Here it is, the final episode in the Live to Ride series - The First Days of Spring. Winter has flown by and Spring is on our doorstep. This month we caught up with Matt Simmons for a little pre-season training and went back to Woburn for a session with some friends we've met along the way.
This series has been tough. Getting up at 7am on a Saturday twice a month during the coldest part of the year to go and ride non stop for six hours does eventually get quite tiring. That said, it has all been 100% worth the effort and I would do it again in a heart beat. All six episodes
have turned out exactly the way we wanted and the hard work has paid off. Now it's time to use all the skills I've gained over the Winter to improve my race results over the Summer.
I love racing. I think it's at the heart of my passion for the sport simply due to the buzz generated by riding out of your skin for a weekend. When you make a sport competitive, everyone ups their game. People start riding lines and hitting jumps that they would normally avoid and all to shave a few seconds off their time. Matt Simmons is probably the most accomplished rider I've spent time with and that time was invaluable. From suspension setup to cornering technique, I learned tips that I've used at every race so far and hopefully they will improve my results over the season. Matt is a none stop power machine! He never lets up, always pushing as fast as he can on every trail and every jump. For that reason alone, he is a fantastic person to film with, but the fact that he is also an easy going, down to earth bloke made the shoot one of the best in the series.
It was a tough day filming with Matt. After a late start and a couple of hours warming up on the jumps at The Ercall we only had time for a couple of practice runs on the designated track for the Freelap kit. We just managed to get all the sections shot before the light faded and unfortunately forced the end of our day. However, this doesn't mean I can't talk about the equipment as I've been using it for training on our local trails for the past couple of months. Secretly I am quite glad we never got to find out just how much difference there is between me and Matt. I knew it wasn't going to be much of a competition, but when I saw the footage side by side it became apparent how much quicker he is just by the line choices. It looked to me like he wasn't holding back, but what's really scary is that he probably was.
The Freelap system is pretty simple. The TX Junior timing posts emit a field which, when you either pass through or move out of it, starts the stopwatch. It stops again when you pass through the next post. You can set up as many posts as you like to record split times although I've only been using two. After a bit of fiddling around, reading the instructions and working out how big the field is, we finally managed to start timing our runs. It is possible to put the post too far away from where you set the 'finish line' which results in the watch carrying on instead of stopping. This is frustrating, especially when you've just put in a flying run! So I would recommend spending some time getting used to the functionality and putting the posts closer than you think to the finish area. Once you've done a few runs with your mates, you soon start to get a little more focused on the track and where you can shave off a second or two. One of the hardest things about racing is being able to ride at your best when the pressure is on. This is possibly the best training tool I have used as it not only forces you to work on your skills, it helps you relax and to focus on your run when you know you're being timed. There's nothing worse than practicing all day Saturday, getting all your lines dialed in, only to throw it all away on your timed run because nerves got the better of you. Timing your training sessions helps you get used to holding your nerve under that pressure. The other advantage is improved fitness. We found ourselves doing a lot more riding and putting in more runs than usual just to try and get a better time. And obviously we are putting in more effort every time when usually we might be cruising down the trail. You never have a boring day when you get the Freelap kit out - it can turn an average track into one that you can't stop riding.
Video and photo shoot with a world cup downhill racer - done. Thanks to Stu Hopkinson
for coming down and taking photographs.
Since filming his section Matt has suffered a knee injury which has set him back a few weeks. We all wish Matt a speedy recovery! If you want to know what's going with him in the mean time check out his blog
.Here are the answers to some vital questions about Matt's personality. Riding for how long?
10 yearsWhere do you come from?
I live in Telford, Shropshire born and bread and haven't managed to escape yet.Sponsors?
Chainreactioncycles/Nukeproof, Leatt neck braces, Spy gogglesRailing berms or boosting jumps?
Boosting jumpsDarts or Snooker?
Back to Woburn again and it was riding better than ever. Some familiar faces and some new ones, some new jumps and plenty of sunshine made for a perfect end to the series. Matt Jones and Pat Campbell-Jenner were on top form riding none stop for the camera and Dan Bateson can do front flips!
Since this photo was taken Matt has been to the dentist to have his braces taken off and he's moved on 26" wheels. Is he finally growing up?
This photograph sums up the day. Steeze was abundant and Pat has it in spades.
Thanks to Szymon Nieborak
for coming to Woburn and taking photographs.
As always, video by Nico Turner
and I think I owe him a big thank you for making the series a success!
That's the end of the first series of Live to Ride. With the recent weather we've had in the UK, I think it's safe to say Winter is over! We have some plans for the Summer, but we're keeping that under wraps for now. And don't forget, if you have a great set of local trails you'd like us to feature, or if you're a rider, photographer or even if you'd just like to be involved in the next project somehow, send me a message!
Until next time, have fun on the dusty trails and make the most of the long Summer days!