Monday, 8 October 2012

I Passed My Trail Cycle Leader Qualification!

I'd done the two-day training course back in May so as I rolled up to Gartmorn Country Park near Tillicoultry I felt quite apprehensive. It was a cold morning; 8am; -1C. Could I remember everything I'd learnt before? I should have practised leading groups over the Summer but in my defence, I had precious little child-free days with which to dedicate to bike riding. Anyway, the beautiful sight of the mist over Gartmorn Dam suggested that the day was going to be a good one.

The TCL assessment outcomes include having logged 30 mountain bike rides of 1.5hrs or longer, with at least one of 6hrs or more. After that it is down to three main questions; can you ride a bike, can you take the right stuff with you and can you lead a group.

The day began with a star orienteering task which involved estimating the route to the various points around the area and then checking how close you were using your computer. It was supposed to be a confidence-building, low pressure task but I was already a bit nervous and so after a few school boy errors I completed the task. In fairness, I had been asked to speed up after the first one and so I felt that pressure too. I upped my speed from an unrealistically slow 17km/h to a more respectable 22km/h and found the other 3 checkpoints and completed tasks like breaking and re-linking a chain and placing a post-it note on the inside of my rear tyre, wrapped snugly around my inner-tube. I ended up being back much sooner than the others and after realising that some of my estimates were quite far off (>100m) I took myself off to the skills course.

The skills course consists of in/out of bottles, a chicane, an up/down ramp amongst others. That was all easy peasy but my nemesis came in the form of the 3 limbo bars. The first two are fine but the third was about an inch lower than my stem and therefore close to impossible to clear. Strategies like leaning the bike one way with my whole body and legs the other didn't work. Neither did letting the air out of my front tyre! I'm ashamed to say that I left the skills course defeated and broken. However, contrary to what I'd been told during my training, it wasn't necessary to clear that obstacle to pass so I needn't have worried. And neither should the other 6 people who also didn't fit. It will be my mission to clear it in the future. I think it is the height of a wheelie bin. I'll let you know.

After some peer assessment and feedback of the morning's orienteering debarcle, I was a bit deflated. We were told to judge whether or not we'd pass each other. I wouldn't have passed me, even though I had no problem navigating to my destinations, my distances were just too far out. I was therefore relieved to hear that my navigation skills would also be assessed during the afternoon's assessed ride. A second chance for me!

The afternoon's ride was in groups of four with a given loop of about 20k. We had to divide the route into four and each choose a section to lead the group on. That involved writing up a route card with distances, key decision points and durations. I chose a particularly wiggly and varied looking bit with the intention of proving my navigation ability and redeeming myself. It was a good choice as I had many opportunities to show confident and competent leadership skills and clear decision making.

We got through our respective sections with relative ease and all felt confident in each others abilities, only occasionally having to raise eyebrows or remove the tickle in our throat when a moment of hesitation took the leader.

Safely back in the car park we debriefed and readied ourselves for our feedback. I went first as I had a two hour drive home as well as a sense of impending doom after the morning but, and rightly so in my opinion, I passed. I'm now really excited about adding the Go Mountainbike accreditation to deliver it in schools as well as starting a fortnightly/once a month day taking families around Stonehaven and encouraging off-road riding. My only obstacle is that before I can receive my certificate and begin leading I must have my outdoor first-aid certificate. I'll have that in the bag before the weather gets better and then I'll be off!

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