As the title suggests Friday was another brilliant day of bikes. Rona Strivens had posted on the Foxy Riders United page if any ladies fancied a day on the Uplift Scotland trailer at Innerleithen. I signed up, this was before I had ridden Ae and before my trip to Bike Park Wales. I was scared, nervous and excited about the prospect of riding some seriously steep and scary trails on my bike. I am way over biked for most of the riding I do with 160mm front and back suspension, but the point of buying that bike was that I could do uplift days and other downhill oriented days on it, so time to “Woman up” and commit.
On the day the uplift was fully booked with 16 keen riders, more than 50% of us were female, thats a fantastic turnout on a weekday! Here’s a photo of most (not all) the girls who were present in our psychedelic glory! I am the vision in yellow on the left, Rona is on the right in the brill pink Flare shorts!
I missed the first run of the day as I set off on time, but on the M8 I passed a car with a wheel missing, then my friend Gael’s (Green shorts in the photo) car on the hard shoulder… Yep her boyfriend Scouse had managed to send his rear wheel into the central reservation, luckily no-one was hurt! I doubled back and loaded all the kit from the car into my van and pressed on to Inners whilst they sorted the cars and followed in Gael’s car.
Getting ready for uplift two and Marianne (black and white in the photo) turned up, I was relieved to not be the only late one jumping on the 2nd uplift. Marianne had brought Harry the dog to see if he might make a good trail dog. He will not, I think I ran him over at one point, oops, but he seems to like me judging from the kisses he was giving me. Thanks Harry!
Bikes loaded onto the trailer and we set off to the top of the hill. Gael was still en-route and was meant to be giving me some guidance for this new type of riding, so Marianne stepped up and offered to guide me down my first run of the day. We started at the top of a track called Tunnel, which looked fine, but looking behind me I could see the steep line in from a track further up, leading to a road-gap jump into the line we were about to try. What had I let myself in for?! Ahh well, here goes… Follow the black and white warrior and hope for the best!
The first section allows you to pick up a LOT of speed, I was on the brakes pretty soon to keep my acceleration to a minimum, it is easy to see that letting go would allow for some fun jumping action in the woods, but I will work up to wheels off the ground once my confidence and skills are up to it. After the straight line of jumps the trail gets a bit twisty with berms, roots and rocks pushing, pulling and firing you down into more trees, with multiple line options and some technical sections. I fell apart on a section called Luge, all the options looked really tricky and I was already struggling to keep up with my guide. I minced my way down and onwards to a section made of some nice 180 degree switchback berms, at least I did after hanging too far off the back of my bike in sheer fear and having my leg dragged into my bike by my knobbly tyre. OUCH. There were bad words. Lesson learned though, get forward, be strong, be aggressive. I made it down most of the switchbacks without too much bother though I had to walk a few bits, I met Marianne at the fireroad ready to pick the next line.
The entrance to the next section started with a small run in, but this had a long drop to the left and I could not get the thought of my Dalbeattie crash (dislocated shoulder) out of my head, I took a couple of attempts at committing to it, but in the end I had to walk in and set off from the first berm, I will have to work on my confidence when the ground vanishes to the side! Eventually, tired, arms and legs aching, we were back in the car park, having missed the 3rd uplift due to my need to track walk and discuss all the options and my wee paddy at the fireroad, so a bit of much needed rest was had before jumping back on the land rover for another go.
Despite protests and offers of help from Gael, Marianne and other lovely ladies I opted to spend the rest of the day sessioning the same track alone. I find I ride at my best when I ride within myself, if I am following someone I tend to forget to focus on myself, and if someone is following me I get too worried about them, but alone I am able to concentrate and get myself in the best frame of mind to ride. I rode Tunnel, getting faster each time, until I scared myself hitting a tree stump and almost pinged over the bars, so I reigned it in a bit. After Tunnel is Luge, and I almost got better at that, I had 3 lie down’s in the woods, but with a bit more speed I know I can ride that tricky section, not bad considering I looked at it on the first go with Marianne and thought “no way, just no.”. At the fireroad I decided to pedal uphill and join Janes Lane, a trail I rode on a coaching day with Jess Stone in February, it is tight, twisty, rooty and a level up form my riding in technical terms. By the end of the day I could very nearly ride it all, there are still some gremlins for me to defeat, I will return for them soon.
Popping out of Janes Lane brings you to the second half of Caddon Bank, a whooping, undulating, rocky trail which can be fast and furious if you have the skills. On the coaching day I had struggled a lot with this, despite having ridden it before, I am always scared on it, the downs are steep and I have a massive fear of it. I followed Jess that day and on each of the undulations I held my breath, got to the top at an almost standstill and then let go of the brakes and hoped for the best. By the last one Jess could see I was pretty stressed out so tried to challenge me by telling me I was about to ride the steepest bit of trail I had ever ridden. It worked, I was frozen. No matter what she did, including holding my bike for me, I could not let go of the brakes, I got so stressed out and gave up.
Not today. I got to the whoops, and I was in my element, none of them scared me, I was flowing and enjoying it like the first time I rode it, before this fear developed. I got to the last one, I knew it was ‘that one’, but I did’nt hesitate, I looked at it, looked at the opposing summit and went for it, what a rush. This was not a technical bit of trail, I have done it before, but the relief of getting that monkey off my back was amazing. I flew down the final berm and jumps, powered into the car park and got straight on my phone to let Jess know I had defeated it. Her coaching worked, albeit a little later on, but that is because I am a major stress head and far too hard on myself. I got back on the uplift and rode these same trails for the rest of the day, by then end I was overtaking people on Caddon Bank, try telling stressed out me that that would have happened on that first uplift, phew!
I might not have graduated to the scary trails but my riding improved so much over one day. I will be going back as soon as I can to rinse and repeat that same combination until I can ride it all clean. Uplift Scotland means I can practice the same thing over and over in one day, this means I can see a measurable improvement each run. I love this. I will be riding the scarier stuff one day, but for now I am so happy to be able to ride any dh trail at all and to be pushing my riding up a level again. I just need to remember to stop being hard on myself, I will never be the best, I learn by repetition, so just keep on trying, I am improving!
Thanks Rona, and well done to all the ladies who came along, you inspire me!