How To Get Started With Mountain Biking

mountain biking skills session at lee valley velopark

During Bike Week which took place in June, I went along to Lee Valley Velopark for their Bikes and Bakes event. It was a chance to get involved in a plethora of cycling activities and eat cake, which is one of the main reasons I ride a bike!

The event was also attended by Sophie Faldo, whom you’ll know as the Great British Bake Off Winner from 2017 if you’re a fan. Little did many of us know that Sophie was actually a pro cyclist!

Sophie gave a talk about her journey in cycling and then we had an opportunity to ask a few questions… and I actually had a couple…

  1. I was curious to know how old Sophie was… she spoke about a colourful career in the British Army as well as a stint as a professional rower. Turns out Sophie is in her mid thirties which was really inspiring to hear as it means there is still hope for me to get a few medals from being on two wheels…
  2. My second question was about finding the discipline of cycling that worked for each individual person. I think this event took place after the Tour of Cambridgeshire and I was seriously questioning if I ever wanted to cycle such long distances again… Sophie basically said the best way to figure it out is to try your hand at every single type of cycling… so thats where the mountain biking idea started.

What You Need For Your Mountain Biking Session

The great thing about the MTB session at the Lee Valley VeloPark is that you don’t need to take a thing! Bike and helmet hire come included in the price of the MTB CoreStart – Stage 1 session (£15pp at the time of writing this). My biggest question though (as ever!), was what to wear? I reached out to some ladies in a cycling chat group I’m a part of and the main consensus was to:

  • wear something you’ll be comfortable in
  • make sure it’s kit that you don’t mind getting a little dirty 
  • wear trainers with a hard / sturdy sole are a good option (I wore these)
  • and / or just wear your road cycling gear if you have some! 
practicing my ready position on the mountain bike

The Basic Mountain Biking Skills

The session lasted for one hour in total during which time we got to explore all  the basics of mountain biking starting with the ready position (pictured above… almost lol… my pedals should be the same height and my feet should be flatter).

We spent the first part of our session on a flat bit of the park with cones used to mark out areas we were working on. In addition to the ready position, we covered cornering, gears, braking and “pumping” which is a skill used to go up and down the moguls (tiny hills) so you don’t need to pedal and keep your speed.

Putting Your Skills To The Test

Although I’ve been to the Velopark a number of times, I’d never seen or noticed the trails for mountain biking and that’s probably because they go a bit beyond the actual Velopark building, up, around and all over the place.

The runs are all coloured ranging from blue – the easiest (available) – through red and then black being the most technical. Our coach John clearly had confidence in the four of us in the session as we started straight on the red run!

The actual trails are a lot different to practicing on smooth flat tarmac but once I got into it I was enjoying myself so much (despite the screams! haha!).

Modestas on the mountain bike trails in ready position
view from the handlebars

So, What’s Next?

For you, or for me?! …for me, I’d love to do the next stage of the MTB experience to get to learn a few more skills and have some more time on the trails to practice. Then, Tess from FitBits has offered to show me around Stanmer trails and the South Downs which I will have to take her up on now my Summer break is here!

For you… firstly, do a little research on all the various disciplines in cycling and which ones you think you might enjoy having a go at! …there is track cycling to try out which can also be done at the Velopark.

If you’re keen to give track cycling a go you can read about my experience here from back in 2015! …or you can set yourself a challenge like a self supported multi day road ride? I completed London to Paris in 2017 and honestly, it was hard work but an amazing experience!

Last but not least, I personally wanna give Cyclo-Cross which is kinda like OCR racing for cyclists where there are obstacles and even times that you have to run and carry your bike! These events take place all throughout the autumn and winter months which is perfect for when I’d probably be tempted to pack up the road bike because the weather is too crazy!

So I’ll ask you again, what’s next?!




p.s I went along to this session as a guest of the Velopark. I asked to go along, so it goes without saying that all opinions are my very own! ;) 

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