On a warm and cloudy day, tucked away in the rolling Welsh mountains, we visited the diamond in the rough, Revolution bike park for the "Somewhere in Wales" Atherton Experience day.
It's not often the record breaking multiple World Champion of downhill, Rachel Atherton hosts a ride day with her and the Trek Factory DH team. Armed with her sponsors: Trek, IXS, GoPro - to name a few - the Atherton Experience day was hosted with the aim of inviting riders to meet the family, and ride alongside them... or at least try and keep up!
I made my way up to North Wales earlier this week, kitted out with my full-face, SPD's, camera and notebook - writer/rider essentials - and an eager anticipation for what promised to be an awesome day.
Atherton Experience Day
A breezy and dry day welcomed me as I arrived at the bikepark with a distinct sense of excitement in the air. As I made my way down into the pit, sponsors were setting up their demo stands ready to offer product information, demo kits and mechanical advice throughout the day.
As I approached the Trek tent, I could feel my professionalism wavering and my fan-girl instinct creeping out. Rachel and the team were getting warmed up with some physio and fuelling up on breakfast from the guys at Podium Catering.
Riders began turning up, most of whom were competition winners, including our own competition winner, Michelle Haigh.
"I'm really excited about today. It's a great experience to be here, and although I'm a little nervous, I'm sure I'll enjoy myself." - Michelle Haigh
Having signed up, collected my wristband, it was time for the event to officially begin with 10:00 announcements from the event organisers and the World Champ herself. Kicking off with essential training and stretching with Altius Healthcare's physio, Doug Jones, Rachel demonstrated three important core exercises for mountain bikers.
Doug is a consultant physio with Red Bull, and explains the importance of having a strong core on the bike. It's crucial to be able to keep your body strong with your core engaged, and allow the bike to move beneath you. Small strength movements are ideal for improving core stability.
After housekeeping announcements and tips for stretches and core stability, it was time to run the uplifts and get the wheels in motion. With Rachel, Gee, Dan and Taylor kitted up, they were keen to ride with everyone to offer encouragement and riding tips, even on bike set up.
With the a few runs under the wheels, it was time for a delicious lunch in the pits. With such a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, it was great to see the Trek Team and riders socialise and catch up and share riding tips.
Once lunch was out of the way and settled, the afternoon wave of uplifts began and it was my turn to get a run in. I was lucky enough to nab myself a demo Trek Session 9.9, the same team bike the Athertons ride. With a full carbon frame, 650b wheels, 200mm front and 210mm rear travel, I was more than just a little excited to try it out.
With my Trek loaded on the truck, we bimbled our way to the top of the trails where I was kitted and ready for my first run at Revolution bike park, and my first ride on this stunning beast.
Being unfamiliar with the trails at Revolution, myself and a couple of the girls took the red line down to the bottom. A claggy, rutted, rooted and steep ride, which was nothing for the Session. The Trek Session is the smoothest ride I've had, eating up rough terrain and manipulating your body into a comfortable position with its downhill geometry. The full Trek Session trail review is coming soon.
With the day drawing to a close, we caught up with the World Champion, Rachel Atherton for some top riding tips, and her thoughts on women in mountain biking.
Pro Tips and Thoughts from Rachel Atherton
It's important to give your bike a good once over before any ride. Ensure those bolts are tightened to the recommended torque, and check those tyres and suspension settings.
Rachel tells us: "I'm always tweaking my set up. Whether it's my saddle, my rebound or tyre pressure. I'll always make adjustments depending on weather and trail conditions." Having a bike set up to suit ride conditions will help you ride your best.
Every wondered why riders take track walks and slow chicken runs on a trail? It's important to know the trail, taking into account the terrain, weather conditions and particular features that you'll come up against.
Rachel explains: "If a track starts off rocky and technical, then finishes in a fast flowing section with jumps, I'll set my bike up to find an good balance which can handle the techy areas, and help me find the speed for the bottom."
WOMEN IN MTB
The reigning World Champion is a passionate advocate of women who ride, and works hard to promote the sport further. With great events such as the Red Bull Foxhunt, Rachel would love to see more women shredding the dirt and getting messy.
Rachel explains: "British women are killing it this year. There's a deep talent pool of female riders in the UK, but it's just a case of encouraging them into the Juniors and the competitive scene."
Spending a day with the Atherton's at Revolution bike park was exciting to say the least. Being able to casually chat and ride with the World Champion was insightful, especially seeing her get hands on helping other riders tweak their set-up.
With inspiring British athletes like Rachel, the future of women's MTB is certainly a growing an dynamic sport to get into. Check out the gallery below for more Atherton Experience day photos.