Progression is an intrinsic part of Mountain Biking, it always has been. Whether that means the design of the bikes we ride, the difficulty of the trails we're building, or at a more personal level the desire to get faster and fitter.
Even the quickest rider wants to go further or faster, and there's a limit to what we can achieve just through training harder. That's where skills training comes in. Maybe you want to improve your bike handling skills, ride smoother, or learn how to hit that jump you've always avoided. Having the guidance of someone who understands these skills inside out, and is able to impart that knowledge in a friendly, constructive way is invaluable.
Enter Sheffield based Aline Coaching. JPJ and his team are highly qualified, experienced coaches offering a range of courses aimed at making us better riders. What's more, they're good guys, friendly and easy to get on with. Earlier this Summer we were in the middle of our testing programme for the Edit prototypes and asked JPJ if he was up for a bit of exclusive product testing. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun, but an opportunity for us to make use of his considerable experience.
He found it too tempting to resist.
As JPJ pointed out, test riding is "an actual thing, a real skill" so this wasn't a scientific exercise. But unlike most of us, he is trained to be aware of what's actually happening while he's riding; what he's doing with his body, how the bike is reacting, how to read the terrain. What's more, a good skills coach has the rare ability to process all this and deliver feedback in a way that is genuinely constructive. And for us, it was another excuse to get out riding and share the bike with someone else.
The chosen venue was Sheffield's Grenoside woods, just 4 miles from the city centre and recently upgraded by Biketrack.org. Greno is host to the annual Steel City DH race, so we spent most of the time sessioning the Steel City track which was dry and running prime. Its short at around 2-3 minutes but offers a load of features, berms, rollers and a couple of gaps before the final drop-in to the bombhole. And the spin back up is quick enough that you can do multiple laps no problem at all.
Before we went I sent JPJ the Edit's geometry info so he could choose the right sized bike. It came with a warning: the Edit is designed to be long so don't just choose a large. He emailed back and said "yeah I'll have a large". So I assumed he was a giant of a man and built the bike.
We met up, got the bike sagged properly and did the obligatory bouncing round the car park test. So far so good. After a few runs we were getting into things and JPJ reached the conclusion that his bike was, in fact, too long. I was riding a medium so we swapped over. Great for JPJ who was immediately more comfortable and controlled on the right sized bike. Not so good for me riding a large (I'm 5'8") with a 640mm top tube and 220psi in the shock, whilst trying to lug a camera around and glean critical feedback from the test. At least JPJ was enjoying himself.
I won't put JPJ on the spot and go through the feedback. As he said before, one afternoon spent ripping round the woods isn't enough for him to do a professional job of testing the bike. But it was worth it just to blag a bit of free time with one of the best skills coaches around, and we got a lot more from it than we expected. Just being able to observe someone with that level of skill and control riding the bike and seasoning the same sections was a great learning experience. And we got some validation that the sizing was right (you have been warned - don't just buy a large). And I can now say for sure that a large is definitely too big for me.
The trails up at Greno are flow trails; pretty smooth, fast and swoopy. We dialled in a bit more pressure in the forks and the rear shocks than we would for the natural trails in the Peak, and the Edit was fantastic.
If you're looking to progress your riding, how about this for a recommendation. Take a holistic approach. Buy a new Airdrop Edit from us and give JPJ at Aline Coaching a call; he'll take care of the rest.