One of our most asked questions is; how can I get a Glentress trail map? Well, we’ve obliged and you can download one from our very own website.
We took a last minute trip to Torridon. The home of some of Scotlands most epic scenery and natural Mountain Bike routes.
We’ve received a lot of enquiries recently about coaching and guiding qualifications and how they are attained. This blog may just help you answer these questions?
For the last month or so, we’ve been taking applications from anyone who thinks they have what it takes to work as both a Mountain Bike Leader and Instructor for Ridelines. We’ve already started scheduling appointments to see people at the start of August, but we said we’d keep the application process open until the end of July, so if you want to explore a career in our industry, now’s your chance!
British Cycling Mountain Bike Leadership Awards. Allan took a trip away from Scotland to visit one of the UK’s premier centres for delivering these awards. Pedal-MTB at Coed Y Brenin in Snowdonia, Wales.
So what do you do when you want to get better? You go to people who can tell how good you really are. You learn from the experience, add or subtract things from your skillset as you see fit, apply your learning, practice it and move forward.
This is the very reason that this year I went to see Al and Ed at Pedal-Mtb down at Coed Y Brenin. As a practicing leader and aspirant British Cycling Tutor, it’s important for me to be the absolute best I can be. These guys are the gold standard in MTB leadership and gave me the opportunity.
If you know anything about the subject, you’ll know that our precious Scottish Land Reform Act doesn’t extend to our friends across the border in England or our colleagues in Wales. This means their maps are different, accessible routes more constricted and the penalty for breaking the existing rules, potentially severe.
It looks like Wales may be getting a welcome second bite at reform after the very disappointing rebuttal of the first draft of reform earlier this year. If this goes through and looks anything like the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) then I could see myself spending a lot more time in the area. It really is stunning and completely un-tapped for responsible “wild country” riding.
Coed Y Brenin is the original trail centre. It’s really nothing like anything I’ve ever seen. The work that must have gone into the surfaces of the trails is almost beyond measure to normal user. Lots of perfectly aligned rocks and boulders form much of the super sustainable lines that snake through this place.
Coming from a place where roots and mud rule the roost, its really quite a disconcerting level of grip when its dry and not much worse when its wet to be honest. It did take me a short while to get used to the level of grip and the constant assault on your senses that this surface delivers.
The skills and free ride area is also completely nuts. I could spend a whole day just here, messing around on the rocks, jumps and turns that form this herculean act of trail-building.
But the reason I came was to see Ed and his Level 2 training course. We’ve run dozens of courses and assessments at Ridelines over the years, we reckon around 300 candidates have rolled through the business since we started and that’s no mean feat!
Now and again, we like to go and see how others run their day. I’m currently training to be a BC tutor and run leadership courses, so I’m also here to learn what I can about the different styles that may be used to deliver training effectively. Al Seaton at Pedal-MTB is one of the most experienced tutors out there, so I was over the moon when he said I could “shadow” one of their courses.
A few days before, Al told me he wouldn’t be taking the course, but his Colleague Ed Roberts would be leading the class for this one. Ed is a dynamite rider and lifelong outdoor enthusiast. He’s been all over the world getting into wild places and is also an EWS and Enduro racing veteran. But does all that make a good tutor?
Well, not always, but in this case, yes it does. It was really refreshing to see a guy like Ed bring his own delivery style to what is technically a structured course. A course that must deliver enough information over 2 days to set candidates up for a solid consolidation period and eventual successful assessment.
The resource pack for L2 leaders is very big and packed full of enough learning for even the most enthusiastic crammer of such information. But joining it all up, picking the most relevant topics to concentrate on, moving through it at a good pace whilst engaging all the candidates effectively are the real tricks of the trade.
I think this can be taught to most people, but you really have to take ownership of the course to get through it as a tutor and make sure the candidates are getting the most for the time they are putting in.
When I say own it, I mean give all of yourself to the group. Your personality, your own successes and failures as a leader, best case scenarios and worst case alongside. Getting people to honestly feedback their concerns, shortcomings and insecurities is a tough job. But as tutors, the best of us really need to be so good at this. Ed was excellent in this area and seemed to sail though even the most difficult of situations.
I had a great time watching Ed, although we were detached for a short while when my valve snapped and emptied around 150mm of tubeless sealant all over my wheel. He carried on with the ride and I caught the group up 15 mins later. It was very messy and very annoying.
The candidates were great too and even down there I managed to find a few people that knew folks close to the people and businesses we work with. The bike trade is a very small world and the MTB world even smaller.
We had a female candidate from Llandegna, a yachting-tutor, a serving policeman a couple of aspirant leaders potentially looking toast up shop and a young man that is starting to consolidate a newly formed bike care product line under the branding “Kingud Products”
He actually hooked us up with his full product range to try back to back for the month and report back with our findings. First impressions are that it’s very good, but I guess time will tell. But more on that later.
After all this visiting and observing, contributing and watching others, I’m really looking forward to running my own course at the end of the month. D-Day for me is coming fast! But hopefully by this time next year, I’ll be signed off as a British Cycling Leadership tutor. It’s been a long road, now for the really tricky part!
Following on from Allan’s heartfelt and honest Glentress 7 (GT7) story, it encouraged me to write my own. It’s a very different story despite the fact we rode together for a few laps. For months, I’ve had an issue with nerves being impinged by my neck. It means I lose feeling in my left arm and descending on a bike causes severe pain in my left shoulder. Quite simply, I’ve not been enjoying riding for the last 7 months, which is just wrong for someone who has made riding bikes his life, both at work and play.
I’ve been desperately trying to enjoy it but always ending up very sore and quite frustrated, regularly cutting rides short. As little a 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t even going to ride GT7, but a change in medication, while not a solution, made riding a bike much more comfortable and for the first time in ages, I was able to enjoy the bike again (thanks Doc). Might as well turn up to GT7 and see how I go then.
My strategy this year was to have fun, enjoy just being on the bike, and quit when my shoulder got too sore then soak up the vibe of the day. I genuinely had no expectations at all but remembered sound advice from a fellow solo rider “Make sure you can talk. If you can’t, you’re going too hard”. Right then. Pace yourself and chat to folk.
I can do that. Here we go. Once the race started, the reasons I love this event came flooding back to me. It’s on my doorstep, always a good thing, and it attracts such a wide range of riders. Most people riding either have a personal goal or are just there to have fun. While I had no expectations, I’ve learned to pace myself early, as it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the race start. It’s only lap one and there’s still 7 hours to go.
First lap over and back in the arena, the atmosphere is wonderful. Lots of shouts of encouragement, so many in fact that I can’t acknowledge them all. I love the encouragement and everyone should know that it genuinely helps. My spirits were high by this point and, with a quick change of bottle, I was back out again and ready to settle into my pace. I know what to expect from GT7 as I’ve done it solo 4 times now but this year was quite different.
For me, and many others, it’s a truly personal challenge, not a race, and the impact the event would have on my injury was unknown. As the day got longer, I was feeling good on the climbs but I started to get nerve pain in my shoulder and arm on the descents. The descent on lap 5 hurt quite a lot but I knew I’d get respite on the climbs which helped me keep going. I must be the only rider now loving the climbs and dreading the descents.
This was a new psychological challenge for me. I’m a stubborn old git when I get the bit between my teeth and I was determined to keep going if I could. I enjoy the endurance, the determination, the feeling that I can ride through the pain and discomfort. I can’t quite explain why I enjoy this Calvinist streak but I’ve heard it best described as “type 2 fun”. It’s fun Jim, but not as you know it. I look around me and can see I’m not alone with this mindset. That too, helps inspire me.
By the end of lap 7, that last descent really hurt. I didn’t want to do it again. I stopped at my pit and subliminally changed my bottle over. I looked at my watch and saw that there was still well over a hour to go. I thought, I’ve done better than I thought I would, but there’s still well over a hour to go. Why stop now? The next 40 minutes or so are just climbing, and that doesn’t hurt so much. Why stop now? What else will you do for the next hour? So, out I went again, legs feeling good, arm and shoulder easing.
If I stay on the bike, I’ll do 8 laps. Woohoo! I loved that 8th lap. I genuinely didn’t believe I’d be capable of it but simply doing it really lifted my spirits. I won’t lie. The descent came round all too quickly and I had to nurse the bike down to the bottom. Coming through the finish line, I felt quite emotional. I beat my previous best by 4 minutes. I was hurting, laughing, confused and a little overwhelmed.
Remember, 4 weeks ago, I wasn’t going to do this event. Even as I write, I can’t quite understand how this all happened. What I do know is that I’m already looking forward to doing it all again next year. On a final note. On lap 6, riding through the Dougie Bank, I heard the familiar voice of my son. I looked down and saw my wife and son on the road below riding along, smiling and cheering.
I do this event for me, quite selfishly, for my own reasons, yet here were my family making time to share a moment with me. It’s a moment that will always be a vivid and happy memory for me. Thank you Velda and Finlay.
I’ll keep this short as it may seem a bit self indulgent, but perhaps someone can relate to it?
I stood on the start line at the 2019 Glentress 7 as confident and as fit as I’ve felt for years. I had a new, carbon hardtail and a positive attitude. I felt great and full of confidence. So much so that I was hoping to get a personal target of 7 laps around the savage Glentress forest route. Andy was standing next to me. Presumably in the same state of mind and raring to go. He was also hoping to match his best performance of 7 laps.
By 5pm, I was in the bath at home after having time to wash my bike, have a snack and put my gear in the wash. Around this time, Andy was celebrating the completion of 8 laps. Putting both my target and his PB to the sword. Utterly amazing!!
I won’t speak for any secrets Andy may have unlocked to manage this amazing result, but I’m sure he’ll not mind me publishing the text message he sent me at 17:51pm —“I did 8 laps and I’m in bits”— fair play I’d say and no-one would blame him if he was crying whilst he typed it!?
So I’ve identified a few things that went wrong for me on the day. Can you relate?
1: I’m now absolutely sure I’m not a “lap” racer.
I kinda convince myself I could be now and again, which is why I entered GT7. My build up is always confident and I know how to do all the right things. I can ride, I have the fitness and I can make a plan. When it comes to it though, I’m just too easily distracted on the day. I get bored, I want to talk to folk and stop all the time. I just want to take it easy and have fun. I can ride 100km end to end with no problem, and I have. Put me in a situation where I have to ride in circles and it’s all out the window. I already knew this, but I gave it a go!
2: I rode a new bike.
So recently I treated myself to a training / XC bike. A shiny new Cube Reaction C:62 SLT. It only weighs just over 9 kilos and its fast. REALLY fast. No problem, right? Wrong! My other MTB’s are a Cube Stereo C:68 150 TM and a Long Pipedream Moxie. Two bikes that are so far away from the Reaction that they can barely be classified together as actual bikes!
I’d ridden it for one day for a very short coaching session and it felt great. However, meandering around Glentress for 2-3 hours doesn’t quite prepare you for the uncomfortable scenario of sitting on it for 7-8 hours. More on this in my conclusion.
3: I was prepared / but kinda not prepared.
Up to race day, I’d worked 12 days out of the previous 14. Out riding and in the forest doing everything from private tuition to educational stuff. It’s hard work and you can’t really be distracted from what you’re doing. I didn’t really take nutrition and hydration seriously and though my legs and lungs both felt good. I know that I could have given them a little bit more in the longevity stakes by paying a bit more attention during the week. Quick lunches and stiff coffees are not the answer to any questions asked of yourself over such a short, intense experience as GT7.
4: I knew I was carrying “injuries”
I’ve had a sore wrist for a wee while and some issues with my right shoulder. Nothing really serious, but it’s an asymmetric issue that sometimes has me having to correct my position on the bike over long periods. Again, it doesn’t bother me day to day but on longer rides it can get quite sore. I’d intended to get a deep massage the week before to ease it off but couldn’t find the time. See above for “preperation” Another opportunity for a simple gain lost! All of these things are now coming together to conspire against me!
When I was riding early in the race, I felt amazing. On all sections the bike felt great and I felt great. I was actually really surprised how good the bike felt underneath me and for a 100mm, super stiff hardtail it descended very well. I also think that it may have been my undoing? Having never ridden it before, the tight geometry, longer stem-punishing, stiffness and shorter fork travel conspired to bring out the worst in my shoulder issue, but chiefly my right wrist.
By the end of the 4th lap, I was really struggling to hold onto the front brake on the last descent. The braking bumps on this section were not utterly blown out and a feature in their own right. I couldn’t effectively stand up and control the bike properly either. It was all going just a bit wrong!
I had a long rest and decided to go back out for number 5 in the hope it would pass. A completely daft notion I know, but I was determined to enjoy myself! I didn’t… It seemed to take ages. I got back in and felt absolutely wrung out! Aching all over and with a mindset of self preservation rather than determination!
At this point I was simply out of the game! I had plenty of time to at least reach my goal and be a lot happier with my performance. Perhaps I could have squeezed another one in, but I’d kind of made the decision to quit already. I was just having a bad day! It was at that time that I decided that I wasn’t going to tackle this race in the Solo category again. As I said, I’m simply not the racing type. Perhaps it’s just not for me?
Still, never say never right? – Allan
Congratulations to Andy for his achievement and thanks to everyone for cheering us both as individuals and the company! It was amazing to hear how many people identified us on the day. Thanks also to Tweedlove and all the amazing volunteers for their hard work in making all this stuff happen!
Mountain Bike Leadership Award. What is it and what does it mean?
Having just delivered another weekend of fully booked Mountain Bike Leadership Training and Assessments at Glentress, I decided to take a little time out to reflect on exactly what that means for me, what it means for the 10 candidates we worked with (6 on training and 4 on assessment) and also for those who will further benefit from the outcomes of our 3 days of hard work both for us and the candidates..
Ridelines is a licensed provider of the British Mountain Bike Leadership Awards (BMBLA), the national governing body (NGB) award for MTB Leadership. We deliver training and assessments for levels 1, 2 and 3, plus the Night Leader award which is available to existing holders of the day time awards.
The awards are developed, insured and underwritten through British Cycling. More details on the different remits of each award can be found on their website here.
What qualifies Ridelines to deliver the BMBLA?
The predecessor to the BMBLA was the MBLAs Trail Cycle Leader (TCL) and Mountain Bike Leader (MBL) qualifications. Back in 2011, I embarked on the MBLA tutor pathway having identified a clear need for the provision of mountain bike leadership in the Tweed Valley.
The plan was simple but I had little idea of the enormity of I was undertaking. Following an intensive tutor training course run by Scottish Cycling, I was ready to go through the tutor pathway. During my pathway period I was assigned a mentor to oversee my progress through the pathway.
After observing my first leadership training course through my mentor, Chris Ford. I was encouraged to observe other tutors too. This would help develop my own style of delivery based on the content within the training programme. In short, there was so much to learn in terms of content, delivery and ensuring that the learning needs of all the candidates were met. …better get good then!
When it all gets real!
A few course observations later, I was ready to run my first TCL course, all overseen by Chris. It was a nerve racking experience.
There were 8 people all filled with enthusiasm and expectation. I had to deliver their training and prepare them for assessment. It was undoubtedly, the most challenging thing I have ever encountered in my career. Feeling out of my depth, I dug deep. Applying what I learned, I made some (lots) of mistakes but delivered a course that was enjoyed by all and met their expectations.
It was a relief when it was all over. I was so mentally knackered, I went home and slept for about 12 hours. Having received some quality critical feedback from Chris, we repeated this process twice more and I became more comfortable with the whole process. Along the way, gaining huge amounts of confidence in my ability as a tutor.
This huge and massively rewarding learning curve led to my first tutor assessment with Chris a month later. I was much more relaxed this time round and passed with aplomb. However, the pathway required I go through a second assessment with a different mentor, this time, Al Seaton (now of Pedal MTB).
Al was great, assuring me that I wouldn’t be put forward for a second assessment unless I was at the required standard. So, with Al and Chris signing me off, I was finally a qualified TCL Tutor!
Seems like a lot of work yeah? Well, I had to go through that process again to be qualified as a TCL assessor, then AGAIN to qualify as an MBL tutor and assessor, then submit a business case to finally secure Ridelines as a provider of MTB leadership awards.
All change on the award front!
In 2015, the MBLA awards were merged with British Cycling (BC) to create what we now have today as the BMBLA. With level 2 replacing TCL and level 3 replacing MBL. As as an already qualified tutor, I had to go through a verification process again which involved further assessments of competency. This time with two BC Field Based Trainers for both level 2 and level 3 (training and assessments).
So that’s the background how I can now deliver Mountain Bike Leadership. So was it worth all this?
Yes indeed. Whilst it seemed like a huge undertaking (and it was), looking back, I can view it in quite simple terms. It afforded me an opportunity to learn my craft. I’d work on becoming competent, then when ready, demonstrate my competency in a very challenging environment.
The first time I ran leadership course on my own will never leave me. I was so relaxed and confident, simply because I’d proven to myself, as well as my assessors and mentor, that I was already operating at a high level. This is good as it’s exactly the process that leadership candidates go through too. They learn their craft on training, have a consolidation period to become competent, then demonstrate their competency at assessment.
This 2 part process tests the candidates resolve and results in high quality leaders who are ready to carry their competency into the real world.
And the learning doesn’t end there. Whether as leaders or tutors, we continually learn from others, the situations we find ourselves in, the technology changes in equipment and bikes, and so much more that comes along with practicing our craft.
So what now?
As a tutor, I take my role very seriously. I’m acutely aware that for every new leader created, 8 other people can be led the very next day by that newly qualified leader.
Given that I have delivered leadership training to around 300 candidates. That’s around 2000 people on rides led by leaders based on my assertion that they are competent. That’s quite a responsibility, but one that comes with the assurance of having a high quality award to deliver and from having a great support mechanism through Scottish Cycling, British Cycling, and all the other tutors who deliver these awards.
I am very lucky and proud to be part of the British Cycling MTB Award process. Ridelines take it’s delivery very seriously and are committed to assessing potential leaders to a very high standard. We’re confident that because of the hard work and valuable input of everyone involved. Mountain biking participation will continue to be in very safe hands. The hands of the most capable leaders available. Leaders that have been held to the very highest standard.
If you are interested in becoming a mountain bike leader of guide, visit our website here.
A short blog on trying to decipher why there’s an element of Scottish mountain biking that loves to hate Glentress.
Our guys have cycled everywhere. In our Ridelines Instuctor pool we have career mountain bikers, World Cup racers, long distance lovers, XC stalwarts, wild-country wanderers, National Series champions, eminently qualified and experienced guides, tutors and coaches. So sometimes it just seems so amazing that we all ended up living at, working in and ultimately loving this quintessential Scottish trail centre.
I was out on a ride around the boundary trail the other day and the sun was splitting the trees. It was in the second week in February and I was in short sleeves. Even just buzzing around Teenage Kicks and Berm Baby Berm I was reminded that no-one had to build this place, but they did it anyway.
In its earliest incarnation, it was born from people with a passion for it, and whatever the past opinions of what has happened since those often talked about days, it’s still here. From just picking our way through the woods, to the much loved Hub in the Forest putting Glentress on the map. Then came the development of the Peel and MTBCoS. Now, over the next few years, we can look forward to further improvements at the bottom of the hill with the inevitable arrival of Forest Lodges.
Sure, there’s some blown out trails, but the chances are that the normal visitor to Glentress has no clue about how this happens or how it’s generally fixed, who pays for it and what constitutes the need to repair something. At this point feel free to jump out and get involved in the Glentress Trailfaries facebook page!
But just take a ride around, explore the black route, some un-waymarked trails and you’ll begin to fall (back?) in love with the place. We spend a LOT of time within Glentress and in the routine of parking vans and preparing for a days work, it can often become very normal for us too.
But now and again, like my ride on Friday you can just have a wee moment, an opportunity to remind yourself that someone came out here years ago and did it all for you. In the February sun I’d struggle to put my finger on another place I’d rather be that would be so easy for me to access.
If you’re sick of climbing up Cardie Hill, you can also get in and around Glentress from the Peebles and Innerleithen directions too. Trying these routes means that you can get in and out via some different trails. Ride up Janet’s Brae and head straight into the upper trails, get up to the mast then head back to Peebles via the off-piste trails like Trailfairy Plan and Fairy Liquid. One for the more technical rider for sure, but a cracking joined up descent.
From Innerleithen you can ride straight to the mast via the old Leithen Road climb. It’s a gut-buster but it literally takes you straight there. Then you can descend the whole remaining Black route and take the cycle path back to Inners.
If you want a quick ride in Glentress there’s loads of ways to mix up the trails so you don’t lose too much altitude. Once you’re up there, it’s actually relatively easy to get a ton of descending done. Equally, you can have a huge day out if you know when to zig and zag onto the right trails.
Happily at the end of it all there’s the much improved Glentress Peel Cafe. It’s had its fair share of problems if we’re honest and the shadow of peoples great memories of The Hub Cafe looms over it like a spectre of expectation from years past. But the place has gone through a massive re-working from the very bottom. Good food, friendly staff and a great experience now awaits you at the end of your ride.
Now think about the fact the folk piss and moan about a £5 parking charge for all of this and more. 100’s of Km of trails, a great Cafe, bike shop (Alpine Bikes), showers, free bike wash, toilets all on the doorstep of the town of Peebles. You’d pay more for 2-3 hours parking in a Glasgow shopping street.
Glentress is about to go through a major upheaval with Forest Holidays arriving. Loads of new trails and features will be introduced and some old favourites will be lost. But the name will remain the same.
So the header of this blog was with good intention, I wanted to put across a short argument for Glentress. I think I’ve probably done enough to convince a first timer. I know why some people hate Glentress, but I’ve realised whilst writing this that I mostly don’t care. There’s room enough for all opinions and room enough in this great country for everyone to ride what they like most.
In closing, with Forest Holidays arriving in 2020 I’d say why not go up and ride some of these “tired old trails” feel them under your wheels for the last time and try to remember the first time.
It’s been hard work building Ridelines up from one person’s lifestyle business just 8 years ago. Now, in 2019 it’s something everyone involved, past and present can be proud of. We’ve helped 1000’s of people develop their mountain bike skills over this time. We’ve also helped educate & train MTB leaders and coaches, helped disadvantaged and minority groups into cycling, consulted for businesses & events and basically had great fun. All whilst trying to keep a core staff of local instructors and coaches.
Last Year signified the pinnacle of Andy’s original dream when we were voted Scottish Mountain Bike Service Provider of the Year at the 2018 Scottish Mountain Bike Conference.
Shortly after, we decided it was time that to do something a little different, so we decided to look for a partner to work with in 2019. Not just a bike partner, but a company we could work with on developing Ridelines for our clients benefit. To help take some of the strain associated with running a small business and to lean on for support should we need it.
We needed to find a brand that we could work in tandem with to develop things we want to get better at as a company; like education, inclusion & technology whilst continuing to be on the forefront of delivering the very best core products that Ridelines is best known for. We didn’t take the search lightly!
Late last year we started talking to Cube bikes and we are thrilled to now officially announce that Ridelines and Cube will be working in partnership for 2019. Cube have been absolutely amazing throughout the process of building our final relationship. They are completely in-step with the aspirations we have for Ridelines and it’s customers. We feel we’ve found the very best partner.
You’ll see us around our usual haunts (and some new ones) riding Cube’s brand new Stereo 150 C:68 TM 29. As well as putting a select line of Cube ACS clothing and accessories through their paces too. If you’re curious about anything we’re riding or wearing, please stop us and ask. We’ll be glad to chat.
That’s all we’re going to say for now and we’ll update with more as we come to terms with this exciting opportunity and what it means for Ridelines. But suffice to say we’re super excited to be working with Cube this year. So stay tuned for the latest as it happens.
Again, a huge thanks must go out to everyone past and present that has supported Ridelines over the past 8 years. You are all part of the reason we can continue to live the dream!
#jaffajerseys #cubebikes #becube
In a happy coincidence, Cube has chosen orange as the accent colour for their 2019 flagship enduro bike, the Stereo 150 c68 TM 29. No photoshop required to get this bad boy on brand for the year ahead! Even just a set-up ride around Glentress had some heads turning!
We didn’t really know the Cube did a range of rucksacks. Turns out they are very capable and have some very cool features too. We’ll be using these super light and stealthy OX25+ backpacks for a lot our daily work.
The Blackline waterproof products are very light and super packable. Small enough to stuff away and strong enough to take a beating from standing around in the cruelest of Scottish weather. Hopefully these won’t see much use :)