Adventure Race Training: skills and spills

By Amy Russell November 8, 2013
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Team Australian Geographic Adventure hit the trails with the Australian Mountain Bike Magazine team.

THERE WAS A MOMENT before I collided with the ground when I wondered to myself exactly how it was I got here. Growing up, I was much more ballet than I was biker-girl. I was a string bean and as quick as a flash, so I was the fast kid but, because I lacked coordination, I wasn’t known for my sporting accolades. What I did have in spades was courage. There wasn’t much I was afraid of, so you’d often find me up a tree, or doing something stupid and then suffering the resulting injuries.

So, it really isn’t that surprising that I came tumbling off my mountain bike during our first skills session with the Australian Mountain Bike Magazine boys: Mick ‘Radical’ Ross, Chris ‘Supercharged’ Southwood and Luke ‘Mad-eye’ Melbourne. In preparation for our Paddy Pallin Adventure Race next weekend in Canberra, Josie and I bribed them to take an afternoon out of the office to show us the ropes, or chains, if you will. It didn’t take much convincing – any excuse for these guys to hit the trails and they’re out the door faster than you can say “spandex”.

We met the AMB team at Loftus Oval, near the Royal National Park, south of Sydney, and they came equipped with a bevy of bikes and other gear that I couldn’t name for the life of me. It was sweltering so we lathered ourselves up with sunscreen and filled up our water bottles before heading out onto the oval for a quick skills session with Chris.

If you’re new to mountain biking, you really couldn’t ask for a better coach than the editor of AMB. Chris took us through the basics of posture, braking, turning corners and neutral body position (standing up off the seat – for when you’re cruising over any rocky ground or charging up or down hills). He explained we should ride a mountain bike like we would ride a cow: keep your body loose and relaxed, your legs wide (as if you’re straddling said cow) and your arms bent at your elbows.

These are all skills you must know if you’re going to master a mountain bike. And they are all skills I forgot when I was riding the singletrack the boys took us down once we’d finished on the oval and had ridden down 500 m of fire trail.

The singletrack was narrow, windy, gravelly and scattered with logs, dips and rocks. I was fine until my first mini tumble – I managed to right myself and remain standing but now I was a little scared. I came around another bend and failed to turn in time. I ended up on the ground over a log with my bike strewn across me. Mick helped me to my feet between peals of laughter and I pushed the bike along the path the rest of the way until we reached the clearing, where the rest of the gang was waiting.

Josie on the other hand gave the boys a run for their money. She sliced through the trails like a hot knife through butter. Over train tracks, around tight corners, down hills – there was literally no stopping this adventure girl.

Today I’m a little battered and bruised but the only real damage has been done to my pride. I’m also looking forward to getting Mick in a kayak soon so I can watch him flail about and hopefully capsize. I won’t give up on mountain biking just yet, but I will perhaps think twice next time I decide to follow a couple of pros and Wonder Woman through the bush. Clearly I still need my training wheels.