2020 has been a year very different to any other. There are many negatives to come from it, which don’t need to be reiterated here, so let’s look at one big positive: the number of bike sales during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Friends in the bike industry have told me how many sales they’ve had, so many of them are just so busy. What does this mean? Well, there’s a lot of new people riding bikes. As far as I’m concerned, that is one big fat positive. More people riding bikes is positive in itself, but what about the health benefits – both physical and mental, as well as the environmental benefits, and the potential savings on fuel and public transport costs. I do hope all these newcomers to cycling stick at it, especially the new mountain bikers.
Even after 28 years of mountain biking myself, I still find that there is space to learn and improve. That could be by revisiting old forgotten skills, which happened a lot for us in lockdown as we could only ride in the garden, or simply by pushing the boundaries of our cornering or jumping or even climbing abilities. For me, the fact that you can spend a life-time improving at this fantastic sport is one of the things that has kept me addicted for so long.
To help our new mountain biking friends, I put together 8 tips for beginners and improvers alike, and you can check them out here!
Is there really any other choice in this weather??
It’s perhaps day 6 of rain here in the Alps, and whilst I shouldn’t really complain, I’m going to. Only because on the flip-side of living in a fantastic outdoor playground, is the fact that when the playground gets all wet and slippery, there’s not much else to do.
Best then, to head out anyway and get loose!
It takes a significantly greater level of motivation to get out when it’s raining, or when it looks like it might rain, but we all know it’s always worth it once you’re out there. Even if only for the smugness of feeling like you’ve beaten the rain at its own game. I’m pleased to say that I have risen to the challenge several times in the last 6 days, and even smashed some PRs on the road-bike on Monday!
On Saturday I put together a little video on riding in the wet. You can check it out right here!
The manual, also known as the front wheel lift, is one of the most fundamental skills in mountain biking. It’s the gateway to many other skills but even before you’ve got that far, it can actually help reduce arm fatigue!
Think about it – if you manual over a root, or a series of roots, rocks, down steps, anything you can, you’re giving your arms a momentary rest and allowing the much bigger muscles of your legs to deal with the rough stuff. All those momentary rests will soon add up, leaving you feeling a little fresher and also way radder because of all the manualling you’ve been doing. Sounds pretty good eh!
If that’s not enough to persuade you, what about this: once you can lift your front wheel up using the correct technique, you can step your game up almost immediately by successfully learning to do drop-offs. For both manualling over things on the trail and for doing drop-offs, you don’t need to be able to cruise along on the back wheel for many many metres, you simply need to be able to raise the front wheel using the technique described in the video above.
Be sure to let me know how you get on by leaving a comment on the video!
You may or may not have heard that I decided to create a YouTube channel. Every other Tom, Dick and Harry seems to be doing it at the moment what with lockdown, but luckily my name’s Emily so that should help me stand out from the crowd a little bit.
What’s it all about? It’s about trying to help others get better on their bikes. I go into more detail in this video:
If like me, you find YouTube full of people waffling on for 10 minutes when they could have wrapped it up in about 3, you are going to like my channel!
I endeavour only to include what is actually relevant, allowing you to take just a few minutes of your time to find out how to do something, and then head out to try it. You can even refer back to it whilst you’re out, using the YouTube app on your phone. One of the ideas behind keeping the tutorials as short and as to-the-point as possible is to enable you to do just that.
I’ll be covering subjects such as
– Braking to go faster
– Doing drop-offs
– Riding switchbacks
– Riding steeps
to name just a few.
There’ll be a smattering of more theoretical mechanical/technical type videos too, but please comment on any of the videos to let me know what you’d like to see next!
If you like what you’ve read and/or seen so far, you can subscribe by hitting this subscribe link HERE right now!
I had originally planned to kick off in mid-April with this, which coincided with not being allowed to actually go bike riding here in France thanks to the Covid-19 crisis. So far, I’ve done a few garden-based videos, but will wait now until 11th May (a mere 6 days away at the time of writing) because I want to produce more relevant and useful stuff than random bits in the garden (although I could do a video on how to endo-180-off of 2 pallets/a wall if you want!).
If you’ve just become a subscriber, thank you very much, and see you out there!
If I had an e-bike, I could get two laps done instead of one. With an e-bike I could get to the top more quickly and more easily. I could do a lot more trail scouting in a day with an e-bike. I could do much bigger loops too. I want an e-bike.
Such were my thoughts up until last week, when my boyfriend and I took e-bikes out for a day in the big mountains. But was I right?
The night before I happened to have a chat with a friend on Messenger. I told him my plans. “You’re dead to me” he said, “It’s cheating”. I thought “oh, here we go”, but it turned out that he had tried an e-bike, but he’d decided it wasn’t for him. Fair enough. But his comments were interesting and I was curious to see what I’d make of it. He said that the work/effort of riding up is all part of it. Going up hill easily is just not as good. He also commented that they’re a lot harder to stop going downhill due to the extra weight, and he felt that it was very evident when e-bikes had been used on a trail due to the additional impact/wear/erosion they’d caused.
We’d chosen a route which we’d done two days prior on our regular bikes as we thought it’d provide the best back-to-back comparison. It was a tough climb – about 15kms with 1000m ascent on a steep winding lane which eventually became fire road. The first junction was at a bridge which on our normal bikes had taken 2 hours to reach.
Part-way up our climb to the bridge, there is a hanging valley with a small descent in it. Reaching this on our regular bikes a few days ago had been a bit of a turning point. We felt like we were finally getting somewhere. On the e-bikes, whilst the climb hadn’t been easy, having still had to work hard, breath hard, and maintain a reasonably decent cadence to continue benefiting from the pedal assist, it didn’t seem like it’d been quite as arduous as on the normal bikes. My friend’s comments about the effort all being part of the ride started to resonate with me. I felt a little cheated, “oh wow, I’m here already, that didn’t seem as hard”. But perhaps it wasn’t that it wasn’t a hard climb, it’s just that when it’s difficult you expect it to take ages as well. It just hadn’t. I was oddly a little disappointed.
We hit the next steep section of the climb. All thoughts of being cheated went swiftly out of the window. In order to maintain the right cadence and speed to continue benefiting from the pedal assist, I had to make enough of an effort to need a rest part way up. On my regular bike I’d just been grinding up in first gear, steady away, no rests. Now I was pushing first gear but it seemed I had to maintain a higher cadence. If I rode an e-bike regularly up something like that, I’d get fitter quite quickly. That’s not something I thought I’d say – I’m already pretty fit! It’s not just the necessity to maintain that cadence, it’s also the fact that you know that if you don’t, you might lose the assistance and then you’re stuck with a 25kg lump between your legs.
We tried out what happens with that on another steep section a few minutes later. Turned off the assistance, kept pedalling, turned it back on again. Despite the fact that I was pedalling, my cadence had slowed so much to try and keep the bike going unaided that the motor wasn’t really registering my efforts and took ages to kick back in. I pretty much came to a standstill. Being quite inexperienced (ok, very inexperienced) with e-bikes, I can’t say for certain that lessening my cadence on the earlier climb would definitely have lost me the assistance, but it wasn’t a risk I wanted to take! Avoiding unintentional stopping with a lead weight beneath you is plenty of motivation to keep trying.
We reached the bridge, time check: 1hour – half the time as on our regular bikes, but it’d felt just as hard. Interesting.
Shortly afterwards we embarked upon a push. The bikes had Bosch motors and were equipped with a walk mode. We started walking whilst the bike practically charged off… ah – I’d left it in 2nd or 3rd gear. Oops! Moving it up into first gear helped to solve that but I felt like I was attempting to manhandle a lump up the mountainside. It wasn’t the most fun ever.
When the trail flattened off into a uphill traverse, we hopped back on and gave it a go – it was a pleasant change to be able to tackle something like that, when normally it’d just be a bit too much on a regular bike.
We came to a steep section with the trail zig-zagging up in front of us. Time to stick it in Emtb mode and see what it could do. Well, what I couldn’t do was stay on the trail. The corners were too tight, so I rode straight up. I did what I hate – I cut the corners. It was a moment of mixed emotions – it was cool to have been able to stay on the bike, but I didn’t like the fact that I’d done it by riding straight up, away from the trail. Perhaps that’s a negative against e-bikes. If riding them inadvertently encourages you to leave the trail for an “easier” option, is that ok? I personally don’t think it is.
We paused by a lake for lunch, and I was feeling like there was a big stopwatch hanging over me. In fact, I was feeling the worry of “how far will this battery take me”. We were heading over one col, then we’d come back up and over a second. We hoped to squeeze in a third, but weren’t sure if we’d have the time or battery power to do so.
At this point in the day, I wasn’t totally loving e-bikes. I was quite concerned about getting stranded somewhere with a bike I couldn’t easily move under my own power (well, unless I was going downhill that is!), and I was quite fed up with manhandling it around the place.
As it turned out, that first col was a bit easier to get to after the lake than it looked. Some of it was even rideable (on an e-bike anyway!), and we bumped in to some very friendly Italians who were quite intrigued by our machines. I was happy we’d reached the col as now the assistance could be turned off and the battery power saved.
Our descent wasn’t particularly steep or technical and I wondered what I’d think of it on my own bike which has a slacker head angle, more suspension and most importantly, brakes fitted the right way round. I wasn’t really able to test out my friend’s comments about the bike being harder to stop. I didn’t notice any issues, but I probably wasn’t travelling as fast as if it’d been a bike I’d been accustomed to. The jury’s still out on this, so I’m keen to have another go on some steeper trails and see how I get on.
Our climb back up to the Finestre de Champorcher turned out to be a technical double-track climb. By this time we’d decided not to go for Col Number 3 so battery conservation was out of the window. It was great to be able to ride up slab rocks and through sections littered with baby-heads in Emtb mode, and clear it all. I’d have been walking on my regular bike. It still wasn’t easy, and I lacked technical ability in places, but it was so much nicer than walking. That said, it did bring to the fore that there is a whole other set of skills needed for e-biking – uphill skills. You’re approaching difficult sections that bit faster, and you need to pick your line and set a body position much more quickly than you’re accustomed to. Uphill seated switchbacks were definitely a new challenge!
We finally reached our second col, and descended down the other side to a refuge where we stopped for a coffee and a good old chinwag about the day so far. That descent was a bit more in line with what I usually do. It still didn’t seem that it was hard to slow the bike down nicely, despite the fact that the back tyre was bald. Surely accidental skidding should have been easily achievable, but apparently not!
So far it’d been an interesting day. I thought an e-bike would make everything easier, but it didn’t. We were riding in eco mode to conserve the battery as we wanted to cover some distance. If you do that, riding an e-bike uphill isn’t easier, it’s just quicker. Sure, we tried them in the faster modes, it was almost effortless yes, but that doesn’t interest me. I do want to work on the climbs. It seems there are choices – you either make it easy (and fast), but you’ll lose your range or you make it the same in terms of effort level, but extend your range. The latter is what I’m interested in.
We talked a lot about how to maximise battery life – like making sure the cadence is in a sweet spot where the motor isn’t labouring too much, and keeping the pedal strokes smooth so that the motor is assisting consistently, rather than surging as you stomp on the pedals. It was clear that to do long rides with a lot of climbing, eco mode and careful pedalling would be key. There’d be no blasting in turbo mode, that’s for sure.
We’d thought that e-bikes would make great trail scouting tools, and had a taste of this after leaving the refuge. There was a trail heading off up the hillside, but it was definitely rideable when equipped withan e-bike. “I’m going up here – because I can”, I said, and off we went. It’s as if the bike offered a little bit more freedom to just go and have a look. On a regular bike you’d not want to put the effort in for something that might not be worth it, but on an e-bike just having a quick look was really no big deal. We ended up riding a great trail that brought us back onto our original route a little further down. Later on I experienced another little taste of that freedom when heading off down a singletrack that would spit me out by a river. The steep fire-road climb back out to our original route became a non-issue. I stuck the bike in turbo mode and powered up at about 23km/h in a fraction of the time that I would on my own bike. Is there anyone out there who’ll claim they don’t like freedom?? I did not expect to get that from an e-bike ride!
Could e-bikes replace shuttles? In the spring and autumn where we live in the French alps, the trails are completely free of snow, but there are no lifts running to get to them. Once in a while we’ll sort out an uplift day but otherwise it’s a case of pedal up for 1h30 and ride down for 5 minutes. It’s not a great rate of return. Imagine being able to ride up in 45 minutes, and do that trail, then ride up again and do another trail. And maybe even a third trail on the opposite hillside. What’s the difference in doing that, and taking a shuttle – why isn’t an uplift day seen as cheating? Because it basically is. You’ve not even pedalled whilst ascending in your shuttle van, whereas an e-biker has, even if in one of the fast modes. They’ve still raised their heart rate more than someone sat in a van. Who’s the cheat now?
The other comment my friend had made had basically been about trail sustainability. For me, this ties in to being able to stop or slow down in a controlled manner. I want to know if I can still slow down before corners without skidding. I am a massive advocate of smooth and controlled braking to avoid skidding and I don’t think I’d be happy with a bike which made that impossible to do when riding natural trails. Difficult – yes, in that case I could learn to manage it, but impossible – no. Not for me.
Often cited are concerns about trail damage whilst climbing too. I wonder if there’s a slight issue here: when you’re on an e-bike for the first time with a curious mind, like me, you’re probably looking for these signs. If you’re an e-bike hater, perhaps you’re also looking for these signs. But on your regular bike, do you ever stop to look if you’ve left a mark on the ground? Probably not. Over the years, I have sometimes noticed the tyre marks of other riders ascending steep stuff on regular bikes. It doesn’t matter what sort of bike you’re on, if you put the power down when climbing on soft enough ground, you will leave a mark. Perhaps the difference is that on an e-bike you are likely to do it more frequently.
I believe trail impact can to some extent be put down to rider attitude, both on an e-bike and a regular bike. I don’t think the bike is the sole cause of the problem. By it’s very nature, mountain biking has an impact. We can’t avoid that, but we can try to minimise it by avoiding skidding and by riding corners properly. Give a rider an uplift, and no matter what bike he’s on, he can skid down the trail and cause damage. Using a chairlift, he can do this repeatedly, arguably smashing more laps than someone pedalling up on an e-bike. Granted, this doesn’t apply to climbing as the regular biker just couldn’t climb the singletrack an e-biker could. But there’s nothing to stop that e-biker from laying the power down smoothly, rather than stomping on the pedals. Why not educate people to pedal more smoothly, to ride more sustainably, rather than simply blaming the bike.
Some folk are opposed to e-bikes because they offer the chance to lap trails multiple times, thus increasing the traffic on any given trail and expediting erosion. I can’t deny that, but it leads me to wonder whether you could argue that in remote areas, it’s less of an issue. Compare two scenarios: Living in a densely populated area, where do you go riding? More than likely, to a recognised riding area – whether it’s a trail centre or an unofficial trail network in your local woods. You’ll see other riders there and each individual trail will be ridden many times over. But what if you live in a region where you don’t session the same 5 trails in a small area? Instead you ride up a road for an hour or so, ride down a single trail, ride up again and do a different trail? You’ll probably have been out for 3 hours by this time, but you’ve only ridden two trails. There’s every chance you won’t even see another biker in that time. In this scenario the impact on the trails is clearly less. In order to protect those trails in more densely populated areas, is it feasible to ban e-bikes because their impact is much greater? E-bikes raise a lot of issues, many of which are quite difficult to answer!
At the end of the day, if we’re truly concerned about erosion and trail damage, then it’s important to look at the way we all ride, whatever type of bike we use. Can you genuinely cite erosion as solely an e-bike problem if you’re an uplift-using corner-cutting skidder?? Just sayin’.
I run a mountain bike holiday business, and I’d love to add an e-bike into my trail-scouting tool kit, as long as I feel I can ride it responsibly. Being able to investigate new trails more efficiently – perhaps covering three trail options in a day instead of one – would mean that I can bring the newly discovered trails into my guiding repertoire much more quickly than at present. The most satisfying part of any guide’s job is showing their customers fantastic new trails, and having a tool which helps me continue to be able to do that would be invaluable.
2018 promises to be an exciting summer for cycling fans in Bourg Saint Maurice during July – Le Tour is coming to town!
Be like Wheelie Man: Ride your mountain bike AND watch the Tour de France all at the same time:
*wheelie-ing whilst watching optional 😉
Tuesday 18th July the riders come from Albertville through Beaufort and continue on up to La Rosiere. We’re already planning how to combine some brilliant singletrack riding with cheering on our favourite roadies (which one’s yours?!)!
We’ve got soo many choices, but currently we reckon heading over to La Thuile could be the one!
Just over the border in Italy, La Thuile is part of the Espace St Bernardo area, and is linked to La Rosiere – that’s how close it is. The Tour stage ends in La Rosiere, so what a perfect excuse to head over for a healthy sample of trail goodness, before heading back across to watch the riders finish their day in La Rosiere. Italian loam, coffee and icecream AND the Tour de France? Oooh yes!
If you want to watch the Tour AND ride your mountain bike, this is the perfect opportunity. All you need to do is book a holiday with us for the week commencing Saturday 14 July 2018!
Read all about a week in Les Arcs with us here, or just jump straight in:
Anyone seen the Trippin Fellaz GR5 video? Seen that awesome looking ridgeline near the Col de la Sauce? If not, you’d best have a look:
I was curious as to where it was as the GR5 comes through our valley. It only turns out that the Col de la Sauce is a mere 500m hike-a-bike up the road from Les Arcs! Well, after a short 20 minute drive that is. Needless to say, I think we’ll be heading up there for a little look in the summer. Exciting stuff! I’ve tended to look towards the south for fresh trails, perhaps i need to look more north from time to time.. what else is on the northern door step?!
Either way, we’re going to have to be patient, it’s only January and we’ve already had as much snow as would usually have fallen by the end of March. It could take a while for the high-level trails to be free of snow this year!
It’s quite normal to ride to La Thuile from Bourg Saint Maurice if I’m quite honest. You just take a few lifts from the La Rosiere side and then drop into La Thuile, easy peasy. However, there is another way. One where chairlifts are replaced with a fat chunk of hike-a-bike. Far from civilisation, it’s a proper route in proper mountains, in fact one could call it a proper day out.
The rough plan was to get over a mountain pass (simultaneously crossing the border to Italy), and ride down the other side to La Thuile where we’d catch the chairlift home. That meant we had to be in La Thuile about 4.30 to get the last chair. Without the usual mechanical assistance at the beginning of the day, we’d need an early start. We decided to camp overnight at the start point and hit up a sweet crag for a spot of sport climbing in the sun, before heading back down to where we’d parked the vans to spend the night.
The next morning our friend Stu arrived in his Landrover. We saw him coming but weren’t quick enough to stop him from sailing past the carpark and carrying on up to the Refuge de Ruitor, where the serious adventuring would begin. There’s no phone signal anywhere in the area, and I’d made the error of not being specific about where we’d meet him in the morning. Uh oh! Fortunately he soon came back down and we managed to squeeze 5 bikes in and on the Landy and drove back up to the refuge, saving quite a lot of time and our legs from a fairly steep fireroad climb.
We enjoyed a very nice little flat warm up in the beautiful valley which is home to the refuge, before we embarked upon Hike-a-Bike Part 1: 630m ascent directly to Italy. Leaving the babbling brooks and alpine meadows behind, we got off to a good start, and soon reached a little lake aptly named Lac du Petit (petit meaning small in French). Stu dropped his bike in the lake whilst trying to take a photo. Oh dear! With water gushing out of it, he lifted it onto his back and promptly regretted this hasty move with the ice-cold water now running all down his neck! The next section up to the border took us about another hour, and for some reason I suddenly found it a lot more difficult. I can’t express how glad I was to finally reach the Col du Tachuy!
The view awaiting us was nothing short of incredible. A perfect panorama of Mont Blanc and the Grandes Jorasses right there before our very eyes, clouds just brushing the tops. My struggle up to the col was well worth it just for that and I wished I could have stayed and looked at it for a while.
We were high up enough now that the terrain was a bit moonlike, with the trail snaking off into nothing as it dropped off the Italian side of the col. It was obviously going to be rocky and loose, and fingers crossed good fun too.
It was windy and very cold up there, so we quickly got cracking on the descent. It was as expected, and FUN! As usual, I was loving the blind riding, having to make decisions quickly about the best lines and best way to ride them. There were some parts which were so loose you wondered if you were going to slow enough to make the next corner or go tumbling down a load of spiky looking stones and rocks. That would have been ouchy to the max! It’s just as well the trail was so engaging as otherwise it would have been quite easy to be distracted by some very cool scenery too. There was a lake with a rock island in the middle which I thought was the best thing ever, although I might have been the only one!
Off the french map now, it was time to move to the less detailed Italian version. Partway down another techy section I spotted a trail off to the right and had to call a big halt to Gustav and David who were out in front as it seemed like it could be a good option not to lose too much height before climbing back up to Refugio Diffeyes. If you’ve been to La Thuile and looked across at that big glacier with the massive waterfall coming out of the bottom of it, that’s where the refuge is. Right at the bottom of the glacier. This adventure was ticking two boxes – riding a new route from France to Italy AND going to that glacier. Nice!
Here we are then, Hike-a-Bike Part 2. This wasn’t too bad, and we took around an hour to get to the refuge. We did a bit of via ferrata with the bikes, nothing serious but it added to the adventure! Getting up close to the glacier that I’d seen from so far away so many times was really cool as well – no pun intended!
As it was August, it was quite busy at the Refuge. It was also around about 2 o’clock and we were suddenly on a bit of a mission: we only had about 2.5 hours left to catch the chairlift in La Thuile, and we weren’t done with the hike-a-bike yet!
Swiftly refilling camelbaks, we left the refuge behind to find the traversing trail that would eventually become our final descent. A few minutes later, and a quick gander at the map, and we’re heading onto a rocky descending path.
This trail was “undulating” and involved some more via ferrata. Again, nothing very serious (I’d spent a good bit of google time checking out whether it was passable with bikes beforehand), but still tricky with a bike in tow. Forming a human chain along it, we got the bikes passed forward and continued on our way. With a couple more ascents to go, it was Hike-a-Bike Part 3. At this point I clearly hadn’t had enough to eat cos I got hangry about the fact that I was still going up! We plodded on, time ticking down to lift closing time down in La Thuile…
At last we made it to the final high point, checked the map, stuffed our faces with our dwindling food supplies, checked the time and got going. Starting with some cool rocky techy sections, the trail was super-promising. Until we got to an unrideable rocky section that was. Damn. Just as we were really getting into it! We carried bikes though and set off again – all good for a bit and then we got to a little gap between a couple of rocky outcrops, the trail plunging steeply down in front of us. Taking a peek over the edge, it was definitely not something to try riding! Bikes aloft, we descended the steep zigzags on foot until we could hop back on. More rocks. More scrambling. Hmm… What time is it?!?! Ooooh! Crack on!
The trail was really descending now. Traversing across the hillside, pretty much level with the top of the first chairlift in La Thuile. It was pretty mint to be somewhere that I’d looked across at many times, somewhere that I’d just seen a little line on the map. I’d always thought it looked a bit insane from the other side, but here we were, riding along it and it was actually quite alright. Picking up speed, no one wanted to stop now! Eventually we hit a junction and popped out on the trail which was Stage 1 of EWS La Thuile in 2014. Alriiiiiight! This is a sweeeeet trail! We’d kinda dropped two of our friends, although we could hear them wooping their way down so we knew they were good. Time check… It’s getting tighter! We need to go! Still no sign of the others. Let’s go. They’ll figure out it’s downhill surely?!
We absolutely smashed down to La Thuile, and practically sprinted to the lift pass office. We had 15 minutes to spare before being stranded in Italy! Phew! We got passes for everyone and with just 5 minutes to spare, the two we’d left behind rolled into town, not even a look of concern on their faces! No wonder they were lagging behind, somewhere along the lines they’d not realised we had a bit of a rush on!!
Literally the last people allowed on the lift, we breathed a collective sigh of relief and started making our way back to France, excitedly chattering about how awesome the final trail was! Close calls, big skids, rocks, loam, it’s a minter. I’ve been lucky enough to ride the EWS stage part of it a few times and it’s always a winner. It’s a shame we didn’t have time for Italian coffee and ice cream at the bottom, but the adventure was complete. The trails we’d ridden and the sights we’d seen more than made up for the lack of Italian delights. Yippee!
Remember those three really long blog entries I did about our trip to the Queyras Regional Park? Well, here’s a much shorter version written by a pro! If you’re a Singletrack premium subscriber, there’s every chance you’ve seen it already, but if not here are the pages in image form… sorry for the very low-tech solution, anyone know how to embed pdf files?? Click to enlarge and read away 🙂 Drop us a line if you would like the pdf copy.
Well, it’s been a mint week riding my bike in Engadin St Moritz, with a crew of other bike-loving ladies! We’ve talked about everything from suspension to farting, ridden some great trails, eaten some delicious food, and above all I think we’ve all come away with a whole bunch of new friends.
We were in St Moritz (yes, the famous ski resort in Switzerland) for the second annual Women’s Bike Summit. Last year was good, but if you ask me, this year was even better! We had some great skills sessions, including bike maintenance, suspension set-up, skills coaching, and some behind-the-scences coaching tips and tricks for those of us involved in actually delivering skills coaching.
The weather wasn’t quite so kind to us this time around but we didn’t let it get us down. At least it wasn’t raining! It was just a bit chilly with some snow around up high. We kept warm with a little extra pedalling and some tactical route choices by our guides, who took us down to Poschiavo on the coldest day, known as “Little Italy” for it’s great food, coffee and gelato. It was also quite a bit warmer, and I almost got sunburnt before quickly slapping some sunscreen on.. oopsy!
One of the highlights for me were the photo workshops with Sam Dugon. I took my SLR this year so that I could get involved. I love photography but I have huge swathes of time where I don’t get the camera out, so I always forget what I learnt last time. We were treated to a ride down Val Bever, where the scenery is so amazing that I’m not sure you could actually take a bad photo. We had some good clouds in the sky, not too much harsh sunlight and everyone was wearing bright clothes. British girls may like to moan about manufacturers making things in pink on the various forums, but I can tell you, European girls seem very happy pinking themselves to the max! It isn’t exactly a bad colour to be photographed in either.
We also enjoyed an extremely polished talk on mental training from the very inspiring Anne-Marie Flammersfeld. She is an ultra-trail runner, and the world record holder for the fastest ascent up Kilimanjaro and back. She gave a very interesting talk on the power of the mind, covering things such as focus, relaxation techniques, and how to actually practice mental training. This is something I’ve always been interested in, and it was encouraging to learn that I’m on the right track with the way I use my mind to keep on pushing up tough climbs on the road bike, for example.
Another highlight for me came on the morning of our first day. Specialized Ambassador Maria Frykman had come all the way from Innsbruck, and gave us some valuable information on how to help beginners feel more comfortable and confident riding their bikes. Whilst I don’t often guide beginners, I am really pleased to have been able to take away some very useful tips to help the people I guide to become even better riders.
Above all, I really feel like I got to know some great women this week. Everyone was so happy to be out riding with other like-minded women. There is definitely a different vibe when you have a group of ladies riding together. A collective stoke when someone nails something you know they will have found hard or challenging. A collective sense of achievement when the whole group has finished a tough ride. It seems to me that we tend to expect male riders to nail challenging stuff, and to finish a tough ride, these are norms, and they don’t get any praise for it. I like that within a group of female riders you have these responses. I guess we’re all just wearing our hearts on our sleeves a little more, we’re more vocal about cheering for each other. I could probably chatter on about that for a while without drawing any real conclusions, but instead I shall just say that if you’re a female rider reading this blog, you should really come along to the Women’s Bike Summit next year! You’ll ride in one of the most beautiful places around, learn so much, and make so many new friends! I couldn’t recommend it more.
Thanks to Laura, Daniela and Tina for the group shots just here ^^ 🙂