Liz is a graphic designer at Madison and she often helps me out with things at Genesis. She is the person who designed all of our wonderful Howies T-shirts which you can buy from the website, they're now all mostly sold out now which means many of you really liked her designs. Her latest design is finished and they'll be coming very soon!! She is a triathlete at heart but after some gentle persuasion and a sprinkling of peer pressure she has recently been giving mountain biking a try. Last weekend her and the Genesis web designer Mark did their first mtb race, the 'Erlestoke 12', so here are Liz's thoughts on the race and experiences of off road riding so far:

Having started mountain biking just 6 weeks prior, entering the SPAM Biking Earlestoke Twelve on 26th May 2012 might have been a bit premature. Dom Thomas of Genesis Bikes kindly let me use a Genesis Latitude 20, a classic steel hardtail. Considering I only had my old rusty Raleigh mountain bike from back in the days which weighs a ton to compare it to I’m probably not one to give technical MTB advise, but it felt comfortable, light and gave me confidence to ride.

My colleague and fellow novice rider Mark and I entered the six-hour midday start category as a mixed pair, under the team name “The Moose Crushers” (oh yes!). The Earlestoke Twelve is a 7 mile loop, all off road and consisting of nearly 50% technical woodland single track. I was assured we would be fine (little did I know!).

The nerves kicked in as soon as we arrived. Pre-race crowd spotting didn’t help; with riders strutting about in full team lycra. I felt a little better once the race had started (and a lot better once it was over).Luckily Mark agreed to take the first lap so the field was a bit more spread out for mine. It was a lot harder and more technical than I expected, with two big bomb-holes, long grassy climbs, narrow trails and slippery slopes. To be brutally honest I finished the first lap not wanting to go out again (and wanting to thump James who was in the other Madison team, in the head for saying it was an “easy” course), however the good thing about entering as a team is the motivation to carry on.

 

The second lap was thankfully better, even if I did take a bit of a fall (but I felt safe with my customized Giro Feature helmet!). What I found most frustrating was the pressure to constantly stop and let riders pass; thus ruining any confidence-flow I had (not much in my case).

With the sun bearing down all day at 27c, the third and final lap was welcomed. I was getting more tired I could feel myself making silly mistakes; questioning my ability, which stopped me from riding sections which were probably within my capabilities. It really highlighted how much I relied on riding with people to force myself to counter obstacles that made me nervous. In hindsight I think a practice lap of the race course beforehand would have been invaluable; in order to know what was coming and what I could and couldn’t do.

Overall, it was a great to experience a MTB race atmosphere, it was certainly nice to receive words of encouragement along the way and have a team tent to go back to at the end of each lap. Would I do it again? Well, writing from a complete beginner’s point of view, I’m not sure if it was the best race for novices – there certainly didn’t seem to be many others about! So we’ll leave that as a maybe…

One thing that I suffer from badly since starting mountain biking is “shaky” hands or a form of “death claw”. After the race I lost control of my two end fingers; I think I need to concentrate on relaxing my arms and knees more to help absorb the impact- at the moment it seems to be logged directly in my fingers. This along with riding time and experience is something I’m prepared to build on to improve my confidence. As long as it remains fun to learn and improve, I’ll continue to dip my toe in the MTB circle… as I’m certain the more confident you are, the more enjoyable it becomes.