Neil and I met at Oswestry for a shot of coffee (I needed it!) and a chat about the day ahead. I was excited and nervous. The idea of being followed by an ‘assessor’ on a bike watching my every move made me feel like I am back doing the test again.
I have met Neil before a couple of times and knew he is a great guy but that didn’t stop me from worrying about making mistakes on the bike for him to laugh at me.
Neil asked me what I wanted to work on and without thinking I said ‘cornering – especially turning right’
We decided to spend the day in Wales so I could choose the route and Neil can see more of the beautiful country that Wales is, while he kept a watchful eye on my riding.
We set off to Wales on A483 and soon turned off to follow the A495 and eventually picked up the B4391 which was the road I really wanted to show off to Neil. To get there we had to pass a few villages with 30 mph speeds that gave us plenty of opportunities to stop and review/feedback my riding.
For the first mile or two I felt like a complete newbie and even looked like one – shoulders stiff and bike all over the road. Eventually I relaxed into my normal riding, telling myself I’m being ridiculous for worrying about what Neil might pick up about my riding and told myself if I continue riding the way I have started he’s likely to just turn around and go home.
And yes, at our first stop his first comment was – once you’ve relaxed you started to flow and your riding improved. He clearly knows his stuff!
Each time we stopped he shared some tips on how to ride and what to change. Turning right for me was always a tricky one, it appears I had a target fixation problem and panicked when I arrived at the corner rather than looking past it and flowing through it. Interestingly, it never happens on the left hand bends.
A few things I always worried about that stopped me from positioning myself to the far left of the road when turning right were gravel, potholes, debris and just generally worrying I’d slide into a ditch. Neil explained these are just assumptions I’m making and by looking into the vanishing point I’ve already picked up on anything on the road with the peripheral vision and am now focusing on the exit of the corner. He suggested to imagine tucking the white line under my arm and following it around.
Righ, ok then. We carried on, right hand bend coming towards me. My brain – white line on the left, it’s like a zip wire. Tuck it under your arm and it’ll take you through, just keep your eye on the vanishing point. Whoosh, it was the best right hand corner so far!
Neil could probably see me grinning inside my helmet! When we reached the A4391 I suggested he lead the way for two reasons – I knew he would love the road and I was able to follow his line through the twists and bends. I was right, the road was a success. The weather was damp and misty so we didn’t get the usual view but we did see plenty of waterfalls coming off the mountains.
The obligatory stop at Bala for a review of the riding again was fairly short and we continued on towards the Mach Loop and to Tal-y-Llyn for lunch at the hotel and to weather the worst of the rain.
We continued on the coastal road with Neil leading for a while and pointing with his arm the cross view when available. I don’t often look this far ahead and it was such an eye opener to realise how many clues there are on the road and around us to give us information of what lies ahead, from big trucks and buses coming our way to the way the road falls away after a blind summit.
We took the toll bridge over to Barmouth side which was fun and stopped the bikes in Barmouth just so Neil can tick the box of having visited it. I needed fuel then we carried on towards Harlech, me trying to put into practice everything Neil has told me already and starting to feel quite overwhelmed.
The last fun road was over the mountains to Ysbyty Ifan which is mostly a single track lane with smooth surface, wonderful views (again, on a clearer day so Neil will just have to take my word for it), flowing bends and sheep. I was starting to get tired and the time was getting on, without realising how late it was. I had to cut the rest of the route short and we decided to stop at the Rhug Estate for the final coffee and feedback session.
Having been concentrating on the technique most of the day it really exhausted me mentally and I was already picking up on the mistakes I was making when I revered back to the autopilot riding. Neil suggested practicing in short bursts when I am out next time, then carry on as normal for a while and focus on the practice again.
After the day Neil sent a footage of my riding with the commentary he recorded during the ride and I found it most helpful. It’s also kinda cool to see yourself on the bike and looking smooth through the bends (yes I can!).
The next bit to work on will be overtaking skills and I am looking forward to it already.
I am really happy I have spent the day learning and improving my riding skills. Neil is a fantastic trainer, totally non judgemental and he explains everything in a way that is easy to understand and follow.
You can find out more about Neil and his venture Jewell Bike Training via this link https://jewellbiketraining.co.uk/ and for the ultimate experience of training and exploring Wales in one hit book yourself and a few mates on the Training Day and Welsh Tour Package here.