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Cycle Education

A review by the Cyborg

A review by the Cyborg

Cycle Education

According to tradition, the summer festivities provided a much-needed break and respite for the TriHards, particularly marking the halfway point of their 2009-2010 Paddy Pallin season. The season had already had its ups and downs, with McFly being injured in the first race, and the teams completing a shortened classic course for the November Canberra race (and still barely finishing in time for the presentation). The TriHards used this break to reflect and consider their efforts; and their progress, which would seem to have stalled. Something more was needed. More training. More practice. Better kit. That needed more time and more money - commodities none of the TriHards had in abundance.

Fortunately, an answer came through as the TriHards eagerly read through the AROC Sport January email: CycleEd were doing a shortened mountain bike workshop for people intending to participate in AROC races. After competing themselves, they had noted that these otherwise very gifted endurance athletes were perhaps not performing as well as they could (they obviously weren't watching the TriHards!) and had offered to run this cheap short course at Mount Stromlo. Knowing that even a little bit of coaching can be a truly valuable thing, providing incredible changes in performance, the TriHards went along to the session, hoping to at least slightly improve their riding skills. And they were not disappointed.

Before commencing the course, the CycleEd coaches set about inspecting many of the bikes which had turned up to the course; many of which had the Cyborg quite envious. One of the instructors discovered the Cyborg’s bike (which he thought he looked after okay) had a loose headset, and immediately tightened it, making a much more comfortable ride for the rest of the day.

A cyclist moving through the hats
Controlling a bike through the hats.

Once all the bikes were inspected and all were deemed fit to proceed, the participants were broken up into three groups which were to rotate through the three training stations set up in the paddock. The first station (first, because that’s the first one the Cyborg - who owns a watch and therefore knows how to turn up on time - attended) involved steering and controlling the bikes. The CycleEd instructor had everyone weaving through witches hats in full control of their bikes, then with their left hands, and right hands off, and veering off at the the end in different directions. Now, this may well sound like a simple drill; but when was the last time you did it? When was the last time you steered one-handed away from your dominant side? (You know, if you’re right-handed, turn left with only your right hand on the bars). It provided and excellent warm up for the day, as well as some good practice and confidence building.

The downhill position
CycleEd instructor demonstrating the downhill position.

From this station the group moved on to the “downhill” skills section, which started with practicing the downhill position. You’d know this position if you’ve ever watched people going downhill on bikes; basically it consists of dropping off the back of the bike seat, bending the knees and arms, such that they absorb a lot of the bumps and the bike remains relatively stable. The group practiced this as well as controlled braking as they rode down the paddock. This was followed by riding over bits of wood - which proved to be an excellent simulation of roots - then by bunny-hopping over the wood.

Have you ever noticed that some things that you just did as a kid, that came as quickly and naturally was walking seem to be so hard now? As a youth, the Cyborg had no problems with wheelies, monos, bunny hopping, jumping his bike up and down gutters and the like. As an adult, for some reason, pulling that front wheel off the ground to get up a gutter just seems so hard, so dangerous perhaps? A quick little course like this can be an excellent confidence builder, providing the opportunity to practice in a safe environment. As a bonus, with the experienced coaches there, it’s possible for someone to watch, and advise on the problem!

The final station covered some techniques the CycleEd people had been drilling all day: correct positioning yourself on the bike when cornering. Outer foot down. Outer foot down. Inner foot up. And many of the TriHards had, until that time, done the opposite, much to their demise! Having the outer foot down, and body over the frame, serves to push the front wheel into the ground, maintaining traction and therefore control of the bike. This station also provided handy tips for looking ahead on the course, and turning your head into a corner well before the corner. Yes, it sounds kind of funny, but it works.

This was also about the time that Mr GPS and Doc Runaway (excellent navigators, both of them, but obviously cheap GPSs, as they don’t include a time function!) arrived for shortened briefing with the coaches.

Once everyone had completed all of the stations, the CycleEd instructors took their groups out onto the wilds of the Stromlo Single Track! Beginners’ tracks, of course. And much fun was had, riding through a gully, and some of the beginner riders surprising everyone by successfully completing the log bridge. Then it was back to the start, and a quick chat with the instructors (the ones who weren't replacing tubes - a good skill to have for adventure racing!)

Instructor going over a log
The instructors were so good on the day, two students had the courage to try, and successfully negotiate, the log bridge!

As they were already at Stromlo and had a bit of time, the TriHards elected to put their newly minted mad mtb skillz into practice, and ride up the mountain for some single-track goodness. And it was good. Well, not the ride up, that’s never good, but whispers have it that there’s a chairlift going in to save everyone the hassle of actually having to pedal their bikes while on Stromlo. The single-track riding was good. Already happy and comfortable on their bikes after warming up in the course, the TriHards put the lessons to use - particularly the cornering lessons - to great advantage. Mr GPS could be heard laughing as he leaned his bike into turns flying down the mountain.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable course, which has left the TriHards seriously considering going for some of the longer, more detailed courses on offer by CycleEd. With personable and knowledgeable instructors eager to share their skills and experience, lessons with this mob would be well worthwhile. It should also be noted that CycleEd support local cycling groups and organisations, and have been affiliated with other events such as the Urban MTB run by the Mental Health Foundation. For much more information on Cycle Ed, including course descriptions and schedules, check out their website (http://www.cycleducation.com.au/).