A new adventure for ZigZag Cycling yesterday as we took two teams out on a leadership and management development course - each one encountering their own mix of expected and unexpected challenges.
Big thanks to Ian from Cheshire for using us as the local guides and instructors for the exercise he developed for one of his clients - a major UK news and media company.
The task involved the participants dividing themselves up into three teams, each one to make their way from the beautiful village of Amberley to the castle town of Arundel, passing designated points along the way to pick up clues for solving a group puzzle. One team hiked while we took two mountain bike teams on a blue and red route.
For Mike's team, taking the red route, the big theme was hills. Big, thigh crunching, energy sapping hairy hills. Even seasoned mountain bikers have to put in a special effort to scale Bury Hill and then Bignor Hill - so well done to Duncan, Chris, James, Mark and Carl for tackling the climbs, heads down and encouraging each other on.
At the bottom of Bignor Hill we had the added challenge of one of the bikes going into a bit of a melt down - the chain splitting open, grinding into the cogs and pushing the hanger out of alignment. We decided on a mix of team pushing and freewheeling to get to the support vehicle and a quick change of bikes.
And of course for every climb up there's usually lovely long flowing descents - down through Houghton Forest and on to Sherwood Rough. Coming through the woods close to Arundel and with James leading us, a big red kite took to flight just in front of us.
Meanwhile, for Nick's team (The Blue Team) the big theme was mud, mud and more sticky mud. This didn't seem to dampen the spirits though with Helen, Debs, Simon and Chris climbing out of Amberley in an eastern direction which was pretty much up hill from the get go until the first check point at the top of a slippery and windy Amberley Mount.
Despite a team member suffering a bit of an upset stomach the group made good progress along the South Downs Way for a few kilometres to the second check point and another token displaying a clue for the team. From this point on the ride took on mostly a favourable gradient to Wepham Down, the going was still tough with the riders encountering 3 sections of sticky mud which completely clogged up a few of the bikes forcing some time out to get things moving again.
Before hitting the road back to Arundel the group suffered two punctures which gave everyone a chance for some reflection on the experience, the meaning of the clues and some analysis on the positive group dynamics as well suggestions for improvement. The team arrived at The Swan pub in Arundel having accumulated all 5 of the available tokens marking a very successful ride.
We think both groups did very well in the challenging conditions so a big congratulations to all the riders.
Mike & Nick
Out today checking out the routes for a group ride this Thursday, with some awesome wildlife surprises along the way.
We've been asked to lead two groups on a leadership skills training event later this week - both starting from the beautiful village of Amberley and making their separate way round to Arundel, one route heading out westward and the other going east.
We know lots of the routes in the area - but not parts of one of the two the organisers have set out, so best to go and check it out before expecting anyone else to follow us. Its also important to be able to say what's coming up.
Out on the top of Bignor Hill a friendly South Downs National Park ranger pointed out to me no less than eight red kites circling overhead. Their impressive wingspan and predatory wheeling and gliding create a magical sense of silence and energy.
On back through our old favourite Houghton Forest and then on to trace my way through new trails (for me) including Sherwood Rough where I saw a large deer bounding into the woods.
From there I checked out the second route, going in the opposite direction to get back to the starting point at Amberley. Unfortunately for me but good news for the group on Thursday, this was almost all long uphill climbing. Will be terrific whizzing down the long descents from the South Downs Way (once the little matter of Amberley Mound has been dealt with at the start).
Hopefully on Thursday both groups will catch sight of yet more wildlife too. Really looking forward to it
A great few hours spent earlier today with a family of young Tri Star superstars, passing on some basic mountain bike skills.
Matt from Steyning - a man with an exceptionally muddy and well used mountain bike - had decided to see if his young family might like to give off-road cycling a try.
Ella (10) and Guy (9) are already into triathlons, taking part in Tri Star events, but together with mum, Shona, were fairly new to all the lumps and bumps of mountain biking, so we arranged a special family skills session.
And what a family of superstars! We started with some weaving in and out of trees to get familiar with the art of handling the bike before heading out onto our specially designed route to practice the downhill position and other skills. Big grins all round as they all mastered the techniques in no time at all and took to whooshing down longer descents.
With no need to worry if they were ready for it, we then set off for the beautiful open Downs, taking every climb, descent and all the twists and turns along the way in their stride.
A quick stop at Coombe Church for a bit of history and then on to hot drinks and cake at Shoreham airport.
Next week we have a group ride on Thursday between Amberley and Arundel and the monthly skills session on the Saturday - four riders already booked so just two places left. We'll have to watch out for a young family of accomplished riders flashing past!
Well done to you Ella, Guy, Shona and Matt.
A quick trip out to Houghton Forest to enjoy the trails - back to being rideable and just as much fun as before.
Some philosophers question whether anyone can really know if a tree makes a sound when it falls in an empty forest. There was quite a noise, however, earlier this year when the Forestry Commission let rip in Houghton Forest, in the name of environmental logging and left most of the trails unrideable.
So it was with a bit of uneasy foreboding Anne (a big ZigZag supporter) and I set off to explore what had been one of our favourite trails.
There were one or two recently fallen trees barring the way, but in general the forest is back to being at its very fast flowing and fun best - big thanks to all the people, whoever they are, who must have put in a lot of time clearing the paths and making good the damage.
We have a family booked in for an introductory session this Saturday and then our monthly Skills Session the following weekend with some takers. There's also a possibility of some extra guiding for a group on leadership training - though we'll wait to see.
And now we know Houghton Forest is back on we'll be happy to arrange night rides from there, using the amazing lights we have available.
Hope to see you on a ride soon
A good ride this morning, sharing some of the great routes nearby with newly arrived Alex, up until three weeks ago London bound and now beginning to enjoy the active outdoor life in Shoreham - so much more to come!
Alex has done some amazing mountain biking in the past - including the stunning 3,600m descent down Death Road in Bolivia (also known as The World's Most Dangerous Road - click here for more). But living in London offered little more than sedate spins round Richmond Park.
Of course the South Downs don't quite have the same scarey adrenalin rush of Bolivian mountains, but there are some lovely routes - and throwing in around 1,000m of climbs in a typical ZigZag ride means you get all the fitness benefits too.
As this was Alex's very first experience of riding on the Downs we opted for one of the less hill packed rides and introduced him to Chanctonbury Ring and Cissbury Ring, pointing out a few of the many bridleways that crisscross the area.
A quick stop too at the tiny church at Coombe, with its 1,000 year old murals. Then back to Shoreham and a coffee and chance to open up the maps and pour over where we'd been and some of the routes further beyond that are waiting to be explored.
Alex's wife and sister are booked in for one of our introductory sessions early next month - looking forward to helping them get out and enjoy the Downs too.
In the meantime, Nick had his back wheel disintegrate on him, flying round the Surrey Hills earlier this week - so he'll be more on the road than the trails until he gets a replacement. Anyone wanting to learn how to do wheelies, heart stopping drop-offs or shoot down ridiculous gullies will have to wait his return.
Hope to see you on a ride soon
Early this morning we took a small and enthusiastic group from Horsham Amphibians Triathlon Club to the terrific trails in the Surrey Hills.
ZigZag co-founder Nick led the group of Dave, Hilly and Andy - with me lagging behind and providing an excuse for the rest of them to have breathers between hurtling up and down and along the demanding trails. Nick knows these trails really well and was able to guide us through lots of the famous and infamous routes as well as a few off-piste lesser known tracks.
Riding the North Downs is very different to the South Downs: much more weaving through forests and mostly single tracks. Its also a lot more technical - a mountain biker's term for a lot more falling off, which the group threw themselves into! Andy took to falling off at the top of steep climbs while Dave seemed to go more for the over the handle bars drop offs. Fortunately the softer forest floor is a lot more forgiving than the South Downs' hard chalk and no one was injured.
Another big difference is the sheer numbers of mountain bikers. On the South Downs you can ride for hours and see only a few others. In contrast I'd never seen so many mountain bikers out (other than in some of the big events we do). Oddly they mainly seemed to congregate around tea shops and stops - leaving the trails for us to zip along unhindered.
We have a new schedule of rides up on the website to take us through to Spring next year, with the usual mix of tuition and beginners' sessions as well as some great longer rides on our favourite routes on the South Downs. As with the Amphibians, though, we're always up for arranging special rides for groups going further afield. Just give a call and chat through what you are after.
Hope to see you on a ride soon
Back from a great ride sharing some of our Escape to the Hills routes with New Zealander Paul - along with lots of mud and rain and a double puncture.
After such a lovely dry summer I guess we have to expect a bit of the wet stuff from time to time. No worries though for Paul, over from NZ for two years and living in London.
He'd been gifted a ride with us as a birthday present - a lovely thought given that the only cycling he gets to do is a 15 minute commute on Boris Bikes.
With an eye on the grey clouds we set off to explore some of the routes heading eastwards from Shoreham, up Southwick Hill and out toward Devil's Dyke.
From there we worked our way round to the Chattri Memorial - stopping for a ZigZag snack before realising we were starting to get wet! On then to the top of the Downs, by now shrouded in low cloud. Up the big monster climb of Newtimber Hill - a thigh sapping brute that has lots of riders walking but no contest for Paul. Right at the top, in the most exposed part, I succumbed to double punctures, front and back.
We got some shelter and refuelled with cake at the Hikers' Rest at Saddlescombe Farm while I set to work to find the source of the punctures - one of which, over an inch long thorn, now sits in my MTB memorabilia box as the meanest longest unwelcome intruder.
With the rain getting heavier and no prospect of glimpsing the beautiful views that were now hidden by cloud we decided to head back after taking in one last set of hills: the Big Dipper.
Hats off to Paul for pretty much instantly mastering the art of descending and racing ahead of me up most of the hills. Great to see him enjoying the whole experience despite the wet.
We'll get some more rides up on the schedule very soon to take us through Autumn and Winter - and as always are happy to arrange a special tailor made ride or weekend break. Just give a call on 07758 703572 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope to see you on a ride soon
We're busy preparing for a local fair tomorrow, hoping to spread the word about the great rides on offer and mix up some smoothies.
The Adur Council are once again putting on a Lifestyle and Wellbeing event in Shoreham. Last year we had a good time meeting lots of enthusiastic would-be riders and we're hoping this year we'll attract even more interest in the great rides we offer.
To have some extra fun and keep the healthy living theme going, we''re aiming to have a mountain bike rigged up to a smoothie maker to whirl up a steady supply of pedal powered healthy drinks.
The weather forecast is not that great - so please come along and say hi and give the smoothies a go.
At the same time Nick will be checking out a new exciting mountain bike centre in Galloway - more on this to follow.
Meantime hope to see you tomorrow
Back from a break in beautiful Sicily and out onto the Downs for a quick spin - to be welcomed back by puddles, sheep and an end of a lovely dry Summer feel.
Before I left in early September conditions could not have been better for mountain biking on the Downs - bone dry trails to whizz along, no slipping and sliding up the climbs and fun swooping down the long descents. So out I went earlier this afternoon for a quick ride getting back to the hills and to check out conditions.
Felt odd coming across occasional puddles after all those dry months. But the riding is still really good even if it includes a few sploshes here and there - and a little time cleaning the bike afterwards instead of just brushing off dust.
And then there's always an unexpected encounter or experience to bring a smile and sense of calm. Today's included pausing to let some South Downs traffic pass: a long, long line of sheep being herded from one field to another.
On the end of a Summer theme, we'll be reviewing the mix of rides and experiences we offer at ZigZag. If you have any views, please use the comments box below or email us at email@example.com
Next Saturday we're at the Shoreham Lifestyle and Well Being Fair - come and say hi and try whizzing up a smoothie on our especially adapted bike. And there are some great rides coming up on our schedule - including a Skills session in early October and the last of the Weekend Specials for this year - so please take a look and book up.
Hope to see you on a ride soon