Mountain biking with a champ

Some months ago I won a competition on Twitter, hosted by Pure Mountains, involving a two hour coaching session with Katy Curd; 2 time 4x champion, 2010 Downhill National Series Champion, 5 world cup podiums and the UK’s number 1 rider…  After a few emails back and forth, we got a date booked and this weekend saw O and I heading down to the Forest of Dean.

I was completely intimidated and slightly nervous when O and I arrived in the Forest of Dean on Friday morning ready for the session.  However, I got prepared and warmed up sensibly – by having a cup of tea and a sausage roll at the cafe. 

It’ was the first time O and I had been to the Forest of Dean and it was beautiful!  It was a stunning day, blue sky and sunshine, so it was ideal weather and there were a LOT of people there.  It was a great mixture of families with young children, serious downhill riders fully kitted out in body armour and neck braces and people like us – somewhere in the middle.  It was a really friendly atmosphere.

We met up with Katy and had a quick chat about the weather and so forth, then O headed off on the Freeminder trail whilst Katy and I discussed the session and what I wanted out of it, namely re-learning how to manual a drop off and riding berms. 

After being told I had a great riding position, we headed off to practice some berms.  I was pleasantly surprised that considering how busy the car park and cafe were, the trails were really quiet!  O reported the same thing. 

I really enjoyed practising on the berms – they’re something that scare the sh*t out of me for some reason, and I’ve never ridden them properly.  Of course, being me, I managed to show some true muppetry along the lines of falling off over roots, changing into the wrong gear and getting stuck in ruts.  I’m just not cool. 

Once I’d nailed (sort of) the basics, we followed a single track trail up the hill and practised some uphill switchbacks on the way, during which time I realised something had gone wrong with my front brake – basically it had stopped working completely.

Undeterred, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem since my back brake was fine, and as we came to the top of the hill we prepared for a fabulous downhill track with some fun berms to practise my newfound skills on. 

Can you guess what’s coming…

Yep, I did a super job of riding the berms, but didn’t quite make one of the corners.  Instead, I shot off down the side of the hill until I hit a log, at which point I went over the bars.  Five minutes later, once I could breathe again and Katy had unwrapped the chain from the cassette, I laughed it off (feeling very proud for not crying) and we finished the downhill section – which I LOVED! 

Weird thing; once I’ve had a good fall, I seem to lose my nervousness.  I think it’s because the thought of falling off is always so much worse than actually doing it. 

Regardless, I decided that I’d had enough of berms so we decided to tackle manuals.  Partway round the Freeminers trail is a series of wooden drop offs.  After about half hour of practising over branches and Katy’s very expensive gloves, it was time to give the five drop offs a go!  They weren’t high, maybe 12 inches or so, building up to perhaps 18 inches by the fifth one and the ground round them was nice and flat, so at least if I was going to fall off, it wasn’t going to be down the side of a hill this time!

I’ve never been able to manual, I’ve always just rolled over the edge of drop offs and crossed my fingers so I was seriously excited that I managed to manual properly off three of the five with a great finish on the fifth one!  Happy days!

On a high, we headed back to the cafe to meet Owain and have a well deserved cup of tea.  By this time, I could feel a bruise forming on my left quad from my fall and I was knackered!

It had been a great session; Katy was absolutely lovely, a great laugh and a fantastic coach.  She also never made me feel daft, despite me bringing out my best moves!  A huge thank you to Katy and to Pure Mountains. THANK YOU!

Muppet on the left, champ on the right – in case you couldn’t tell!

Two days on, I’m still on a high and am planning various trips to practice berms and manuals (once my bike has been stripped and we’ve established what the hell happened to my front brake).  I do however have numerous scrapes and bruises, including an absolutely spectacular bruise on my left quad.  It’s currently shades of red and purple and is bigger than my hand. 

I’ve tried various positions to get a photo to show it off, but it’s impossible to get a picture which a) doesn’t make my thighs look huge, and b) doesn’t show my pants – this isn’t that sort of blog, I’m afraid. 

Don’t get me wrong; I’d prefer not to fall off and have no bruises, but there’s nothing worse than falling off, hurting, and then having nothing to show for it.  This beast of a bruise is definitely one of the best I’ve ever had!

All in all, a fantastic day out!  If you’ve not been to the Forest of Dean, then it’s well worth a visit.  If you’ve not followed Katy Curd and her racing career, do so, she’s very cool!

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