Mountain Bikes can take us to places that other bikes can’t – trails through bluebell woods, along skyline ridges, on paths that wind through beautiful remote valleys, away from traffic, immersed in wild nature. With just a little investment in basic skills and techniques, and time to learn and reflect, these worlds can be opened up for you too. At Element, this is what our Beginning Mountain Biking Weekend For Women is all about.
We are not offering an uncomfortable experience, with steep terrifying rocky drops, jumps, riding on the edge or acrobatic manoeuvres.
Over Element’s two-day course in the spectacular Black Mountains you’ll ride some of the best trails in Britain. You’ll learn the fundamentals of mountain biking: body position, effective braking and gear selection, climbing and descending with confidence over terrain that won’t be too technical – or terrifying.
With our vastly experienced and nurturing MTB coach Clare, you’ll be part of a small, supportive, non-competitive, all-women group.
You’ll spend Day 1 developing at your own pace, slowly and gradually building confidence, working with your potential and within your limits.
On Day 2, we’ll put together everything we learned on the first day and ride longer trails in the stunning mountains and forests, on routes carefully selected to allow you to ride with confidence and practise your new skills. It will not be a race. Nobody gets left behind. But it will be, we hope, the start of your love affair with biking in the wilds.
For this May weekend we are very lucky in that Kate Rawles is coming to ride along with us and give us a talk later on Saturday. I first met Kate at The Women’s Adventure Expo in Bristol a couple of years ago where I heard her fascinating talk on cycling 8,288 miles across South America on a self-built bamboo bicycle Woody. For Kate, the pedalling was just part of challenge, “The idea of building my own bike out of bamboo just seemed to fit: it’s low-impact, and I loved the idea of doing a biodiversity ride combining environmental activism and adventure on a ‘home-grown’ bike that used to be a plant.” 2017/18 saw her ride Woody, her bamboo bike, from Colombia to Cape Horn while sleeping in a tent. Kate cares passionately about the devastating impact humans are having on the planet, so the inspiration was to try and bring those two things together. “I wanted to focus on biodiversity loss because the avalanche of species extinction we’re currently witnessing, the beginning of what’s being called the sixth great extinction, is a very big issue.” Listening to her talk about the spraying of bananas – amongst other things – was a real eye-opener. She’s fascinating and it’ll be great to have her along and get back on Saturday and listen to her.
We will be based at Llwyn Celyn, a historic 15th century house recently restored by the Landmark Trust. Sited at the southern end of the spectacular Llanthony Valley and overlooking the Skirrid Mountain, we will use Llwyn Celyn’s warm, airy barn for the indoor talks/films part of the course and we will be able to pedal directly from the barn to all our training routes.
The barn has showers, a kitchen and, upstairs, a basic bunkhouse, which can sleep up to 12 people (see accommodation options below).
A nutritious vegetarian lunch will be provided on both days, as well as tea and coffee on arrival. Sunday will be a packed lunch, as dependent on the weather we may be out for most of the day. If you have special and complex dietary requirements, then you should bring your own food and prepare it in Llwyn Celyn’s kitchen.
We imagine that you can ride a road bike competently and that you have a decent level of biking fitness – you should be able to complete a 3-hour bike ride on the road. We really like people to challenge themselves, but this is not a weekend for beginner cyclists. You do not need to be an ‘elite athlete’ at all, but potentially we could be biking for up to 5-6 hours in total on the Sunday – albeit with plenty of rests and lunch between – on varied terrain, including uphills, so you should have the appropriate levels of base fitness.
If you have any doubts or worries about whether this course is for you, please contact us and we will be happy to discuss it.
What to bring
You will be given a checklist of what to bring closer to the date, but it will include a MTB with front suspension and a helmet. If you do bring your own bike it must be in good working order.
Please note that we have excellent mountain bikes to rent from our local specialist hire company at a cost of £30 a day (includes helmet). Please indicate on the booking form if you would like to book a bike for the two days and your height, so that we can get the correct size for you.
Can I come on my own?
Absolutely! Much of the joy of what we do is about connecting like-minded women who want to get out in nature, learn new skills in a supportive environment and, most of all, have fun.
Maximum group size
We require a minimum of 9 participants to run this course. We are confident that the number will be reached. If it isn’t we will refund you in full.
Because accommodation is such a personal matter, we find it works better for people to choose where they would like to stay. Over the years, we have built up a directory of trusted accommodation in the area, from yurts and shepherd’s huts, to farmhouse B&Bs, to top-end luxury hotels, catering for all budgets. We’ll send you the list on booking.
Please indicate on the booking form if you would like to book a bed in the Llwyn Celyn bunkhouse – it’s very nicely done communal accommodation with the use of kitchen, showers and single bed and will cost £25p/p for the Saturday night [You will need to bring your own bedding and pillow]. First come, first served.
Cancellation Terms & Conditions
Numbers are small on the course and we book a venue and tutor on the bookings we take. If there’s a waiting list we will happily sell your place on and refund you. If you can’t come, we are also happy that you find someone to take your place. We are a small organisation doing our best to keep our courses good value and affordable and so we have to say that your booking is non-refundable.
Should restrictions still be in place at the time of running this course, we will ensure that everything is Covid-compliant. We will have social distancing in place and ask participants to wear masks for any indoor sessions and ensure that the relevant protocols are enforced out on the rides. If we have to cancel your booking due to national Covid restrictions/local lockdown in our area then we will refund you in full.