Our very own Dave Gowan, an avid adventure racer and endurance athlete has been trying his hand at Mountain Biking and tells us his about his experience

I’ve spent the last 12 months or so dabbling in some mountain biking, predominantly in the local trail centres. For the most part but certainly not always, I’m able to make it to the bottom of most of the trails in one piece! However recently, having gotten a bit braver, I’ve headed “off piste” for the real mountain bike experience and spent most of that time struggling to stay upright and certainly not always succeeding! My last outing alone, I hit the deck more times than I care to remember.

Bearing this in mind, I decided to bite the bullet and signed myself up for the Mountain Biking Core Skills course hosted by the guys over at Biking.ie

Biking.ie are a stone’s throw from Dublin in Ticknock and in Ballinastoe in the Wicklow Mountains. They offer Servicing, Bike Rental, Lessons, advice and some well earned coffee! If you’re thinking of giving mountain biking a go, rent a bike from the guys, they’ll have you on the trails in no time and I guarantee you’ll be bitten by the bug!! The courses the guys offer are generally limited to 6 people which is great and makes for a great interactive session.

Anyway, back to my own lack of balance and the essence of this article. I arrived at Ballinastoe early and get myself and my bike together. I make my way up to the cabin, there’s a couple of others waiting and there’s that familiar nervous silence, none of us really knowing what to expect. That’s soon broken by Richie, out instructor for the morning. Friendly and enthusiastic doesn’t even begin to describe him! A round of coffees gets the intros out of the way and we head out for the bike check. All our bikes are given a quick once over to ensure they’re safe and we’re straight into it. The initial parts of the morning’s lessons are based around the last couple of berms and the area directly outside the cabin.

We start back at the basics such as braking and body position. Even early on, the corrections to my position on the bike are making huge a difference. Then is on
to getting familiar with getting the wheels off the ground, not that I haven’t done this before but now it’s intentionally and more controlled! Richie is on hand giving constant feedback and guidance. When we have the slow speed stuff cracked is off up the trails. As we make our way up the craic is good and complimented by some great weather.

We make our way into the trails to put what we’ve been learning into practice, there’s a noticeable difference in my bike control, I’m flowing better down the
trails and definitely smoother. Smoother = faster right?? We all pull off the trail just after a large berm. I’ll be honest; I’m not a fan of these, they never seem
to feel right and there’s nothing like a crowd standing watching you to really put you at ease. We take a couple of runs each and with some constructive
criticism I can say that whilst my berm cornering has improved, it still leaves a lot to be desired. I need to overcome the fear of using my face for brakes!!!

We make our way towards the trail head taking in another couple of trails in the process. Each one an improvement over the last. We round off the lesson with a coffee and a chat about what we’d just learned. Each of us very happy with the course and the great tuition from Richie. Even some who are mountain biking a lot longer than me, agreed that we’d picked up some very valuable information during a very enjoyable morning.

I’ll give my new found control a month or two to become second nature but I’ll certainly be going back for the Trail Craft course next.