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!