Posts Tagged ‘trail centre’

7Stanes – Scotland’s biking heaven (Part 3)

April 24, 2010

Following lugging a trailer around the Blanchland wilderness on the weekend, I reverted back to the simple formula of merely two wheels to conquer two more of the legendary 7Stanes mountain bike trail centres, notably Newcastleton and Innerleithen.

Newcastleton lies just north shy of the English border in the Scottish Boarders. The red route provides a comparatively easy and gentle 16km loop, comprising 60% single track and taking just under an hour to complete. If one is looking for a fairly relaxed ride, that still provides a real mountain bike experience, then this is the trail centre to visit.

Next stop was Innerleithen a short drive north to what many consider to be the heartland of Scottish mountain biking. What awaited me has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The red graded XC course (with black graded options) measures 19km including 75% of single track and took 1h15mins to complete. Right from the car park just off the bank of the river Tweed, the track starts to wind its way up the steep mountainside. It seemed like a never-ending climb, which lasts for 8km, bar a short 3/4km section of descending after 2.5km, providing only brief respite. The climb was a stark reminder to me of why I gave up the pain and hardship of XC racing in favour of pure downhill many years ago and the remainder of the course only confirmed my sensibly good choice. Thankfully what goes up must come down and so you guessed it, 11km of downhill, with minor undulations, awaits the patient peddler.

It is on the back-end of this formidable XC course where the fun and real challenges begin. A black graded option presents itself in the form of ‘Razor Rock’ and demands a high level of technical ability and poise to master. This is only where it starts to get interesting. The final 2km are shared with the ‘Make or Brake’ downhill course and so it is natural to expect some seriously aggressive downhill features, including rock drops, bomb holes, step downs and table tops, requiring absolute concentration and confident bike handling skills. The exhilaration and pure rush of adrenaline you experience lets you forget the pain you suffered all the way up the seemingly never-ending climb at the beginning. Was the climb worth it? To that, I simply suggest you head down to Innerleithen and saddle up to experience this world-class XC course for yourself!

Air time @ Innerleithen

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SMBLA TCL and MBL certification

March 27, 2010

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.

7Stanes – Scotland’s biking heaven (Part 1 1/2)

November 27, 2009

As promised in my last post, I am returning to leave an update on the remaining 7 Stanes trail centres, or rather what happened in my quest to ride them all.

As planned, I decided to start with Dalbeattie the day after riding Kirroughtree. Dalbeattie trail centre red course is 25km in length, comprising 65% single track. I arrived late morning and there seemed no end to the rain. I got changed, set up the bike and as if by magic the rain stopped just as I was about to hit the trail. So far so good!

I was riding along steadily enjoying yet another top class Scottish trail centre and was eagerly anticipating “The Slab”, a daunting 15 metre section of exposed sheer granite rock face lying at a steep angle, described as the highlight of the trail. After about 1/2hr I reached this point and to be on the safe side got off the bike and looked over the edge to scan for the best line. Back on the bike and time to take the plunge. The rock surface was very wet which didn’t help the tires grip much. Speed picked up quickly, but the line was good. Just near the bottom I hit a lip and before I knew it I was heading down, down, down before I landed on the trail path with a bang. I picked myself up and completed a split second damage assessment in my daze: Wrists hurt, knees hurt… actually left wrist really hurts! Hold on, how is the bike? Nothing broken, thank goodness! So where was I again? Oh yeah, that severe pain in my wrist… Mmmm, it’s a bit crooked as well. Yep, it’s definitely broken.

So I walked down a short section of single track and hopped back on the bike once I reached the fire roads again and cycled the 2km short cut back to the car park. Got the bike loaded into the car and drove to Dumfries hospital with my floppy wrist. Into A&E and registered – The great thing was, all my details were already on the system, as I had been mountain biking once previously in Dalbeattie for a Scottish NPS XC race back in 1997, had also crashed, and finished up in Dumfries A&E. After a short wait, I was seen to by the friendly and efficient medical staff. Diagnosis was quick considering the obvious deformity where upon they quickly moved to the next step – Pain reduction for comfort.

Dr: How sore is it?

JK: Extremely!

Dr: Would you like some pain killers?

JK: Yes please, that would be nice.

Dr: No problem at all, I will get some morphine for you now.

2mins later and all my discomfort and worries were on hold. A couple of x-rays to assess the extent of the damage, followed by some more morphine and a manipulation under a local anaesthetic, the application of a plaster cast, some more x-rays to check proper alignment and I was ready to settle down for the night.

Next day I was released, already scheming my comeback and determined to make it third time lucky in Dalbeattie.

Once I do make it back to Scotland, I’ll be sure to share my thoughts on Dalbeattie, Mabie and Glentress & Innerleithen trail centres as soon as they have travelled beneath my spinning wheels, but for now it will be countless winter hours on the turbo trainer. It could be a whole lot worse. 😀

7Stanes – Scotland’s biking heaven (Part 1)

November 16, 2009

Following my Red Bull Road Rage escapades thanks to The Cycle Inn bike shop in the past months, I have temporarily ditched the road bike in favour of returning to my cycling roots in mountain biking. Currently in Scotland, I am doing a tour of the 7 Stanes mountain bike trail centres. (www.7stanes.gov.uk)
On Saturday I rode the Ae trail centre red course. 24km in length, comprising 65% single track, it is a solid 1.5 hour ride (even though the shop manager was unconvinced it was possible before I set off). He even offered me a free meal, well a recovery bar, if I lapped in less than 1.5 hours. Exactly 1h29m44s later I cruised in to pick it up, including negotiating the last downhill in falling darkness without lights! Not recommended for minors – Do not try this at home!
Flooding on the path just after the very start led to the latter 2 thirds of the ride being completed with no feeling in my feet, which detracted somewhat from the comfort factor of the ride.
Today I rode the Kirroughtree trail centre black course. 31km in length (17km red with 14km black section) with 75% single track, it is a physical 2 hour ride. Arguably one of the best trail centres in the UK, the highlight has to be McMoab, huge slabs and ridges of exposed granite, linked by boulder causeways. A good technical level of riding skills is necessary to negotiate this feature, especially in the wet.

McMoab

Over the next couple of days I will be riding Dalbeattie, Mabie and Glentress & Innerleithen trail centres with updates to follow.