyres (and why wouldn’t you..) you’ll get away with bigger tyres & better profiles with the Stans. Most rims can be bodged into running tubeless, but the Stans can be set up for UST as well as running many standard tyres tubeless with just the correct valve & rim tape.

I’ve had a pair of white ZTR Flows on the Five for about a year & they’ve not needed re-truing so far. Having said that, most half decent rims built well won’t need truing too often, but these have done repeated 4-5 foot drops to flat-ish.

Personally I’d avoid the models with a rider weight limit unless they’re specifically for racing, but the Crest comes in at 340g with no set limit if you want lightweight XC rims.

The ‘catch’ is price. I think they’re worth it, but they do come in at £70 – £80 each RRP.

Spokes

Not much to say except use something decent, so in my opinion that means Sapim or DT. Sapim have the edge IMO without costing any more & if you must have alloy nipples theirs are definitely the best. I use brass for myself.Sapim CX-Ray spokes in black

If you’re going for a decent set of wheels but you want to keep the cost down, the double butted Sapim Race are the ones to go for. On the other hand, if you want to keep the weight as low as possible, the CX-Rays are the ultimate. They’re plenty strong enough for XC/all mountain but will shed a few more grams. They’re also a bladed design so are more aerodynamic, psycologically at least…

Hope that gives you a bit of a start if you’re looking for a wheel upgrade or replacement & feel free to get in touch if you want a top quality build or you want to learn.

New Course – MTB air – drops & Jumps…

Think getting air isn’t for you..?

It seems there are a fair few riders who can tackle pretty much any trail they find themselves on, but have never got comfortable with the wheels off the ground.

So if you’re one of them and fancy learning to get air safely, knowing you can stay in control & get the landing right, sign up for a course.

We’ve had great success teaching jumps on the regular courses, so thought it would be good to offer it to people who don’t necessarily need to learn other skills.

Next one’s on the 10th Sept, but as usual if you have a group together already you can contact us for a time that suits.

See the prices & dates page to book, or contact us to pay by bank transfer or cheque. Feel free to phone for a chat if you have any questions.

[edit] It’s 2014 & we’re still running air courses. So far the results have been great with no crashes & ages from 16 (with parent) to 67!

Chasing Trails on Bikeradar

Ruth Schofield’s 1:1 skills day

Rider on Trek MTBLook out for a Bikeradar article by Ruth Schofield on a day of 1:1 skills coaching with Chasing Trails. Ruth is doing a series from a beginner’s point of view where the final aim is to ride Snowdon later in the year.

When Ruth arrived at Dalby for the day, she’d missed a course elsewhere due to the snow a few weeks ago. So far she’s completed a maintenance course and a basic beginner’s intro to mountain biking. The 1:1 with Chasing Trails gave her the chance for a relaxed but comprehensive day where there was no need to feel either held back or moving at too fast a pace in terms of skill level. I don’t think Ruth will mind me saying that she’s a bit of a perfectionist & was quite hard on herself if she didn’t get everything dialled perfectly the 1st time! Nevertheless, she made great progress during the day & even rode a section of black on the world cup circuit (several times!) The Bikeradar article, part 4 in Ruth’s series, will likely focus on drop offs & small obstacles as that’s the next bit in her series, but we had time to cover much more from basics like braking to more advanced stuff like berms.