I entered a random competition that popped on my Facebook feed a few weeks ago to go to a free coaching day by Specialized Bikes with Katy Curd and Helen Gaskell. And I was lucky enough to be picked! Although I have ridden mountain bikes for over 10 years, I’ve never actually had any coaching before and I hardly ever ride with other women so I was really excited (and a little nervous) about the day.

It was an early start – 9am meet at the FlyUp 417 Project near Gloucester, thankfully just a short trip up the M5 for me but some ladies had travelled from as far a field as Lincoln and Cheshire! I didn’t even know this place existed so I was looking forward to checking it out as it’s just an hours drive from home.

After signing the usual insurance waivers, we were introduced to the coaching team and split up into groups roughly based on riding experience – there was roughly 20 ladies in total so the groups were nice and small. The day was split into two halves, three 40 minute coaching sessions in the morning and then free riding in the afternoon.

First up for our group was the pump track with Helen Gaskell, in at the deep end as I had never ridden a pump track before and the shiny concrete track surface looked pretty intimidating! Helen was great though at putting any nerves at ease, she gave us a run through of the basics – try to get round the track without pedalling, using your weight to push the bike into the down slopes and maintain momentum. Definitely easier said then done and of course Helen made it look extremely easy. After a couple of goes round each everyone was beginning to get the hang of it – I couldn’t believe how much hard work it was! But great fun and you can easily see how it would translate into helping your trail riding. Helen continued to give us coaching points throughout the session on body positioning etc and the 40 minutes flew pass.

Our second session was with Katy Curd out on the trails. She tailored the session to what we wanted to focus on as a group, so first we looked at cornering. She showed us how to position the pedals with the pressure going through the outside leg to help keep grip through the corner and maintain speed. She also gave us tips on body positioning and where to look to get the best line. We pushed up the trail and each had a few goes, it was hard focusing on specifics rather than just winging it like I usually do but I could really feel how, with a bit of practice, the coaching would make a difference. For the second half of the session we moved onto drop-offs (gulp!) something I’ve been wanting to nail properly for years! Katy first showed us the correct body position and how to roll a small drop. I’ve always wanted to lean back – over the rear wheel, but she showed us how a neutral position, low over the centre of the bike with elbows out and legs bent was the correct way to approach a drop. Simple when you know how!! After a couple of goes each of rolling the drop we progressed onto jumping. As your front wheel approaches the lip straighten your legs and arms in one smooth motion, to lift the front wheel up and hopefully catch some air! This is definitely is all about timing and practice, practice, practice but really pleased that I now know the basics!

After a quick tea break our next session was maintenance. My idea of maintenance is dumping the bike in the shed and crossing my fingers that it still works the next time I come to ride it! So this was a really useful run through of the checks you should make every time you ride and how to spot any potential issues.

After lunch we all it was time to hit the trails, we were all given one free up lift – which was amazing because it was flipping hot! There are 3 main trails at FlyUp 417, a blue, a red and a black. Most of us opted for the blue trail for our first run. This trail is FUN, really smooth, flowy and fast with lots of corners (to put those new skills to the test!) – there is nothing technical and there were lots of smiles at the bottom.

We chose to ride/push back up to the top (probably took about 15 mins) but the uplift runs all day and it’s about £3 per trip.  We hit the red trail for the second run and this definitely a step up in technical difficulty. The first couple of loose berms were fine, but then there is a steep rocky chute to negotiate and I have to admit I freaked out a bit at that point! It’s annoying as it’s stuff I’ve ridden before, but not for a long time – got far too comfortable riding my local trails. After that the trail split, with a choice of a jump line or a rock garden – we chose the rocks, which was mostly fine and the more tricky sections had a chicken run! Following the rocks there was a series of steep berms, which were great and then the trail opened out for the final section which was flowy and fast. I got down in one piece but more practice is required! For the last run of the day we did the blue again with Katy, Helen and the Specialized team, that was great fun and a perfect way to finish up the day.

Had really good day, loved the coaching – so many good points to take onto the trails and loved meeting and riding with such a fab group of ladies. Thanks Specialized!

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