Mountain bikers boost their skills

Karratha’s junior and senior mountain bikers pushed themselves to new limits as they practiced their cornering, drop offs and jumps in a series of clinics held last weekend.

Riders Mark Wardle and Ben McGrath from Perth-based Rock and Roll Mountain Biking Tours held seven skills clinics during their two-day visit to the Pilbara as guests of the local Burrup biking club.

Their most jampacked clinic involved instructing a horde of young Dirtmaster riders aged under-12 in how to control their bikes during braking and cornering and how to complete log rollovers.

They also took fundamentals and advanced clinics for ladies and men that focused on correct cornering and use of gears when climbing and techniques for riding berms and descending rocky drops.

In the final Freeriders clinic, the guys taught techniques for tackling bigger obstacles, such as rocky descents, bridge drop offs and jumps.

Now in his second year visiting the Pilbara, Mark Wardle said local riders had made big strides in the past 12-months.

“All facets of mountain biking seem to have gone to another level in Karratha in terms of the number of riders, the skills of the riders and also the quality of the trails,” Mark said.

“It blew me away when we were shown all the work that the club has been doing [building and grooming] their trails.”

Mark said two fundamental skills stood out in their importance over the course of the clinics.

With the dreaded front wheel washout being an ever-present threat in the Pilbara’s loose rocky terrain, Mark said a big focus was placed on cornering.

“By the end, we were getting everyone looking well ahead, getting their pedals right, their weight right and that was fantastic to see,” Mark said.

He said the proper use of gears when climbing was also highly important.

Whereas Perth trails tend to be more gradual in their climbs and descents, the bumpy Pilbara hills mean local trails are constantly going up and down.

To practice this, Mark took the ladies clinic to a steep climb with two sharp switchbacks on loose, slippery trails.

“Every lady in the clinic said ‘Oh, I’ve never ridden that’ or ‘There’s no way I can do that’,” Mark said.

“But after showing them how to use their gears properly and the correct climbing techniques, every single lady made it up to the final switchback, which was unbelievable.”

The riders attempting the jumps and sharp drop offs in the advanced Freeriders clinics also pushed themselves to new levels.

“At the end of the class every single rider put up their hand to say they had ridden an obstacle or part of a trail or feature that they had never ridden before,” Mark said.

He added that even he and fellow instructor Ben had a blast tackling the blind corners and boulder-strewn technical descents from the hills behind the Leisureplex.

And it seems such trails are earning Karratha a growing reputation in the mountain biking world.

Mark is keen to come up in 2014 to race in the Burrup Mountain Bike Club’s feature six hour event after the Perth riders, who competed this year, went home “raving about it”.

“That bodes well for next year because once word gets around that an event is well run, well organised and in a great location it inspires others to put it on their calendar,” he said.

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