Solid biking sessions have been at a premium in 2007. Combine the rubbish summer weather with getting married and buying a new gaff and I just haven’t had the time to really develop my riding that step further. To cut a long story short I had for some time been looking at getting a little bit of pro help to get me riding faster and basically more comfortable when it gets hairy ( and of course I wanted to be able to do more tricks, but doesn’t everyone? ).
First muddy corners of the day
Fast forward to the end of October and I get a call from my mate Bob over at One Planet Adventure. He had given me the inside line that the Athertons would be running their Training Day courses on a new bit of track at Llandegla and wanted to know if I wanted a place. I think the stump is healing now after I practically bit his hand off for the opportunity to ride with some of the biggest names in the Mountain Biking World and with the new Meta 666 set up I was itching for the day to come.
It's all about focus ( 0.5 seconds later I was on my ass )
As with all good things on this merry isle of ours, it promptly chucked it down for the 12 hours before the course and the rain continued to darken the skies as we all met for the morning briefing and coffee in the meeting room ( next to the award winning café ).
Over a warming cuppa Dan and Gee greeted us all in their Animal Commencal race kit and gave us an overview of the day. Bob and Jim from One Planet were on hand to assist and with everyone wanting to get going, we kitted up and headed to the special area they had been working on for their courses. At this point my memory goes a little blank and I can’t remember the direction, distance or track we followed to this new area ( I already got in trouble once for telling the world about some new tracks! ), but once we got there it was clear that the day would definitely be a muddy one.
Launching into the Aabyss
Dan and Gee were keen from the beginning to point out that the course wasn’t about throwing yourself around the track at 110mph, it was about building technique which would then allow you ride smoother and ultimately ride faster than you had done before. We started with what seemed like a simple set of muddy corners. The sort of thing you would find on any wooded single track. Then we saw the speed that both Dan and Gee could hit them and we all realised that we had a lot to learn from these boys. With Dan and Gee providing feedback on each run we worked on braking points, focus areas and weight distribution on the bike. Without a doubt we all got faster listening and acting on their feedback each time.
Dan Atherton railing a muddy berm
Moving swiftly on we checked out the wooded drops that had been built into the track. Nothing too crazy, but the longer you look at something the harder it gets, so we all quickly headed up the track and set off into the realms of airtime. The muddy conditions added to the technical nature of the jump, but then Dan and Gee threw in a curveball with having to make a sharp left hander straight after landing. They naturally made it look easy, but after the first few bails we all knew we had to start thinking a lot more about our jumping. This wasn’t a case of just point and shoot. It was the opening up of more intelligent riding.
Gee Atherton showing us how to Manual like a pro
Next up was a very cheeky off-camber rooted section of track. (Made almost impossible by the weather ) However with the demonstrations and walk-throughs, we all soon learnt the best places to break and the best weight distribution on a bike, though it was really a matter of survival rather than looking good on this occasion.
Gee Atherton and Jim from One Planet talk lines
With the sun breaking through the clouds we enjoyed a kick ass lunch down at the centre. This also gave Dan and Gee a chance to talk us through the videos which had been filmed in the morning. There is nothing like watching yourself go arse over tit on a big screen to help your lunch go down!
After lunch and with the weather on our side we headed out to the new jump section of track which they had spent a lot of time building the week before. The afternoon was all about doubles, whoops, hips, step-ups, manuals and generally trying to ride smoother, faster and with more style. Targeted feedback helped a great deal, but when it comes trying to emulate what they can do it was another matter. Yep by the end of the session we were all getting slowly to grips with manualing the rhythm section and getting up the step-up with more air time, but when you see either Dan or Gee launch 10ft and then bust a big move with relative ease, you realise that there is still a lot to learn.
I could go into more detail about what we did and how we did it, but that would be missing the point. A course like this is all about the individual and having not only Dan and Gee on hand but also Bob and Jim meant that we all felt that it was being tailored to our personal needs. The final couple of runs at the end of the day down the corners we had done in the morning showed clearly what we had gleamed. We were all without a doubt much smoother and because of that much faster.
Gee and Dan Atherton talk about stepping it up
In some way of conclusion I’ll never be as fast or as smooth as an Atherton, I also can’t give up my day job and work on my bike skills 7 days a week, so this day out with Dan, Gee and the One Planet crew was perfect for my needs. I pushed the envelope of my skills, learnt a great deal and I’m gagging to get out on my bike again to work on it all as soon as possible.
In talking with them after the session this is only the beginning on what will ultimately be on offer from the combined effort of the Atherton clan and One Planet Adventure. So if you a newbie wanting to get the most out of your new bike right through to a racer wanting to shave those seconds of your run, there will be a course on offer to help you out.
Not quite an Atherton yet...
Thanks for Dan and Gee Atherton along with Dan Brown along with Bob and Jim from One Planet Adventure.
For more information on the Atherton Training Days click here
For more information on Team Animal Commencal click here
For more information on One Planet Adventure and Llandegla click here
If you are a Commencal bike owner click here
P.S. Sorry about the poor image quality, they are all screen grabs!
P.P.S. No comments about the helmet, I’ve got a new one already!