Mountain Bike Leadership Award. A Leaders Long Journey to Becoming a Tutor.

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

Ridelines Mountain Bike Leader Award Glentress

British Cycling Mountain Bike Leaders can lead groups in a variety of different environments.

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.

Ridelines Mountain Bike Leader Award Glentress

Assessment for the MBLA is tough, but ultimately, a very rewarding experience.

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.

Ridelines Mountain Bike Leader Award Glentress

Get out there, lead by example and take arty photos at every opportunity!

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.