Cycle Your Way to Safety
Ray Mazey, 59, a mountain bike coach from Rivington, Bolton, offers his top tips on how to stay safe and enjoy off−road biking.
Ray has been a keen cyclist since he got his first bike as a child. But it wasn’t until he was in his 30s that a group of mountain bikers inspired him to give the sport a go.
“It looked such good fun and I was immediately interested. You can enjoy riding in beautiful surroundings without worrying about traffic on the roads. It was technically challenging as well, so from that respect it just appealed to me,” says Ray.
I’m a Teacher on Wheels
Ray was soon overtaken by his passion for cycling and decided to turn it into a full−time career by becoming a professional instructor.
“When I first started training, I taught beginners who were completely new to the sport, and people at a more intermediate level.
“I wish skills courses like that had been around when I first started riding. I learnt a lot on my own, but would have got where I am a lot quicker with an instructor by my side,” he says.
In 2003 Ray was approached by the Mountain-Bike Instructors Award Scheme. Instead of coaching beginners, he now teaches people to become mountain bike instructors.
“I see myself as a teacher on wheels. Mountain bike coaching is very satisfying, but it’s not always what people think it is. It is a responsible job and as an instructor you’re working in all different types of weather conditions with different people. You’ve got to keep people motivated and focused, which can be a challenge.”
Pictured left: Ray coaching Piste and Peaks team members Marty and Victoria.
Get Fit to Have Fun
Ray says anyone can give mountain biking a go. But to really get the most out of the sport, you need to be reasonably fit.
“Anyone can go mountain biking. You need to be realistic though. It is challenging and you’ve got to build up a good amount of fitness when pedalling off−road. There’s going to be climbs involved, which are physically demanding.
“If you haven’t done much cycling, I’d recommend trying a static bike in a gym or giving spinning classes a go. You can ride on a flat terrain to begin with − and take breaks. But generally the fitter you are, the more you’ll enjoy it.”
Pedalling up a mountain is of course physically demanding, but Ray also says the descents can be just as challenging.
“A few days ago I was out in the Peak District and some descents were very tough. You get certain people in the sport who are really good climbers and always get up the mountain first. They’re not always the first ones down though because they find the descent more challenging, so they’ll do that at a slower pace.”
But it’s not just adrenaline junkies who get hooked on the sport.
“I don’t think I’ve trained anyone who didn’t enjoy and continue to mountain bike. Even people who were dragged along by a friend or family member always have a good time, that’s what it’s about.”
“It can be quite an addictive sport. You’ve got the fitness, fun, and social aspects of it, which are really appealing. ”
Tips for Beginners
Ray advises beginners to start mountain biking on a manmade trail rather than going out in the wilderness where risks are greater.
“Start off in a trail centre as they offer different grades depending on your technical ability, a bit like ski runs. They’re all waymarked so you won’t get lost.
“Getting some form of skills training will help too. You need basic mountain bike skills before you venture out off-roading.
“Once you have some good basic off−road riding skills and fitness levels, joining a mountain bike club can also be a great idea. My local club The Woolly Backs is a fantastic club who organise rides throughout the UK on a regular basis. The club is also a great resource for all things mountain biking, and they are very friendly and encouraging.”
When you do head off into the great outdoors, Ray stresses the importance of making sure you’re fully equipped, particularly when on your own.
“I must know every rock in Rivington but I still carry a map with me. God forbid if something were to happen and I needed to get emergency services. I would need to tell them exactly where I am and what the grid reference is.”
Ray’s list of mountain biking essentials −
- – Helmet
- – Gloves
- – Map of the area
- – – Mobile phone
- – Knee and arm pads
- – Cycling glasses
- – First−aid kit
- – Warm suitable clothing
- – Water
- – Food
“If you’re miles away from home out in the wilderness, it’s also a good idea to carry equipment like inner tubes, cycle pumps, tyre levers, chain splitters, power links and Allen keys in case your bike brakes,” says Ray.
Adventure Sports In Case of Emergency ID
In Ray’s experience, in case of emergency ID is the best way for lone cyclists to ensure their safety.
“I’ve done first aid training in the past where we were taught to always look for any form of ID. I think they’re a great idea if you’re riding alone. It is overlooked − people don’t think about these things until they happen.”
He says a helmet tag is the best form of ID for mountain bikers.
“I think from a mountain biker’s point of view, it’s a good idea to go for a helmet tag as it stands out. Your wrists are often covered by gloves and other protective clothing,” says Ray.
As a mountain bike coach, he encourages everyone to get on their bike and get cycling.
‘We’ve all got our dodgy joints, particularly at my age. With certain medical conditions you can still mountain bike and wear a heart monitor* for instance. Anyone can give the sport a go. It’s just about being prepared.’
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