Yesterday I was over the Lickey Hills which are handily adjacent to where I live. The weather was cold, wet, snowy, windy and generally very, very unpleasant. Ideal MTB weather then!
The route above isn't the route pedalled, the reason for that will be explained later, but it does give an indication of the terrain at the Lickey's. The bit from 2.5 miles to 5.4 miles is the Lickey's.
What was special about yesterday was that I met up with two of our fellow cyclists, Rafe and Jon. It's worth telling the background to this.
Rafe if you recall his blog entry from February went on a MTB instructor's course with a view to running courses in his neck of the woods. So I don't steal any of his tale the bottom line is that this is going to go ahead.
He mentioned to me in an email conversation a while back that he would like to trial his newly obtained skill out in the spirit of getting practice in before he has paying customer's and he knew that Jon had mentioned a desire to deal with obstacles and downhills with a bit more confidence and speed. I live roughly between the two so a plan was made to meet up and for Rafe to do an instruction session for the two of us over the Lickey's
1100hrs at mine was the meet, and Jon bowled up bright and early at 0940hrs, no traffic on the M6 as it was half term meant there was no anticipated hold ups and he flew through. Luckily I was right in the middle of watching The man who cycled the Americas which again was brilliant. We waitied for Rafe who showed up at the appointed hour and drove over to the Lickey's.
Bikes out of the car. It might be prudent to mention that Jon has a rigid single speed Kona which is as light as a light thing that has just been on a crash diet and Rafe has a mega lightweight full suspension trail bike that would double quite easily as a race bike or a long distance day ride. I had my 10 year old full suspension Marin. Gulp.
Please remember this wasn't going to be a "going for a ride" type of day, this was about Rafe practicing his instruction, me and Jon hopefully learning something and having a good laugh in the process.
The first bit was a quick pedal to what is known locally as "The Chute", it's a long straight downhill, not too steep but with a rooty jump and plenty of sneakily hidden roots just trying to have you off your bike.
Rafe decided the start of the chute was a good spot to talk about covering brakes and ideal handle bar set up of levers and gears. Obviously Jon on his single wasn't too bothered about the gears bit.
Up the adjacent hill at the start of the chute to talk about body positions going downhill and the way the bike react to various inputs. All very well done if I might add. Then Rafe's demo down a slippery leafy rooty slope. I'm saying nothing. Just check out the video below at 7 minutes 10 seconds in!
In all fairness to Rafe, (He's in the dark kit by the way for those that have never met him) the root that sprang up and bit him was very well hidden and would have captured the most expert of MTBers! He did control the crash and the slide out very well. Far better than a certain person who should know better, but more of that and the footage later!
Jon had stated that he needed to master basic jumps and carry speed through technical downhills as he wasn't by his own admission that confident about those things. The rooty jump at the start of the Chute was an ideal training spot. Rafe demo'd the required technique, basically arse over the back of the saddle, cover the brakes and roll over the obstacle, then me and Jon rode it and rode it until it was sorted. Then the chute itself. A high speed descent to the very bottom of the Lickey's.
As you can see by the video below I wore quite a bit of Rafe's mud and so did my helmet cam. So apologies for the murky footage, but blame Rafe!
This little section after the chute was about getting the front wheel over trail obstacles and progressing to Bunny Hops. If you check the footage out from 8 minutes 30 second you'll see just how good I am! That was the first time a bunny hop has malfunctioned on me in years!
A pedal over to the tea rooms for a much needed rest and a brew followed.
Unfortunately I only remembered to take one piccie, this of Rafe looking forward to his Hot Chocolate, I kind of wished I taken a group shot, as we were all by then suffering from Licky Hill's Face pox! It's like measles only the spots are a muddy blacky browny colour.
After tea we went on a favourite very quick downhill section practicing carrying speed through the descent. This was Jon's particular problem. Not at the end it wasn't, he was flying that section with abandon, the improvement he made was startling! Credit to Rafe's instruction and Jon's skill set!
The final bit was an uphill drag back to car park, Rafe went into the requirements for effective climbing on a MTB off road, and with the elbows in bit I learned something about making my life easier on the uppy bits. To finish on a comment on climbing, Jon is a machine, he's very fit and very quick. Ok he's 16 years younger than me and carrying no weight disadvantage like me but bloody hell can he go uphill! I was in awe. I hope I can get somewhere near that ability, relative to my age of course!
All in all a fantastic 2 and a half hours, it snowed, it rained, we got wet and muddy but we had a fantastic time and a hell of a laugh. We all benefited from the experience, me and Jon learned stuff and Rafe polished his gig up. A win win all round.
As a footnote, after my face plant I am aching a bit today. But that's MTBing. As I said in the footage, "if you ain't falling off you just ain't trying!"