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General > Great Rock Skills Weekend With Nigel Page

After a summer of riding my bike most days and an autumn of filming, road trips and more bikes, I returned to the UK briefly this winter and what did I do? Relax? Nope! I organised a visit to see Ed Oxley and take part in his skills weekend in Gisburn Forest with Nigel Page. The reason for going to the skills weekend was really threefold. Firstly I wanted to brush up on a couple of things in my own riding. Secondly, I often offer skills tips to make sure that people who visit us in the Basque Country get the most out of the varied and technical riding here and I thought some advice from the professionals wouldn’t go wrong. And thirdly, to be quite honest, I fancied a weekend away with some mates to ride bikes, eat good food and drink beer.  Read on to see if my hopes were fulfilled!

On the way to Gisburn Forest we stopped at Ae forest for a ride and to break up the journey. It’s been a long time since I visited Ae and two things struck me; how good the cafe is and how poor the trails are. It seems like the trails there had been designed by committee with strange features like uphill hairpins leading into doubles. The route seemed almost exclusively uphill and it just wasn’t possible to ride it at the speed that would have made if flow. We both remarked that a race hardtail would have given you the best chance of having fun but on our 30lb plus bikes it was just a slog. It’s a pity, however the beautiful scenery combined with the last descent, DH trails and cafe mean that Ae is still worth a visit.
Arriving late and very muddy at our accommodation in Gisburn, the Dog and Partridge, we were worried that the owners wouldn’t exactly welcome such dirty bikers with open arms. WRONG! Tim and his wife couldn’t have been more welcoming; beers were poured and our dirty clothes were take from us only to be returned cleaned, dried and folded in the morning. The bar at the D&P is warm and welcoming and we enjoyed a pint of the local alewhile we sat by the roaring fire. Dinner arrived and was everything that a hungry biker could want: tasty and plentiful. In fact it has been a long time since I couldn’t finish a meal after a days biking however that is exactly what happened with my superb steak pudding! A few more pints of ale by the fire and we retired to our comfortable, clean and spacious bedroom. We had opted for The Hayloft which was a separate apartment with 3 twin rooms and a shared shower and toilet. Everything looked absolutely brand new and was just what a biker would design for themselves.
The next morning everyone started to arrive and we were treated to a D&P breakfast… i.e. great quality and impressive quantity. Ed-O and Nigel arrived in time for breakfast, something that wouldn’t surprise anyone who knows them: I don’t think either of them would walk past a good meal or cold beer! I wasn’t sure what to expect from Ed, obviously I knew of the beard (that’s famous even in the Basque Country) but knew nothing of him beyond the famous fuzz. Right from the start I got a good feeling about both Ed and Nigel, Ed has a gentle way about him (not in a gay way!) and put everyone at ease immediately. Nigel seemed a bit more excitable and outgoing and his energetic demonstrations and Ed’s encouraging explanations made a great combination throughout the weekend. Between the two of them complicated things suddenly seemed simple.
Breakfast over, coffee drained and introductions made, it was time for the 14 of us to set off for the trails. It’s a mile or so along a fireroad before the trails start and on the way Ed and Nigel pointed out the jumps and drops that we would be tackling by the end of the weekend. Hanging at the back I could see all the raised eyebrows and unbelieving eyes! That day we started with the pumping technique and how it led into bunnyhops, weighting and unweighting and we put those skills into practice in a variety of places. Roots were hopped, dips manualed, corners weighted and lips unweighted. To be honest none of the techniques were new to me but Ed and Nigel kept it interesting for everyone by looking at applications on different lines, at different speeds and by tweaking everyone’s technique. I definitely felt I was learning something… and it felt good!
It is worth mentioning here that Ed’s son Nail joined us for the course. I think that he saved Nigel’s bacon to be honest because he did a fair number of the demonstrations and I think Nigel would have been knackered without him! Nail rides very, very nicely and his presence really added to the course overall. In fact all three of the guys ride very well but what I found best about the weekend was the combination of different styles, explanations and demonstrations. Everything we learned was approached from three sides, meaning we had a far better chance of getting the techniques nailed.
After lunch in the D&P we returned to ride the drops and jumps. Most people started on the smaller drops and a few of us went with Nigel to ride the bigger drops and gaps. It is here that I think Ed and Nigel’s approach stood out. Ed is very calm and encouraging, and although he doesn’t push people, there is something in his relaxed confidence that had everyone tackling things I don’t think they would normally think about. Coupled with that Nigel makes everything look easy and is full on invaluable advice on the mental skills that are essential in the build up to riding these committed drops and jumps.  I think it’s fair to say everyone pushed their limits that day but what really stood out was how much improvement I could see in everyone’s riding. We rode until just before dark before returning to the Dog and Partridge for a video debrief, dinner, beer and fireside chat. Everyone was exhausted but there were a lot of satisfied faces round the fire that night.
I had a few bike issues throughout the day as my drivetrain threw in the towel in the face of the UK mud and I ended up pushing my bike back with a smashed mech. Tim, the pub owner, also runs a small bike shop and bent over backwards to help me out here, including taking parts off his demo bikes to get me running. When I went to pay for these he said I could just return them after use. I didn’t feel right giving him worn parts back so he sold them to me for a very reasonable price. A total gentleman and the cherry on the icing on the cake for the levels of hospitaility we recieved at the Dog and Partridge!
Sunday was a blur of breakfast and limit pushing. The improvement in everyone’s riding was striking and some people were riding several levels above where they were the day before. I did a gap jump that had me ‘cagando en mis pantelones’ and was ‘super stoked’, even though it felt easy thanks to Nigel’s quiet words to me before we dropped in! I think the most important thing for me was that we had all had a good time and everyone was all satisfied smiles at the end. In fact most of the talk around the table at the end of the course was about where we were going to ride next and what skills we were going to practice. Ed has a great course going on here and I would have no hesitation to recommend any of his courses to anyone. I was so impressed that I have asked him if he would do a skills week in the Basque Country so we will see how that develops. Nigel was a class act too; friendly, patient and inspiring in equal quantities. He even let me test out his new Nukeproof Mega… a very nice piece of kit indeed. Mmmmmmmm.
The details: Course: GreatRock and Nigel Page Advanced Skills Weekend. More Info: Great Rock and Nigel Page Weekend Accommodation: http://www.dogandpartridgetosside.co.uk/

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