In the last months I have been busy completing my Scottish Mountain Bike Leader Award (SMBLA) level 1 Trail Cycle Leader (TCL) and level 2 Mountain Bike Leader (MBL) awards. For those of you who may not be familiar with the afore mentioned body and awards, it is probably the most widely recognised mountain bike leader qualification worldwide, allowing you to lead groups of mountain bikers on tours, as well as teaching aspiring riders the skills necessary to tackle the terrain and multitude of natural obstacles often encountered while mountain biking.
In late January I attended the TCL course run by Traja Owens from biking.ie. Part classroom, part practical based, it was run out of the Outdoor Education Centre in Kilfinnane, Co. Limerick with the rides taking place using the Ballyhoura Trail Centre venue. This was my first time riding the Ballyhoura trails, which I can only describe as world class. Designed by world renowned trail designer, Daffyd Davis, who has also designed the mountain bike cross country course for the London 2012 Olympics, there are a total of 96km of 5 stacked single track loops, the longest one totalling 51km.
I returned to the same venue mid March for my TCL assessment with SMBLA tutor Jonathan Collins from 1bike1.co.uk to successfully wrap up my level 1 certification. The next obvious step was to progress to the MBL level 2 award. I met up with Jonathan as he was running an MBL course out of the National Mountain Centre in Plas-y-Brenin, Snowdonia National Park, North Wales. Accommodation and food were included in the price of the course at the centre, which helped make it an enjoyable and relaxing stay.
Again, it was part classroom, part practical based and the rides on both days were in Snowdonia National Park taking in some of the most breathtaking scenery. The weather was damp, but thankfully the heavy rain held off until just after we had returned from the ride on the second day. I now look forward to eventually completing my MBL assessment in early May, all going to plan.