Thursday, July 28, 2016

A four day Vigu course in mountain biking

Mountain biking is finally back in the Vigu course repertoir after a long break. This time in the shape of a 5 studying week specialisation course, consisting of three parts: A four day crash course (pun intended), a week-long downhill course and a six day bikepacking trip. I'm serving as the instructor for the first and last parts and will participate in the downhill course as well. In addition to this the participants get some other assignments as well.

The four day introduction course took place in the Västerby area in southwestern Finland, with a day trip to the trail center about to open in Fiskars nearby. The area is quite beautiful with nice lakes and excellent trails, not too easy and not too difficult.

We started with a little road followed by a short trail section, which gave me the opportunity to quickly assess the skills of the participants, which one always should do when guiding in just about any activity, preferrably in the beginning of a trip. It turned out that about half of the eight participants were pretty much beginners, two had roughly the same skills as I had and the rest were somewhere in between.

We continued on roads and easy trails, practicing basic skills like lifting the front wheel, and later my favorite, conquering rock steps.

Duckboard riding is an essential skill in Finland. They should preferrably be ridden on the actual duckboard.

A lunch break and some theory later, we continued on some lesser trails. One of the participants was trying to make a route around a lake, but it was not quite ready yet.

We were done sometime around four in the afternoon, much earlier that I had originally intended, but it started to look like it was time to save some strength for the following three days. This time we didn't sleep in the forest, since I had originally thought that it would take too much time. As it turned out, we would have had plenty of time for that, but most people were either close enough to home or had relatives or friends nearby to visit, so the accomodation was easy anyhow.

The next day we started around ten in the morning, the same area but different trails. Training at conquering rock steps is in my experience the most basic skill needed on Finnish trails, and it efficiently teaches you to lift the front wheel and move on the bike to shift the body weight. This is a skill that beginners don't master.

Some participants needed more training on rock steps, but it was still time to step up a little. A short steeper section with two bumps was to be the next exercise. It trained lifting the front wheel or at least lightening it, shifting body weight with the correct timing, using enough speed and power as well as timing the pedals strokes.

Also a good spot to train going down.

Some nice singletrack provided relief from the exercises.

The root descent was a little intimidating for the beginners.

The more experienced riders just went down.

Even the easy line needed some speed and body movements in order to avoid this result.

And some nice trail riding again.

Lunch break.

Another typical short steeper section that has to be conquered with some speed, power and body movement.

A rock step that looked more intimidating than it actually was.

We ended the day by going back to the basics again: Riding rock steps...

... as well as an introduction to drops.

The third day was spent checking out the trails at the mountain biking centre in Fiskars, that was to open a week later. Not everything was done yet, but we got a map to follow. We chose the red route, the second most difficult on the four grade scale.

A good climb to get the heart rate and warmth up.

A more difficult bit. At least there was one place only the instructor (me) could make.

Another training place.

The beginning of a difficult section. Only three of us could make it to the top.

Steep enough to need speed, body movement, and precision, since the traction was not good enough.

A marked trail.

Uphill with steeper bumps...

... which were somewhat demanding.

Even more rock step training.

Lunch break.

No injuries, though two thumbs were reinforced with tape.

The trail has been improved.

Checking out the view.

A nice downhill section.

Done for the day, but stretching should not be forgotten. The Fiskars trails were nice. Too demanding for most of the participants, but I still think it was nice for them to see what they will be able to ride with some training.

The fourth and last day had us back in Västerby on the same trails as on the second day.

This spot went a lot better this time. The participants who started out as beginners made very visible progress in this short time.

The root descent was no longer as intimidating.

The forest was full of blueberries, but we still had an ordinary lunch with coffee.

The lunch breaks also offered the possibility take a swim in order to cool down in the rather hot weather.

Another spot that was far easier this time.

Finally a snakebite.

Training at a higher rock step.

Looks like the saddle isn't entirely comfortable anymore.

During the last hour, I started to hear some strange noise from the bike. A steeper uphill later the freewheel of the Salsa hub broke down completely, forcing me to take a shorter route to the cars. I've only broken Shimano hubs in this manner before. One should not draw too many conclusions from a single occurance, but I don't trust the Salsa hubs in the same manner I trust the Hope hubs.

The course is finished.

I hope and think that most of the participants learned a lot. At least they made visible progress. I also learned a lot and had a great time.

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