Last weekend was the BIG weekend - the Alpkit Big Shakeout, to be precise. The sun was shining and judging by 500 smiling faces, a great time was had by all. As I said in my previous post Dave and I volunteered our services as 'Shaker Makers', Dave generally odd-jobbed it through the weekend as part of the 'Hit Squad', while I tended bar on Friday night and worked on the gate on Saturday morning.
I've gotta say how nice it was to spend a whole weekend with a load of people, all into the same kinda stuff. There were bikes and cyclists of all shapes and sorts all over the place, plus tonnes of climbers, hikers, scramblers etc, etc. There were some really awesome people there - Joe Beaumont was camped across from us, along with the recumbent from his 'In The Frame' challenge...an impressive guy - and whilst I was on the gate on Saturday morning, I met one of Dave's endurance mtb heroes, Aiden Harding ... super-human and basically, just a super-nice guy! It was a shame that Dave was off-site doing a navigation course for the day. Nevermind, the place was chocka with plenty more people to satisfy anyone's need for a cool fix...
Lookout, lookout it's Alastair Humphreys at the Big Shakeout!
On Sunday I went on a MTB Core-Skills for Girls course. This should have been with Campbell Coaching, but, unfortunately Ally Campbell broke her arm so the guys from One Planet Adventure stepped in at the last minute. They were friendly, but they were men, which was a bit of a shame 'cause I'd looked forward to some teaching from a female perspective, I've had lots of male coaching from Dave. Dave's a great teacher, and god knows he's had to dig deep for patience at times, but sometimes the male and female psychology are just different. I had hoped to benefit from a bit of empathetic coaching, it was a small issue but it certainly wasn't a deal breaker, so I got stuck in to the course with PJ and Dan.
One Planet Adventure are based at the Coed Llandegla Forest trail, Wales. If you're a trail centre mtber then these would be great guys for you. They had 4hrs to teach a small bunch of women how to pull a manual, work a pump track and do drop-offs. Our group consisted of 5 women, with a huge disparity of skill and experience. There was one woman that had years of trail centre experience and it showed. She got quite a lot out of the course; the guys filmed her and helped her until she was hitting the manual dead right every time. At the other end of the spectrum there was a woman who was literally getting on a mtb for the 1st time (it was nice not being the greenest of the bunch for a change). Unfortunately, her hire bike was a utter bust; oil leaking all over the sussys, which just did not work and a quick release seat-post collar that would not release. I have to give her credit though, she really struggled with everything, but kept plugging away anyway. Until...disaster struck right at the end, when she tackled the rock garden, that in all honesty she was not ready for - hell, I wasn't ready for it! Unfortunately, she trundled off a drop and onto the rocks, with no momentum and no assistance from the bike's crappy suspension, inevitably she hit a rock badly and went straight over the handlebars - very nasty! Luckily she was okay but I don't think she'll be back on a mtb any time soon.
I was somewhere in the middle skills-wise and, along with the other 2 of a similar standard, we kinda fell to the wayside a bit while the best and the worst got the guys attention. I could see Dave watching us from over by the tent, trying to coach me in sign language and biting his tongue while PJ flipped my stem back from it's negative position to help with the manuals - great if you only do pump tracks and downhill trails, but for the hills that Dave and I climb, I'd be struggling to keep my front wheel down (which is what happened before we flipped it negatively).
Other than that, though, I now know how to achieve a manual - it's just a matter of practice - same with the pump track. So while this particular course may not have been right for me, I reckon it was for most of the others.
There were loads of other things going on all over the weekend...but despite watching a film about some pretty awesome climbers ascending El Capitan, Yosemite in a day and all the other cool stuff and people all around, I reckon the most impressive guys by far were two particular little dudes off bike-packing with their dad and the Bear Bones bike-packing guys on Friday. My little boy is 6 and I guess these two boys must have been only 6 and 7 years old, but I would never in a million years have pictured my little boy bike-packing with me and Dave. I was awestruck, chapeau little dudes! My heroes!