Welcome to the Mountain Bike section of the Yorkshire Lass Cycling Club!
Since the club started there’s always been a small contingent of Lasses who love to get out on their mountain bikes as well as on their roadies, and in 2018 we decided to properly introduce an off-road section to the club, with the aim of encouraging more ladies to take part in off-road and mountain bike riding.
There is a range of abilities and interests within the group, and our aim is to cater to everyone, from those just starting out to those who predominantly ride their mountain bike, and from bridleway/cycle path rides to technical adventures, both at trail centres and in natural locations such as the Dales and Moors.
We’ve also hosted a few skills sessions to encourage Lasses to push their boundaries and learn some useful techniques for riding the trails. We also had several Lasses take part in the Mountain Bike Marathon sportive last summer, which pushed both their stamina and technical skill.
To mark the expansion of the club to include off-road rides, we’ve commissioned Ride It to design us some fabulous MTB jerseys, which we can’t wait to wear on the trails.
Our goals for the coming year are to continue putting on a minimum of one official off-road ride a month (but hopefully more!) and also some trips to local trail centres to continue working on skills and technique for those who want to ride more technical terrain. We’re also looking forward to putting together a ‘team’ of Lasses to take part in the Hopetech Women’s Gisburn Enduro later this year, and show our faces at other mountain bike events such as the Temtiwr womens’ weekend at Coed y Brenin, Wales.
So what do I need to start mountain biking?
The answer is, not a lot to begin with! As this great MBR magazine article points out… Mountain Biking For Beginners.
But here’s a bit more information for those keen to get started.
How to choose a mountain bike:
1) Hardtail or full suspension – In essence, a hardtail has front suspension only (in the forks) and a full suspension has front and rear suspension (within the frame). The decision between the two mainly depends on what kind of terrain you plan to ride! Hardtails can easily handle most trail centre riding in the UK (e.g. Dalby Forest, Sutton Bank, Sherwood Pines etc), and will be suitable for all YLCC MTB rides. They’re also much more affordable than full suspension bikes (decent hardtail £500, decent full suss generally over £1000). But if you’re wanting to build up to tackling more steep and technical riding, particularly the rocky stuff, then a full suss is the way to go… Hardtails are also preferable for many as they are much lighter than full suss bikes, making them much easier to climb on and also your pedalling efficiency is much higher as you don’t get ‘pedal bob’ from the rear suspension. If you get a full suss where the rear suspension can be fully locked out you can eliminate pedal bob to make uphill and tarmac riding much easier, but the weight of the bike is still there and these are generally higher end bikes. Personally, I would always recommend starting on a hardtail, particularly if you plan on predominantly riding the club MTB rides, however some choose to go straight to full suss for a variety of reasons.
2) Wheel size – Most modern mountain bikes come with either 27.5″ wheels or 29″ wheels. There is a trend for 29″ wheels at the moment (with the bikes nicknamed 29ers). Pros are that once going the larger circumference means you can easily keep speed up and they are very good on rocky technical terrain. Downsides is that they are heavier and also less easy to steer through tight terrain. Most mountain bikes still come with 27.5″ wheels and are ideal for trail/cross country riding as they are light and easy to manoeuvre, and also keep up speed well.
3) Geometry – Geometry in mountain bikes can be wildly different depending on what the bike is designed to do. This is again where you need to know what you will be riding… a bike made to go predominantly downhill will have a very different frame shape to one designed to go cross country. The key to this is try before you buy! Demo days happen very frequently and are a great way to try lots of different bikes and find what suits you. I went to one a few weeks ago and rode 8 different bikes and felt like Goldilocks with all of them (apart from mine!)… some that I really liked the look of were horrible to ride!
4) Other points to consider – dropper seat posts which allow you to drop your saddle out of the way at the click of a button on your handlebar are very useful for descending, particularly on tricky terrain. These can be fitted separately if your bike doesn’t come with one.
Ideally, you want hydraulic disc brakes to enable quick one finger braking so that you can remain in control easier. Yes, you read that right – you only brake with one finger on a MTB!
Shock travel is also something to consider, particularly if you’re thinking of buying a full suspension bike. In essence, the longer travel your suspension is, the more it compresses over tricky terrain. So, for example, a downhill bike will have 200mm of travel and a cross country bike will have 120mm of travel on the front shocks, with enduro (a mix of downhill and cross country) bikes in between. Generally, 120-150mm travel bike will be more than enough for trail centre riding/YLCC rides.
As with all YLCC rides, helmets are absolutely compulsory. You don’t need a MTB specific helmet, although many choose to invest in one as it has fewer vents and covers more of the sides and back of your head to give added protection if you’re unlucky enough to come off on rough and rocky terrain. The more hardcore riders may also choose to wear a full-face helmet for very technical riding.
Full finger gloves are also recommended at all times when riding off-road to avoid potentially horrific hand injuries. Eye protection in the form of glasses or goggles are also highly recommended.
For those riding more technical terrain (or who are wary of falling off!) knee and elbow pads may also form part of your regular kit. These range from soft flexible ones to more solid, rigid ones depending on how much protection you need. Full body armour and neck protection is also available for the real daredevil riders.
You can ride in whatever clothes you like! If you’re comfortable in lycra then go for it! However, many mountain bikers choose a pair of baggier shorts to go over some padded bottoms and a baggier long sleeved jersey, to offer comfort and protection. But in reality, it really doesn’t matter, as long as you’re comfortable!
Many MTB riders choose to run flat pedals with flat shoes for their riding, however it is also possible to ride with SPD pedals/cleats. This is very much personal preferences and there are pros and cons to both styles. Flat shoes generally come with a ‘sticky’ rubber sole and the pedals with pins to enhance grip.
Many mountain bike riders choose to carry a backpack with built in water bladder rather than having a bottle cage on their bike frame, as the bottle could rattle out on rough terrain and will get dirty easily. Again, whether this is something you would need depends on what kind of terrain you would mostly be riding.
Lights are an important part of mountain biking as well as road riding. Mountain biking in the dark can be a lot of fun, but lights are also good on dingy days to make you’re visible to other trail users. If you’d like to try a night ride, a light on your handlebars as well on your helmet is recommended so you can light both the trail and where you’re looking. A rear light is obviously also essential at night.
And finally, as with riding on a roadie, it’s important to carry a fix kit and have some basic trail side maintenance knowledge so that you’re not stuck in the middle of nowhere unable to fix a puncture or mend a snapped chain.
Places We Like To Ride
This section contains some of our favourite places to ride in the form of blog posts. We’ll be continuously adding to this, so keep checking back to see where we’ve got to!
Hetchell Woods and Pompocali is a little hidden gem of a playground near Wetherby. Made up of an old quarry site, it’s a small area of dips and ridges perfect for practising MTB technique. We organised a session here and practiced a wide range of skills, from learning basic weight/position using some of the down slopes, progressing from grassy to rocky, and learning about line choices, to doing some small jumps, drops offs and steeper descents. A perfect place for a morning’s fun!
Dalby is our nearest Forestry Commission trail centre and is a place for all levels of riders, and for all weather. We’ve visited several times doing a range of routes, from the green during a snowy January ride last year to combinations of the flowy blue route (with a fabulous big berm section at the end) and the more technical red route. It’s a beautiful place with many options and some lung busting climbs thrown in just to test the lungs/legs! Thornton-le-Dale, the village at the bottom of the hill, has various tea rooms, pubs, a chip shop and a homemade chocolate shop to refuel post-ride!
Meet the MTB Lasses
Here’s a few of the Lasses who’ve been enjoying off-road riding…
“My name is Louise, and I’ve been mountain biking for about 6 months. The best thing for me about mountain biking is being away from the traffic, cycling along trails, through woods and beautiful quiet countryside. My favourite place to ride is the Cinder Track that runs from Whitby to Scarborough. I would say to anyone who enjoys cycling to give mountain biking a go. It’s totally different to riding on the roads. You learn new bike skills and a totally different way to ride. It’s great fun and also a good full body workout!”
“I’m Beth. I’ve been riding mountain bikes for about 10 years. My favourite place is either the Alps or a little closer to home, Llandegla. I love the complete escapism of being out in nature on my bike, the pushing myself on the climbs and letting it all go with that huge adrenaline rush on the downs! To anyone thinking about giving it a go… what’s stopping you? It’s awesome fun. Trail centres are perfect places to get started with different graded routes and something for everyone.”
“Hi, I’m Debbie. I have been riding a mountain bike ever since my husband made me (I mean encourage and motivated me!) about 8 years ago. My favourite place to ride is anywhere really – trail centres, urban riding and definitely night riding. My favourite thing about mountain biking is blowing out the cobwebs, scaring the bejesus out of myself and conquering my fears. If you are thinking about giving it a go – go for it, it’s fun!”
“Hi, I’m Charlotte, and I’m the club mountain bike co-ordinator. I’ve been mountain biking for about 4 years, and bought my first mountain bike after a single ride on a borrowed bike. It was love at first pedal stroke! My favourite place to ride is the natural trails of the Peak District, for some technical challenges and gorgeous scenery. I just love the freedom and adrenaline rush of mountain biking. The physical and mental challenge makes you feel great and you get to explore places you’d never find any other way!”
“I’m Jo and I’ve been riding a mountain bike for 2 years, after falling out of love with it 7 years ago when I fell off and broke my wrist! My favourite place to ride is Fort William or Peebles! The Blue Velvet run at Peebles is so much fun! My favourite thing about mountain biking has to be the downhills! I love the feeling of flying through the forests! If you’ve never tried it, I would say give it a go! Doesn’t matter if you’ve never ridden a mountain bike before, it’s just great fun being out on your bike!”
“I’m Kate, club founder. As a keen mountain biker for many years (long before I got a road bike!), I love that we are offering off-road rides in the club and something for all abilities. One of my favourite places to ride my mountain bike is Kielder, as the lake ride is 27 miles long and suitable for all abilities. A really nice in and out of the forest flowy ride… Another firm favourite has to be Dalby Forest. I love the blue route which I recently did and sections of the red, mainly because it’s nice and flowing but has a bit more to offer and tested my skills a bit with some fun sections thrown in. Definitely something for all!”