The All Biked Up Mountain Bike Skills Coaching Trip to Bermuda with the Fat Tyre Massive
It’s not every day that you get a call to ask if you’d like to do a week of mountain bike skills coaching in Bermuda, but that’s exactly what happened to me when my friend Richard Kelly from skills coaching company All Biked Up, based in the Surrey Hills, called me to ask if I wanted to join the team of instructors that he was putting together to run mountain bike skills training on the Island.
I’d be joining Richard along with All Biked Up’s regular instructors Glen, Josh and Si. The brief; go to Bermuda and teach the Mountain Bikers the essentials of mountain biking the All Biked Up and Firecrest MTB way!
It’s a seven hour flight from Gatwick to Bermuda and with BA taking care of business it seemed a lot shorter, although maybe that was down to the fact that I was talking mountain bikes with Si for the first two hours of the flight (who would have thought that?) We landed in Bermuda just as it was getting dark, breezed through customs and met our hosts for the week. Rich, Glen and I were staying on our own with our hosts, James, April and Mark respectively, Si and Josh (who was flying in the following day) were staying with Dennis.
We loaded up our bikes and gear and headed out to get some food. The time in Bermuda is four hours behind the UK, so it was dinner time there. We headed to a great little bar for a bite to eat and a chance to get to know our hosts better before heading back to their houses.
I was staying with Mark and Leanne in downtown Hamilton, they’ve got a really nice place with a great view out over the harbour and Admiralty House. Although it was late, my first job was to get my bike built up and when that was done I headed to bed ready for the following days early start. Bermuda time 10.30pm – UK time 2.30am!
Luckily I was tired enough to sleep through to around 6am (10am UK time) and then on and off till 7am. I couldn’t wait to get up and see the Island in daylight. We were heading to the east end of the Island to start our tour so we loaded up the bikes, stopped off to pick up Si and some dodgy breakfast from the Garage and met up with the others. A quick spin round one of the venues for the Islands race series sent my mind back to the UK courses of the late 90’s. It had forest roads, steep, short climbs and short sections of singletrack, the big difference being the ocean backdrop and palm trees rather than pine trees!
We took a spin along the coast to St Georges for a coffee and a chance to soak up sunshine before spinning back across the Island on the road to Hamilton. In town we paid our first visit to Winners Edge, one of two bike shops on the Island, for some spares for Glen’s bike and then we hooked up with the guys to check out the venue for Saturday’s skills coaching. After a short climb up out of Hamilton we arrived at a great little park called Arboretum. It was perfect for what we needed for coaching with a mix of trails and plenty of rolling grass parkland to get the basics covered.
After a quick spin round the park we rolled back down into Hamilton to catch the ferry across to Dockyard for lunch. After a spot of lunch we were joined by more locals who’d escaped the office for an afternoon on the trails and we headed out to check out the trails on the west of the Island. The Zombie Trail was the first on our list, an awesome little area of single track trails running through some super spooky old naval buildings that wouldn’t look out of place in a horror movie (hence the name).
From there we linked up some singletrack to check out where they are planning on building the Islands first Pumptrack in Lagoon Park. A great spot in an old quarry, perfect for a pumptrack with plenty of natural options for features! Back on the bikes and we continued our ride down the coast to Scaur Hill Fort and Hog Bay. Hog Bay is home to one of the most popular races and there was some more great little singletrack trails that would be ideal for coaching on over the weekend.
Back on the road again and the weather started closing in bright blue skies had turned black and we were about to be treated to an Atlantic deluge! Soaked to the skin we split to drop Glen back at April’s and Mark gave me a great slipstream around the harbour as we headed home to dry out.
Despite there being no let-up in the rain, we headed round to James’s for a BBQ that evening. James did a great job of preparing us a feast under his umbrella in the garden while we recounted our day’s adventures. Josh also joined us after flying out a day later due to his University commitments. Poor Josh must have been bored by our stories of the days adventures riding end-to-end across the island but excited to hear all about what was in store for day two.
I don’t know what it is but there’s nothing more motivating than opening the curtains to a bright blue sky and that was what greeted me early on Saturday morning. Today’s task was simple, we were heading up to the Arboretum to deliver the first day of training to the riders that James had organised for a two day MTB Skills camp. We were greeted by an excited group of islanders and after Rich had taken care of the introductions, Josh and I took an intermediate group, Glen and Si took the beginners and Rich headed off with the more experienced riders.
We spent the morning introducing the skills and running through the essentials whilst getting an idea of which areas we could help each rider improve on the most. By lunch time our group was already beginning to master the essentials and we were able to use the rolling terrain of The Park to work on developing more of their technical skills. When our stomachs told us it was time for lunch we all stopped to grab a quick sandwich and a drink. It was great listening to all the participants comparing their morning on the trail and all the new skills they’d learnt.
For the afternoon we were heading out to the double tracks and singletracks that criss-crossed The Park to take the participants’ skills to the next level. Again everyone in our group was having a lot of fun and picking up their skills, from cornering, to clearing obstacles in the trail, we had it all covered. We rounded out the afternoon in true 90’s style with a hill climb challenge, fortunately not based on speed but on how far up the climb you could get. With the perfect climbing technique on lock down everyone surpassed their previous record as go after go they headed just a little further up the climb before their legs and lungs gave way!
Wrapping up day one we gathered the group together to grab a drink and let everyone reflect on a great days training. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one already looking forward to day two!
Our trip coincided with the Bermuda Rugby Classic that takes place on the Island every year where rugby ex-pro’s come over to the Island to compete for their national side. Richard, Glen, Si and Josh were well up for a night at the England game, where as I opted for a trip out to a family party with my host Mark and his wife Leanne. It was great to get an insight into family life on the Island. Thanks to everyone for the laughs and for making me feel so welcome.
After a great day in the Arboretum we’d pretty much exhausted all the trails from a coaching perspective so for the day two sessions we headed west to Scaur Hill Fort. This was one of my favourite stops on Friday’s ride and I knew there would be plenty of sections for us to work through. We swapped the groups around a little so Simon and I took over Richard’s group and Richard mixed up Glen and Si’s group between himself and Josh.
For Si and me our morning started with Energy Management working the transitions across the park with plenty of video feedback to get everyone’s pump techniques dialled. We then had a quick look at climbing, working on the super steep short climbs that make their way up to the top of The Fort. Here technique counts as much as fitness and everyone made light work of the climbs in no time!
With going up sorted it was time to look at coming down. The circuit at Hog Bay boasts a short sharp technical decent with plenty of roots and rocks to challenge any rider. This technical descent featured Hirschi’s Rock named after the infamous Hirschi after he got taken out by it on a ride one day. We spent some time working with each of the riders on various elements of their riding to get them through the section with more confidence and speed. Even Hirschi was making light work of the section and manualling over his rock at the end of the session, although he still wanted to look at it every run!
Time for some lunch and another catch up with the rest of the group! More stories were exchanged and lessons learned discussed over lunch. The guys and girls on the course were a great bunch of riders to hang out with and it was great to see the spirit of mountain biking in full effect on Bermuda.
For the afternoon we had a ride planned – a short pedal down the road to another of the popular race courses. This was one of the very ‘90’s renaissance’ venues we’d ridden through on Friday’s ride just before the rain and another personal favourite. We sectioned one of the downhills, mastering a couple of tight shoots into open turns which shot riders out on a ledge right above the ocean. Tough to beat as a section of trail and a great section for mastering footwork, body position and looking through corners.
A little bit more work on technical climbing and line choice and we regrouped at the top of the hill. Group photo for the album and it was time to ride back to the Fort to meet up with everyone to round out another great days coaching. We hadn’t quite finished though as we were invited back to Jay’s house for some video feedback. Jay’s house was amazing, with the most amazing ocean views. It was also perfect for getting everyone in one room and reviewing some of the footage that we’d shot throughout the weekend. After two days of coaching everyone was spotting the things they should have been doing and it was great way to round out the weekend. Thanks to Jay and his family for letting their amazing house get overrun by a bunch of mountain bikers!
We headed down the road en mass to grab some food and chat more about our weekend’s adventures. Throughout the evening stories were exchanged and friendships cemented over dinner and a beer or three.
For Richard and I we had another early start on Monday. James had arranged for some of the youngsters who were too young to come on the courses over the weekend to make the most of a public holiday and join Rich and I for a mornings coaching in the Arboretum Park. We put the youngsters through their paces and they were flying off and over anything with a transition by the end of the session. With their new skills in the bag I headed back to Mark’s house for some lunch and to get ready for an easy afternoon.
We had a treat in store too. Dennis was taking us out on his boat for the afternoon! We met up at the harbour not really knowing what to expect. Dennis’s boat didn’t disappoint though. A 35ft twin engine beast (I really don’t know anything about boats) that we quickly had up to speed and were flying across the harbour and out into open water at top speed. We headed out to a purpose sunk wreck which is a nature sanctuary so there were plenty of fish to swim with. Glen doesn’t do water so the rest of us had lots of fun jumping and diving in off the boat (it took me a while but I did it) and being chased by schools of fish in the sunshine.
We headed back to port and freshened up for a night at Dennis’s house with Chinese food and fresh lobster on the menu and we ate like kings that evening.
On Tuesday morning Josh, Si and I headed out with James and Mark too do a spot of trail building. We were back at Hog Bay on the technical downhill, looking at fixing up the final turn and giving the trail a good tune up. It was also a great chance to give James and the guys some trail building technique pointers for the new trails they have planned. We spent the morning digging, cutting and clearing and knocked the trail into shape before sessioning the life out of it. We had the islanders pushing back up the trail so we must have got something right! I like to think we also helped to change the culture of the trails on Bermuda.
We headed into town for our last evening meal of the trip and met up with everyone at Harbour Front Restaurant. It was a celebration of our week and our chance to say thank you to our hosts for making it a week to remember.
The following morning we headed down to Hog Bay for our final ride of the trip. Rich, Glen, James, Dennis and a few of the locals were keen to check out the previous days trailbuilding as the rumours of the trail updates had spread across the Island. Whilst Josh and Si were keen to improve their Strava times from the day before, before heading home, we spent the morning sessioning the trail and getting some final videos shot. Just getting back to the car and packed up before the rain set in! On the way home Mark and I called into Bicycle Works, the Islands other Bike Shop. A great little shop with chilled out vibe and plenty of great kit in stock. Then we headed into town for a bit of souvenir shopping and a spot of lunch with the guys and it was back to pack everything up and head down to the airport.
What a trip.. I’ve had trouble convincing Michele it was work from the moment I got invited. I guess you can put it down as a perk of the job but it’s the first perk I’ve had like this in 15yrs of coaching.
I’d like to thank Rich for inviting me and Glen, Si and Josh for being such a great team of instructors to work with. I think we made a lasting impression on the skills of the mountain bikers of Bermuda!
Of course we’d have had nowhere to stay without our hosts! Thanks to Mark and Leanne my hosts for all of their hospitality, Dennis for looking after Josh and Si, April for looking after Glen. I’d also really like to thank James for organising everything and being the driving force of MTB on Bermuda. He puts his heart and soul into the mountain bike scene on the island and it really shows. I had an amazing time and I look forward to getting back to Bermuda in the not too distant future.