CX skills session 2 with Caroline Stewart

Drills, skills and technical riding were order of the day, and I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. I’d done roughly 50 miles on Saturday (the day after our Xmas party – not bad considering I’d told everyone I wasn’t going out!) helping Toria out leading and dropping back to keep Sarah company – it’s great to be a stronger rider and I know exactly how she felt out the back.

A very short ride to the park with Caroline on a lovely out of season warm day. Luckily it’s perfect for drills and skills, nice grassy area with two short steep stepped banks. And with an excellent teacher who’s very patient, but superbly good at explaining the how’s and whys of what we’re doing. And what works and doesn’t work.

I started off following Caroline. Trying to ride the same lines as her. It’s a bit daunting purely because I don’t want to fall off and my turning skills certainly needed working on. Then she stood on the flat bit between the two banks giving me the following drills to have a go at:

Riding off camber straight along a bank, 

Turning off camber, up and down the banks,

Figure of 8 up and down the two banks, with sharp turns (more acute turns and coming back on myself)

Tight turns around a bench and a tree, then onto the steeper section of the off camber at an angle to ride in a straight line along it (with Caroline as a human fence post after I *drifted* onto the easy part the first time).

Riding on the steeper part of the off camber kick pushing.

The drills are repeated and repeated. Sometimes I find doing a drill uncomfortable purely because I’m not used to it and again I don’t like to feel like I’m losing control of the bike at the point of no return, but it gets easier a lot quicker. A couple of times Caroline uses herself as a human fence to stop me riding onto the easier part of the bank.
It’s never boring because the more I repeat doing stuff the more I’m learning. I’ve watched a lot of cx, but only when it’s mentioned now do I see how it all comes into play. How shifting your weight on the camber can help you keep going. How and why to power up a bank and bring yourself out of the saddle at the right place just before the top – to power yourself over without spinning out behind.

I absolutely love it. And it’s easy to talk to Caroline who seems happy with my progress  (well I hope it’s progress!).

Then it’s onto how to dismounting and remounting. I’m confident enough getting off the bike – but remounting not at all. I’ve got to remember not to do that stupid hop and since letting my seat down – I’ve found its got easier. More than a couple of times I completely fudge it all up. Unclipping the wrong foot first. Looking down at trying to clip back in. Completely stopping the bike…
Then how to carry the bike and the reasons for doing it different ways. There is no barriers, so a handily placed stick does. Ride up. Dismount. Lift bike – not by the top tube! – shoulder it. Put it down correctly. Get on. Easier said than done. And my clipping in skills were next to non existant today. Especially doing this! #ForReasonsUnknown.

A quick ‘game’ of off camber pursuit (Caroline’s best invention!) which I lost funnily enough! And off through the woods to play on different surfaces. Leaf litter, pine needles (and pine cones!), scree, gravel, roots, hillocks, deepish muddy sections and tree roots everywhere.
I’m struggling to keep up this time. A combination of not much sleep and a long day on the bike yesterday has taken its toll and when I hit a really deep muddy section I don’t have the power to get through it. And have to get off and carry it, jumping over a ditch in the process! But I laugh. It’s all good fun!

Today was a lot harder in some ways – really having to concentrate on the how’s and whys, as well as the surface I’m riding over. I’m used to not thinking too much and just doing it – this has definitely given me more knowledge of what to try!

But it’s great, it’s awesome to have a friend that can coach me and can help me out with what I’m not so brave doing.

Huge thanks Caroline, it’s great to have someone like you who’s so good at coaching, let alone a good friend. So please check out her coaching page or follow her on twitter @swordpanda!



Just a tad muddy!


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