Mountain bike: I spent the day flying downhill on a ‘popular’ off-road training course in Dalby Forest
This was part of an introductory mountain bike course that lasted two and a half hours.
I arrived in Dalby Forest around a quarter to one and parked in the Seive Dale car park, located just after Go Ape.
I then made my way to the visitor center, passing the other day trippers in the forest who were making the most of the warm weather with a picnic.
I didn’t know what to expect from the session and was a bit nervous despite being able to ride a bike.
When I arrived at the bike center I was greeted by Mark Grange and Rachel Connerney, who were running the course that day.
On the course, I chose to rent a bike for the session, but you can use your own if you wish.
After being given a proper bike and helmet, we headed to a small rectangular concrete area where the instructors could determine how well I could ride the bike.
A few laps around the area, then I was taught to brake. Sounds easy, right?
Well, that involved standing, squatting, and making sure your feet were balanced on the pedals, meaning they were both at the same level, while watching where you were going and while braking at the same time.
This is so that when you descend (a term I chose that day) you can adjust your body and you won’t hit your feet on the ground below because they will be level.
After nailing proper braking for mountain biking, Mark then taught me how to get around corners using plastic cones.
It is important to learn how to turn corners well so as not to injure yourself by doing it without an instructor on one of the 6 mountain bike trails.
This part involved using the balancing technique we learned during the braking phase so that we could easily get around the corner.
You need to focus on the future, as well as simultaneously breaking enough not to fly off the track – believe me on this one!
After that, I learned to descend a small descent which led to the concrete area on which we learned to brake.
This part was the first real taste of mountain biking, and for a complete novice it was a little scary. This involved having to pedal up the small hill, shifting to a lighter gear to help me pedal easier, and using the brake/balance technique to get down the hill.
After a few tries I managed to get it right and even managed to keep going through the concrete and back up the bank on the other side.
Once I did that, Mark and Rachel thought it was time for me to do some downhill work on the practice trail. This trail is easier and much smaller than the others in Dalby Forest.
It wasn’t scary as the descents were smaller than others I had done before on the concrete area, but since it was a miniature trail I also had to go around a bend and have the terrain of the trail, which meant rocks, soil and tree roots.
Mark followed me on the miniature trail and after a few tries I was ready for bigger challenges. I just had to remember to breathe, and to keep looking forward and not at the bike!
Subsequent descents were a short distance away and I was a little scared to try a good descent, however, the first one went well and I handled it easily.
The second, however, was a bit more difficult and I kept stalling at the top which meant I had to go around again.
The stall was due to me not aligning myself properly when riding the bike, so it looked pretty scary from the top.
A few attempts later, I pushed myself to do it and I succeeded! It was a lot of fun going down it and I finally managed to do both together, so it was time for a steep descent.
This one was very tricky and looked really scary from the top, so Mark showed me how to do it before I tried it.
I lined up my bike ready to go, took off, found my balance and reached the top of the descent where I suddenly stopped.
So I gave him another chance. I lined up my bike, took off, found my balance and it happened again.
This repeated itself about 20 times before we decided I couldn’t do it.
This descent was just a little too steep and I was afraid of falling, so we decided not to push it.
Direction the big path!
Despite this, we were finally able to go on a trail. We go to the start of the blue trail, which is located right next to the Dalby Forest Cycling Hub.
The blue trail started out with Rachel leading and Mark following me as we climbed a hill.
Already, it was very hard, and I felt like my thighs were on fire. A difficult start.
The trail was rocky and had many turns. However, I only stopped twice to catch my breath, which in my books is a hit.
When we got to the top, we descended back through the woods, which was part of the end of the red trail.
It was the most fun part of the day because we were able to weave in and out of the thick forest while riding quite fast and making small descents all the way. I wasn’t scared at all and I felt like I had to let go.
I had a really enjoyable day and found it exciting to say it was a beginners course. I told everyone about it afterwards and I even went on a bike ride since, I liked it so much.
I left a little sweaty and only had a bit of mud on me, which I say is a good thing.
When asked why the two instructors love mountain biking so much, Mark replied, “I like being surrounded by nature, so I don’t feel like I’m exercising. There’s so much going on, and it’s not just my legs that hurt. Mountain biking adds that sense of adventure, you can get away from the crowds and explore different areas.
“Riding with friends, laughing a little and having a good day. I also like a good slice of cake and you can win yourself some cake.
Rachel added: “It gives me a sense of freedom. I have a pretty busy brain so it allows me to disconnect and clear my head a bit. I like the challenge, from a coaching perspective, to help people improve and become better.
More information on training
Training courses are available at the Dalby Forest Cycle Hub until early summer.
There are different types of lessons available, depending on age and ability.
The Learn To Ride Your Bike Kids Course runs April 23-24, May 8-9, and May 21-22.
The Mountain Bike Fundamentals course runs April 30 and May 21.
The Initiation to Mountain Biking for Women course only takes place on April 24, May 8, May 15 and May 28.
The Young Riders course, intended for young riders aged 10 to 16, takes place on April 30, May 14 and May 21.
The Ride the Red Skills course runs on April 24, May 15 and May 28.
The Drops and Jumps course runs May 1, 7 and 22.
The Back in black Skills course takes place on May 1, 7 and 22.
The Mini Riders course takes place on May 14.
The Women Only Improvers course runs on May 8.
Guided hikes take place on April 23 and May 29.
You can book a place for a course here.