When I first heard of the skills day and the opportunity to ride with Tracy Mosley and Helen Gaskell, I was straight on the email to sign up. It was organised by Beds Fat Trax at Chicksands thanks to Robert Naylor. I then started to get a cold sweat on, was I going to be out of my depth, for those of you that know me and my injury problems I had been as useful as a chocolate teapot on my bike! After a long drive up with Fuzzy Felt (Amanda) we got ready and I put on body armour for the first ever time looked up at the guys jumping around on their bikes and thought oh god what have I done!
We rode up as a group of about 20 to a sandy downhill racetrack, Tracy and Helen told us to roll the course, my heart was in my mouth as the berms and jumps increased my speed and lack of control. I even detoured round the drop off which was a mental block to me. After splitting the group in to two, our group stayed with Helen. We spent the morning working down the course and focusing on cornering, pumping over jumps and trying to get air, the more I practised with Helen’s encouragement the less frightened and more in control I felt. There were a couple of crashes from the girls but smiles were still on show even if the faces were dusty!
Lunch was served and what a feast for the twenty pounds a day, bagels, juice, flapjacks and home made cakes were devoured while we ‘interrogated’ Helen and Tracy on the life of a downhill superstar. It was also a nice opportunity to chat with the others in my group about the morning and general riding.
Something I could not get used to was riding with the saddle down and I can understand why the downhillers don’t like riding uphill, it’s hard when your knees are bouncing into your throat! We spent the afternoon with Tracy riding singletrack through flowing loops while Tracy watched our technique and she tried to get us to focus on relaxing on the bike. We rode through a set of tight switchbacks and Tracy coached us on making the bike do the work, which worked wonders and we all managed by the end to get round without stopping or sliding, that was a huge improvement on my sliding round (accidentally) the switch backs at the beginning.
Next on the agenda was steep descents, when I saw the guys flying down these I thought no chance, no way but after walking and looking and Tracy explaining the importance of control and focusing ahead it was a doddle and all of us managed it with no problems, including the girls who have never attacked steep areas before.
Chicksands also has a north shore area, we all took a look and wanted to run away! But Tracy lay planks on the floor and got us riding up on these and looking ahead, the angle was varied to make it more challenging, and by the end of the session, we were able to ride a skinny about two feet up which was a huge improvement and achievement for all of us.
The day finished with a race on the downhill track at speed to hone the skills, this to me was such a difference from the morning I felt in control and was even getting a bit of air on the jumps. I have had such a confidence boost from the day and it has given me back the enthusiasm to try things on the bike and be brave yet controlled, many thanks to Fat Trax, Tracy and Helen for a wicked day.