Matthew Blevins

Last September I took the opportunity to participate in a British Cycling Level 2 Mountain Bike Leadership Training course at Glenmore Lodge Outdoor Training Centre. This course allowed me to further develop my skills and understanding of group management and route planning when out riding on trails. I am currently a Dundee University student riding with the Mountain Bike club – with the skills and abilities gained from completing this course I intend to assist in the planning and delivery of future group rides in my final years.

Upon signing up to the course I was required to register with British Cycling, which supplied me with lots of valuable training materials including a sizeable instructional book and handout resources all specific to the level 2 course.

I travelled to Glenmore lodge on the 25th September 2020, to prepare for the course to commence early the next morning. Fortunately, I had booked the course at a time when Coronavirus restrictions allowed me to participate in the course. I spent my first evening in the upper social space, the Lochain Bar, where I was warmly welcomed by another course participant along with a handful of very friendly Lodge trainees working to support courses at the lodge.

The first day was well-balanced. It began in the workshops, with an overview of the course whilst getting to know everyone. We had four people on our course, half the standard amount due to COVID, and were instructed by Emma Holgate. We moved onto basic bike maintenance and trailside repairs, which I really enjoyed as I love getting hands on with bikes. Their workshop is well organized and fully equipped with professional tool benches and bike stands which helped us practice our skills. We then evaluated the contents of our bikepacks and discussed what personal gear would be worth carrying when mountain biking and what would be necessary for a leader to carry when out riding with others. We studied our own bikes afterwards, learning how to make checks to ensure they were up to par for trail riding.

After our workshop morning, we moved onto skills development. We took our bikes around the Lodge on some purpose-built circuits and trails to perfect our riding techniques and to understand how we can use practices as a group leader to evaluate another rider’s capabilities. We then made our way out of the Lodge onto some trails to enjoy some riding while practicing what we had learnt, along with other group management techniques. We spent the last part of the day back in the workshop prepping for the second day. Provided with maps, we were presented with a 30km route through and around the Inshriach Forest from which we were each given a segment to practice leading using the skills we had learned. We used mapwork skills to calculate and evaluate various factors of the journey including time, distance, ascent and descent, and spent the night memorizing our allocated segment.

The second day began with a short drive to the start of the loop at Feshiebridge. Because we had studied the route the night before, the loop was fairly straight forward to find and follow, and provided good practice for the use of cycle computers – an essential tool for efficient route management when leading. Unfortunately, one of our group members was unable to complete the last segment of the loop due to a pre-existing injury. This meant we had to adapt our route. This was good practice as things don’t always go to plan when leading groups. Once we finished the ride and returned to the Lodge, we completed a final review of the course and received our individual feedback from Emma.

The experience provided by the Lodge was excellent. Because of Covid restrictions, we were each allocated a twin room each. Food was brilliant, with a good choice for breakfast and dinner along with a variety goodies for lunch. Hot drinks were also complimentary at all times when on site. Needless to say, the hot chocolate machine took a big hit!

Even though I have been riding mountain bikes for years and have experience with mountaineering, I have learned more essential skills in the areas of bike maintenance and group management that will be put to good use. I would really like to thank the Neil Mackenzie Trust for helping me fund my course with their grant scheme and providing me with the opportunity to participate in this course – I really look forward to applying my new knowledge and putting these skills into practice. Once I’ve gained enough experience and completed the required hours for my log book, I intend to complete my Level 2 assessment, which the Trust has kindly offered to contribute towards.