I mentioned in my last post that I was booked on to do ‘Stop Crashing 1&2″ with Mountain Bike coaching guru Ed Oxley. That’s been and gone and what follows below is my review and my thoughts about the 2 days I spent under the guidance of Ed. I’m not going to try and pass on Ed’s wisdom through here at least not in any detail as that is his business not mine. He deserves every student he gets and if you are reading this with an eye to doing one of his courses here’s the short version: Do it!
Stop Crashing 1:
Myself and Gary had decided to seek some tuition from Ed. What caused us some minor discussion was what level we should pitch ourselves at. Anyone who has watched some of my youtube videos will know that he is significantly faster than me and probably more skilled, something I think the last few days has confirmed. Gary wanted to go straight in at ‘Flow,’ one of Ed’s more advanced courses. I however like to learn from the ground up. So we compromised on both doing Stop Crashing 2. However I still wanted the refinement of my technique that Stop Crashing 1 (SC1) would provide me.
I arrive early at Gisburn Forest to some glorious sunshine. Ed is only minutes behind me. The group slowly assembles around him and we are introduced to Matt who will be aiding Ed as an experiment into how a second coach can help with a group of 8 as opposed to his more normal 6. Group assembled we set off for a warm up on some of Gisburns newer trails. Once we’ve ridden a trail or two Ed takes us to the beginning of it and discusses the first technique he wishes us to learn. A lot of today will focus on correct body, position, good vision and basic cornering and later riding some steeper and rockier drops offs.
It soon becomes clear that 8 of us are split perfectly down the middle as 4 very new riders and 4 who have more experience. This should present Ed with more of a challenge as now he has to pitch his lessons at a level that will both ends of the spectrum can enjoy and benefit from. If it did present a challenge it isn’t obvious. Ed skillfully observes each rider in turn on sections of trail and makes corrections to our techniques. We ride the section again and Ed once again watches and adds any refinements. Then we move on.
Ed picks up even the tiniest things in our riding which is a skill of a good instructor but the thing that sets him aside as a truly great one is his ability to communicate his teachings both simply and more often than not with good humour as well. Even the most minor of tips seems to be a revelation to me when put into practice.
Matt is also a good instructor and a good foil to Ed. He really comes into his own when in the afternoon we start doing steep rock descents. One of the less experienced riders is really struggling to bring herself to go past the point of no return on the descent despite Ed’s calming and encouraging coaching. Matt takes the others off to practice on a steeper part of the trail.
By the end of the day I’m riding much more smoothly and feeling more in control of the bike. Ed notices the improvement in me to and as we emerge from a full run of my favourite sections of ‘The 8’ (the final swooping bermed section leading to the old car park) through which he’s followed me he calls out “You’ve got a lot faster” I’m grinning from ear to ear. I actually dont feel any quicker but that’s because I’m now massively more in control of the bike. I can’t wait for the next day.
Stop Crashing 2
So now I’m joined by my erstwhile partner in crime again. I back brief him on the previous day’s riding. The day follows a lot of the previous day’s teachings but the foundations from yesterday are built upon with more techniques. We focus on riding through the trail more smoothly using our body position to weight and unweight the bike at key points.
Lunch as with the previous day saw us go to the Dog and Partridge. I have to say for £5.95 I enjoyed a lovely baguette and a plateful of lovely home made chips.
The afternoon saw Ed push me and a few others out of our comfort zones. There’s a bouldered area that climbs off into the upper loop of ‘the 8’ at Gisburn. From this quarry Ed selected a rocky drop off with a ledge halfway down and then an angled landing into a trough. This, he said, we would now ride off. I’ve never ridden anything like that. I was worried my front would hit that ledge and I’d tip myself over the bars. Ed showed us how we could roll down it slowly, showed us our body position and showed us how to minimise the effect of rolling down into the trough. I watched as the others did it before finally going for it myself. In my opinion part of the unwritten contract of being a student on a course like this is that you put your faith in the teachings of the instructor rather than succumb to your own anxieties. This was evident the day before with the woman who didn’t want to do the steep rocky descent. She eventually did one by accident as she arrived at one without realising and was down it before she could think about it. With this fresh in mind I put my faith in Ed’s words and rolled the drop. I didn’t fall I didn’t even wobble. It was fantastically exhilarating to do something I wouldn’t have dared do minutes before. I wouldn’t just not have ridden it, I wouldn’t have even considered it would be ridden. We then to took to pumping the bike off of the lip so that the front didn’t touch the ledge halfway down and ideally the back wouldn’t either. I managed the former after a few attempts bouyed by the confidence that rolling it which as Ed demonstrated is actually bouncier and harder on the body and bike. I did cock the line up and nearly ride into a small tree but at no point was I as concerned as I’d been before I rolled the drop, it was as if carrying out Ed’s teachings had simply flicked a switch in my head. No longer was this the unknown to be feared. Maximum style marks have to be given to Gary who managed to get himself airborne even before the lip of the drop. Ed’s response was to laugh “Good, but not what yo were meant to do”
I had a similar experience at the rocky descent at the end of the ‘Home Baked’ trail. I’ve always bottled it. I’ve always got off and walked down the side of it. Ed coached us through the line and again showed us how unweighting the bike at the correct moments would make the section easier on us and keep us in control. I went down it for the first time ever and wondered why I’d never ridden it before. Had I done so though it probably would have been an out of control clattering from top to bottom or possibly into a tree halfway down. The truth of it is that the skills Ed teaches you are the key that unlocks the door to riding so many of the features of the trails. All that remains for me now is to take these skills and apply them everywhere until they are second nature. Once that’s done I’ll be off to do Flow. In the mean time though I’m off to found a religion with Ed as the deity…he’s got the beard for it after all.
Video of us all learning to pump the trail —> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VtsZtq_Jh7s