Longer ago than I’d care to remember, I learned to ride a bike. A bit. After that it was a case of hanging about with people who were radder than me, trying and failing to copy what they were up to. Fast forward a couple of decades, and it’s all change. Bike technology has rocketed forward and continues to, and more importantly, we are becoming much more open to coaching being something that’s not just for the absolute elite end of the sport.
Plus3MTB as an operation are new to the game, but people it encompasses are far from it. Heading up the gang is Dave Jaquin. Dave’s been in the bike industry for a long time in various guises, and currently works for 7iDP and Royal. He’s had his finger on the pulse of the industry and has gathered a coaching team around him to offer a full and deep experience to riders joining him on a Plus3MTB day. I caught up with Dave in the run up to the event.
+3 is first and foremost about riding, we’re in the business of giving people more information, confidence and ability about the increasingly complicated world of bike riding. We’re about getting those knobs and dials sorted so we can all get the most from razzing about in the woods and grinning from ear to ear.We’re distinctive as we look at a rider through three different lenses. Trail technique is one thing but learning to ride a trail feature on a bike that isn’t setup correctly makes things harder for a rider. We’re totally into all the guys and girls out there coaching riders but we want to offer a service that covers anything and everything a rider might want to know. We’ve put together a group of coaches that have experience at the highest level of our sport but more importantly they have been chosen as they can communicate these ideas to anyone. All three of the core team at +3 MTB have a background and qualifications in teaching, we think that says a lot.
It was a combination of factors really, I’ve spent 20 years riding bikes of all shapes and sizes, through working and travelling bikes are at the centre of it all. In that time I’ve seen my rigid Gitane Bullet with canti brakes and Chromoly frame morph into a 29lb carbon 160mm beast of a trail bike. Having been fortunate enough to spend the last 8 years in the bike industry I took a step back and realised basically that things got complex!It’s not just bikes either, the trails we ride are becoming more varied, the access we have to trail centres, the number of riders making their annual alpine pilgrimage and the development of local scenes gives any biker a huge range of potential trails to explore.The final piece of the puzzle is the machines that power our machines, biking puts your body through the works and it’s not just about leg power. Many riders could benefit from some direction on how they ride from a power and strength angle. This might be how to warm up after driving for 3 hours to ride a bike park or how to best manage an injury for the best results.After a few months all this mingled around in my head and when I started talking to the guys that are now our coaches they thought it was right on point, it all clicked into place and here we are!
Well that depends what you’re aiming for? Do you want to make mid-pack into top ten? Or do you want to beat your mates through that gnarly root section on your weekly ride? I’d say both riders, and there are many more variations, want just those things. Biking is a progressive sport that relies on development, in riding, trail design and our bikes.If you’re racing then it’s not mobile spectating, you pay your entry fee to do the best you can and there might be a few small changes that will make a big difference. On the other hand if you get out once or twice a week with a local group of mates and you want to improve your skill set then we can help there too. We’re not going to send you away with a training plan and tell you how many Bran Flakes to have in a morning but just make you think about riding your bike as a system. Your skills, your body, and your bike. Adding 20mm more travel to your next bike or buying those carbon bars is unlikely to make you consistently faster or more confident, maybe for the first few rides but we are confident our approach will lead riders into personal progression for a lot longer.Our bikes are super capable at the moment, suspension, tyre and geometry have all leaped on in recent years and we just want everyone to get the most out of their bikes and themselves. We might seem expensive compared to other coaching programs but take our elements individually and the cost is great value.
Sarah Nash and myself headed down to the iconic Long Mynd in Shropshire for a day of coaching.Pulling up in the car park we were immidately handed a brew and headed into the plush pit area for a chat about the day. As we got kitted up, world cup seasoned mechanic Will Soffe gave our bikes a once over and had a chat about suspension set up. He would be joining us out on the trails complete with his clipboard and almost encylopedic knowledge of settings. Part of the Plus3MTB experience is all about getting most out the thousands of pounds you’ve spent on that bike. Will has seen it all, and over the day he would swoop in, add a few psi here, tweak a dial there and then sit back, stroking his luxuriant moustache and seeing the effect immidately.
Bikes checked, Sandy Plenty, trail coach for the day introduced the Long Mynd and gave an outline of the trails we’d be sessioning and shredding that day. Plus3MTB have a real depth of trail coaches on their books, based around the country and each with a mental map of the best places to test people’s skills. The Long Mynd was a new experience for most of the riders, and a welcome break from trail centres and car parks! The natural trails give a different, less manicured experience, and we were to even spend some time working on climbing…
Having shuttled up into the morning mist (no-one fancied the 45 min tarmac climb…) our third coach for the day, strength and conditioning coach Alan Milway took us for a warm up spin and talked us through the idea of not just jumping out of the car, onto the bike and mashing up a steep hill – an alien concept to all of us. He also had a devilsh talent for spotting a stretch that would both help our riding and make us wince just a little! Alan was also trailside with his iPad offering hints as the riders sessioned sections.
After a morning lapping some wonderful singletrack sections, and learning to be as efficient as possible we headed down for a superb lunch of soup, sandwhiches and cake, along with plenty more coffee. Food duly scoffed we headed out for a bit of a pedal, as Sandy, with a glint in his eye took us to “The Passport” – a punchy little climb to focus on delivering the power at just the right time to scale all sorts uphill obstacles. With the autumnal light fading there was just time for one last mega-train down into the village and a final (if somewhat ironic) chat about nutritional choices over coffee and brownies.
I spent the day flitting between groups with my camera, while Sarah got stuck into the coaching. She adds…
I’d heard great things about the biking in and around the Long Mynd, and the day with Plus3 did not disappoint, in terms of scenery, biking and input. It’s really unusual to find a coaching outfit that focuses so overtly on the aspects, other than technique, that affect our performance. It was really reassuring to have Will check my bike over and confirm both my recent bike choice and my overall set-up. I often bike with people who are better and faster than me, but out on the trail, the friendly atmosphere acknowledged these perceptions of my own ability and, more importantly, gently encouraged me to push my expectations of what I was capable of. On each section of the trail, with each tweek of my body positioning, approach speed and technique, my confidence in my ability grew. With individual feedback from both Sandy and Alan, I was encouraged to piece together sections of trails in a different way, in order to create and mantain flow, something I have often struggled with. I left the course feeling like I have a secure foundation of skills and technique which, with the adjustments and advice I’ve been given, and the tips from Alan on how to increase my base level of fitness, I am now ready and excited to build upon, so I can finesse my lines, build my speed and shred the trails with the best of my mates!
There was a lot packed into a day, and having such a depth of knowledge on hand meant every minute was a learning experience, even for me just spinning along as a photographer. Check out their upcoming events at http://plus3mtb.com/