Leading a Way
Change is the only constant, apparently. We all develop and improve, and we all have our own unique relationship with bikes and why we do it. The thrill, the fitness, the laughs or the adventure.
For me, it was never about things staying the same for life. It was about adjusting and improving my reasons for that thing called mountain biking. Sitting still, or thinking "this will do now" doesn’t work. For some reason, I have the need for something to be given back.
I love riding mountain bikes, my happy place is on a hill side, either just about to pound down it, or having just pounded up it. As a reasonably competent rider, I’ve tried racing - but records, podiums and training has never been my call. The thing that always made me feel good was getting other riders out there in the first place, and secondly to improve: myself and others. Whether it was their first MTB ride, or shaking the fear out about drops, roots or that corner. Sharing the journey, showing people what's just out there, off the sofa, away from a screen.
It's just that riding bikes is proper-smiley-good-time level fun, and it felt selfish not sharing that. I hit a point in my life where I wanted to give something back. Some people run events, some organise and others sponsor. I’m not driven that way, and whilst I utterly respect the ones who are and can, it’s not for me.
Being a Mountain Bike Leader appealed for several reasons. Mainly it would give me a recognised qualification to get people out, but more than that, it meant giving back to the mountain bike life, that for want of any other word, saved me from a lot of things and still does.
I spent two days in Wales, at Plas Y Brenin. An outdoor centre surrounded by mountains, Snowdon visible across the lake. It’s full of the history of the mountains and the people who explored, walked and climbed our island, and the rest of the world.
We are taken through an intensive two days training for the British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader - Level 2. It’s how to lead, the skills and the thinking of how to enable that. As part of it we learn new skills or refresh old ones, maps, psychology, maintenance and what to do in the situations we hope not to find ourselves in. Then we are sent off to accrue hours riding new places and with different people. Putting theory into practise.
Skip on a few months, with a log book full of rides, I complete my assessment day, on a wet and windy Welsh hill side. I finish the day with a positive feeling, and more than that, the realisation of having a way to get people out there, to hand some of the amazing times back to new or even experienced riders.
It’s just showing people a way, not the way. An option, a possible route, even a solution. This isn’t hints and tips, or good habits or trivia. It's about paying back into the account, investing in other riders, believing there is something to be taken from giving. Every individual has their reason why they ride, and I’m looking forward to helping others on that way.
Words and photos by Jim at cognative.cc