Wednesday, 19 June 2013

No Style...

"If you look at the way Bruce Lee trained, the way he fought, and many of the things he wrote, he said the perfect style was no style. You take a little something from everything. You take the good things from every different discipline, use what works, and you throw the rest away."
           - Dana White, Fight Times magazine

Thus was Badbury Clumps, the boarder-cross track held deep in the Oxfordshire woods with plenty of cheeky grabs to be made off the two or three kickers lining the course.  Goes to demonstrate the lack of boundaries that usually tries to separate the traditional disciplines of freerider, freestyler or boardercross-er.  Bring anything and everything to the party and learn something new from everyone.

No excuses - No Style.

Friday, 18 January 2013


....A short essay written September 2012 for an online competition.  Only changes are a small bit of punctuation update and a short clarification.

An essay in which Ade imagines a future where mountainboarding is far more popular than it currently is.

Imagine a world where mountainboarding was a viable alternative to walking, taking the car or riding public transport.  Okay, maybe a stretch too far, so let’s imagine a world the UK where just as many people participate in boarding dirt as they do on snow.  Not an unreasonable scenario, even with my limited imagination and entirely possible if only more people dropped the assumption of danger and embraced the lower entry level price-point allowing them to surf the hills right there on their doorstop.

Secretly though, isn’t this what we all want?  For the kids to think we’re cool and the ladies to swoon?  To be seen to be alternative rather the mainstream and to have the bemused onlookers wondering what on earth you are riding, and how could you possibly be in control?  This is of course a whole separate issue to be discussed at length elsewhere and for now let’s embrace the population en-mass.

It’s not hard these days to pick up a mountainboard, either new or second hand with spare parts going for pocket money.  Upgrades and pimping come at a price, but for the meantime, at least we’re riding.  From your budget Kheo or BlueEarth board through to the specialist MBS and noSno options, we’re not really looking at a huge price difference to the snowboard equivalent of £100-£500.  Take out the cost of flights and lift passes though and throw in a little petrol money, and mountainboarding  is clearly the budget-friendly winner of the two.

So what would happen if mountainboarding were to become the next biggest thing?  It’s not impossible and the scene could massively benefit from a boost in sales should a boarding sequence appear in the next James Bond or Jason Bourne film.  Supposing all of the above was to happen then several implications of such a scenario are envisioned below.

The entry cost of buying a boarding, already pretty cheap should drop as a result of mass production with an increase in both selection of board types and range of graphics.  It’s not implausible that far more money will then be invested by the major manufacturers into R&D, producing boards that are more specific to the discipline in which they are developed in order to give people a definite reason to buy the current seasons stock.  Of course, the market would be flooded with imitation NBS, Grampa and noGro knock-offs taking advantage of tried and tested to destruction designs but mountainbikes survived a similar growth spurt in the 1990’s and I suspect that micro scooters are going through a similar stage right now  And that’s great - it will mean that the public have embraced the idea of travelling by four-wheels, and when NBS falls apart or when Mr Public takes it to the bumpier hills, the established brands will still be there for those who want them.

Awareness.  Awareness of boarding is a tricky one, especially where the authorities are involved.  Bearing in mind that I have absolutely no idea where we stand legally when riding public footpaths (though I was once told with dead-certainty that mountainboards were legally in the same category as a pram), my excuse that “bikes are not allowed here but this certainly isn’t a bike”, presently holds a little weight.  Ignorance is no excuse, but when there’s uncertainty all around, make the most of it.  Awareness can lead to specific rules; no longer is it “keep off the grass”, but “No Mountainboarding on the grass”, leading to popular “Mountainboarding is not a crime” T-shirts, in dirty protest.

Awareness means that no longer are you the strange daredevil on the rolling board of death, but in the public’s eyes you’re the chap who’s trying out the latest “craze”, no matter how long you’ve actually been riding for and you are defined by what you do rather than who you are.  “I hate you because you’re a mountainboarder”.  Skateboarders seemed to have fought back well on this issue, but there is still objections to build parks in certain areas due to the perception of the people that may congregate there and not due to the skating that will actually take place.

Incidentally, more mountainboarders equals far more mountainboarders that are inevitably going to be better than me.  This is not good.

Busier Forums.  Today’s Internet culture means that people are usually happy ask questions first, search later, ignoring all the hard work done previously writing beautifully crafted stickied FAQ’s and other replies to every other new rider who bought a new board and didn’t check whether it would be suitable for the over 12’s.  We should prepare to answer the same questions over and over again, but that’s cool as everyone’s different and we all love receiving the personal touch.

Bear in mind that for Snowboarding, a sport that is limited to a handful of suitable UK venues or a handful of winter weeks (if we’re lucky), or the winter holidays, the SCUK [Snowboarding Club: UK] has close to 20,000 registered users compared to the world’s most active mountainboard forum [Surfing] (1,300 members, 200 active).  Certainly the skills between the two sports are very similar and if anything, there’s less parts to a snowboard, but there’s certainly a larger choice in regards to range of  manufacturers and varying products with their subtle (and not so subtle) differences.  In the end, people still want reassurance that they’re buying the right equipment and if you can’t do what you love doing, then what better than hanging out with people of the same mindset who will also discuss what you love doing?

So, should we hold out and hope for mountainboarding being the sport of the masses?  There is a popular podcast that goes by the name of ‘Answer Me This’, a UK based weekly production where listeners send in random questions which are then answered in a comedic way.  During Episode 175 [currently available as a download at], co-presenter Ollie Mann states on the subject of Parkour, that to him, whilst all very cool, “feels a bit intrinsically 2006” after a period of relatively heavy use in both film and advertising.  Not an unreasonable comment and not a dissimilar feeling to how many members of the public are when pursuing the “next biggest thing”, leading to everything else to feel a bit dated.  If mountainboarding remains relatively unknown, then in a way, it can never become new, and following this strained logic, can never really become old.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

The Mountainboarders Guide To Map Reading

[An unused article written late last year.  Shame for it to lie unused so is reproduced in full below (though a closing paragraph and disclaimer wouldn't go amiss)]

In this modern age, we are unlikely to discover anything truly new without going to the remotest jungles or the deepest oceans, but that doesn't mean that we can't all be pioneers in our own backyard.  Chances are in a land this large with so few mountainboarders means that there is a good odds you can find a local hill, wander up, ride down and become the first person to have ridden it on a mountainboard.  Then ride it again  clean to be the true Master of the Hill!

Perhaps you have conquered all of the local hills and are looking further afield for the next track to pick off, pioneer, then master, way before it later becomes a classic mountainboard location, ridden by riders from all over the country, all looking to replicate the success you have already gained.

But where to look in a country that is largely undulating but not necessarily mountainous; hilly but not necessarily accessible; accessible but not necessarily suitable?

A good starting point that should not be overlooked is local knowledge.  The UK loves to hike and everyone knows a good hill, or knows where the bikers like to go or where sledging is popular.  Where local knowledge is unavailable and where just going out and random wandering is not really a sensible option, then the next step is to pull out the OS map and get looking for clues.  Can you read a map?  Can you identify the terrain, footpaths, bridleways, roads, heights and likely gradients? Can you use the scale to estimate a rough distance and distinguish between a 50 metre dash and a 2km monster?  If not, read on!

Part 1: OS Maps - An Overview
Part 2: Estimating Distance
Part 3: Estimating Terrain
Part 4: Estimating Gradient

OS Maps - An Overview

Ordnance Survey (OS) provide UK maps at various scales, a popular one being 1:25,000.  Note that the smaller the second number, the greater the detail and in this case, a centimetre on the map represents 25,000cm (250m) in real life.  The exception to this are the symbols used to represent the various features; roads and rivers for example are a set width in order to be legible rather than being realistic.

Whilst other scales are available, for our purposes smaller scale maps provide insufficient detail and greater scale maps are harder, though not impossible to obtain.  1:25,000 map are available through and so are useful in this post for examples.

Usually, it is safe to assume that the top of the map points north (if you can read the writing then the map is probably the right way) and although there is a discrepancy between true north, grid north and magnetic north, as long as we are riding within the UK then we should be fine.  If you want to know more about some of the different poles and the differences between them, then the Ordnance Survey do a good job explaining:

Please remember the following disclaimer though from Ordnance Survey:
"Whilst we have endeavoured to ensure that the information in this product is accurate, we cannot guarantee that it is free from errors and omissions, in particular in relation to information sourced from third parties."

In brief, use the maps as a guide but use some common sense!

Estimating Distance

OS maps show grid lines running both north-south and east-west marked in blue lines spaced apart in 1km intervals.  By mentally dividing these boxes by half or into tenths, smaller distances such as 100m or 500m can be estimated.  Remembering the principles laid out by Pythagoras, walking from the corner of one box to the opposite corner is therefore approximately 1.4km or 700 metres to walk diagonally across a quarter square.

Knowing distance is important for us.  It can tell us how far trail is from nearest parking, how long a trail may be, and crucially, how far it may be from the bottom of the trail back to the car again.

Estimating Terrain

Estimating what the ground may be like is far easier when you can use overhead photos to assist predictions, but a lot can still be read from using the map symbols.

PDF documents explaining all the symbols can be downloaded from the Ordnance Survey site at both 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale.

An overview of the most useful symbols ones will be covered below.  Lets take my local hunting grounds, Allestree Park, as shown above.  Even if we were unaware of the area, some common sense and the fact that it is labelled a 'Park' and has a 'Big Wood' should give us some clues to the likely local terrain.  Lets now look at some of the symbols:

Parking.  Very useful if you want a starting point to store all your gear and want to do a quick reccee without lugging around all of your equipment with you.

Footpath.  In this case suggests that there is a 'Public Right of Way' across the site and so easy to get onto the land i.e. you don't need to fight through bushes to get to where you want to go.  Also useful if you want a well defined track which may be harder under foot and hence faster to ride.  Could also be a wet, sloppy mud-fest.  Keep an eye out for walkers when riding, obviously.

Other path types include:
Non-coniferous trees.  Here you can see from the overhead camera that a single tree icon designates several trees, or wood in this instance.  What is not clear from either the map, nor the overhead shot is how densely packed the trees are, or what the forest floor is like.  This is where going for a recce is the only way to be sure.  Coniferous trees are also shown on this map, though unless you ride into one of them, it shouldn't make a difference one way or another.

Other tree types include:

Golf Course.  Always popular with riders as the fairways are usually well maintained with the grass cut short.  Of course, how well you are welcomed will depend on the 'exclusivity' of the course, ranging from tolerated to actively hunted and removed from site.  Exercise caution.

Contour Lines.  This is a section in itself and will be dealt with in Part 4, Estimating Gradient.

Lake.  Don't fall in the lake.

Other possible symbols that might indicate a good place to ride include Mountainbike trail (the downhill parts anyway), Campsite (Good if you're in the middle of nowhere) or Viewpoint (suggests that it could look out over some lower terrain.

These are only some of the features shown.  If something looks unfamiliar, then check the symbol guide!

Estimating Gradient

Everything written above means nothing though if we get to a spot to find that it is flat as a pancake.  Fortunately, OS maps give a good indication through the use of contour lines.

These wiggly orange lines connect together areas of equal height and are indicated at either 5 or 10 metre vertical intervals.  If it helps, they can be thought of as being similar to isobars on the weather reports, connecting the areas of equal pressure.  Follow each line far enough and we should find a number equating to height above sea level.  By comparing the lines to those adjacent to it, we can determine where the high and low ground lies and the direction of the slopes.

From 'The SAS Survival Handbook', by John Wiseman are a couple of images that may assist the notion of representing terrain through the use of contour lines.

In a nutshell, where they are tightly packed together means that the terrain is steep, or even a cliff if the lines converge and where they are far apart, the gradient is slight.  We can even gauge if the shape of the hill is concave or convex by examining how the lines are grouped:

Lets take an example then using what we have learned so far.  Imagine that we have a 1km square and there are roughly 20 grid lines equidistant across the square with each one dropping by 5 metres each time.  From this we can determine that over that one kilometer, the height has dropped by 100 metres (20 x 5), equating to a 1 in 10 decent.  By this, we mean for every 10 metres ridden, you drop down one metre.  Not a bad decent; great if riding a firetrack, reasonable if riding short grass, may not be adequate if riding dense forest undergrowth.

It's worth mentioning that you cannot be over confident riding a trail 'blind' from map alone as the map will not show any terrain detail lower than the changes in contour lines.  For example, if the contour lines only show 10 metre changes in height, then a significant 5-metre drop could be encountered that would never have been shown on the map. Again, exercise caution.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Happy 2013!!!!

Where to begin?  Well, happy 2013 for a start and sorry for the lack of any updates whatsoever.  It's not even as if nothings happened with good times by one and all and the mountainboard scene ticking over nicely. 

Actually, it's not all fun and games and real life gets in the way sometimes, but I won't blame that for the silence, nor is it the lack of motivation.  No, sometimes things crop up that grab your attention and hold it for far longer than expected.  Still, whilst no blogger has ever asked me for advice, should this ever happen I would say 1) Content is King: It is far easier to start a blog than to maintain a blog over a prolonged period of time.  And 2) Blogging should be fun: do not become a slave to the blog.  And with that in mind, doing absolutely no creative writing whatsoever for the past 3 months or so has been very relaxing.

And the point of this blog?  Only to say that the Monday Evening Summer Sessions will return once our light sufficiently returns, be it in a slightly modified format.  More on that later.  In addition, there are a few articles and bits and pieces that never got published for various reasons that will crop up over the next few days.  A few older articles may get a quick dusting off and reissued with a brand new sparkle, and if you're very, very lucky, maybe some brand new stuff will emerge....  Not just yet though, it's still too early.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Mountainboard Derby: September Update

Copied from the Mountainboard Derby Blog:

"I've not updated the Mountainboard Derby page in a while, but the Monday Night Sessions have still been rolling on, with somebody (me) out on the slopes every (most) Monday, rain or shine.  Going back to the original rough plan of action, it was proposed that the formal sessions would carry on until late October when the clocks change and the light levels would prevent safe lessons to take place.  Realistically though, if I'm able to get to a session for 7pm, at most we are getting an hour riding before last light, and this is only going to decrease as the nights draw in.  Therefore, I'm taking the decision to cease the Monday Night Sessions as they currently stand.  Lessons will still be provided on request although these will most probably take place at the weekends, or afternoon if I'm able to juggle work.

However, riding will still take place every Monday night where possible, but the shift will be to either the woods in Allestree or the occasional visit to Hemlock stone, or anywhere else people suggest.  Bring your torches and keep an eye to the
Mountainboard Derby Facebook Page for your most up-to-date information regarding riding plans.  We hope to see you out there!"

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

ATBA-UK Downhill Round 2 - Write Up

I spend the days leading up to Round Two flicking between various weather forecast predictions, searching for the most optimistic of the bunch.  They all say 'rain'.  Undaunted, I pack the car prepared for the worst with all my items nicely grouped together in various bags:

 - camping bag
 - normal clothes bag
 - riding gear bag
 - more clothes to replace the ones that will inevitably get wet, bag

So with all this and a back seat stacked with boards and an mp3 player chocked full of tunes, Phill and I head off at midday, Friday in the rough direction of Mid Wales.

Day 1

Travel goes well.  We cross the M6 at speed, whilst the cars below sit stationary.  We are almost there in terms of distance, though only half way by time.  Fun twisty, windy Welsh roads, here we come!

The directions to the campsite, though basic, get us there.  Far from the idyllic patch of land I'd imagined, this was an exposed field already packed with tents.  It was also raining and full of very serious looking men on mountainbikes.  Ahh, the three day biking event was well underway already.  Well, we're here now and so I drive down the track and onto the field.  And instantly get stuck.  Phill pushes me on a bit and one of the campers gives me two bits of advice 1) Don't go down the hill, you won't get back up, and 2) Don't get stuck.  Cheers!

No sign of any other boarders, though we do see a van with a Bugsboarding sticker on the side...

We put up the tent close to a large stone in the middle of the field, offload as much as we can and then attempt to leave the campsite in order to find the competition track.  Carefully this time, I avoid all the other ruts and exit the field with only one close encounter with someone's tent.  His fault really for parking so close the the muddy puddle.

Finding the track is easy, it's exactly the same as last year, and there is good parking at the bottom.  Only one other car parked up and certainly no sign of anyone around so we pad-up and make our way slowly up the 1.3 mile course.  3 cars come down the track, the drivers grinning and waving.  What they were doing on a friday afternoon up a welsh hill is anyones guess, or perhaps they were just laughing at us with all our clobber.  It is 4pm.

After climbing the hill for what feels like forever, we reach the finish line.  It is still raining.  I should have parked higher up.

After longer still, we reach the top.  Due to us only riding uplifts last year, it was interesting to look at sections of the track in detail.  We meet Andy Moon and family half way up.  They are all looking very happy (and were probably happier still 30 minutes later when back in their car and the heavens opened).   The top section goes on up and up and up and we debate where last years starting point would have been.  In my head, I remember relaxing at the top, with several of us sitting on chopped logs.  Unfortunately, someone had moved the logs.  Still, there wasn't much to be gained from going much higher and so after both of us marking our territory on a couple of trees, we strap in and roll down.  Not much to say on this, except that it all looks very much unchanged.  No nasty surprises which is nice, so with knackered legs already, we head back to the car, fling everything onto the back seat, and jump in.  It is 5.40pm already!

Discussing our tactics for the night, we decide rather than going back to the campsite, where I will inevitably get stuck again, we'd park in one of the towns carparks and head to the pub for some grub and a pint.  Only the one, mind, as we're finely tunes athletes and an early night will do us good.  Turns out that the pub we're in overlooks the fountain that will get turned on as part of the opening ceremony of the 'World Alternative Games'.

The pub is busy full of locals, couple of media types and various members of the Llandovery Male Voice Choir.  We find a seat by the window and order up a couple of pies, plus a couple of pints to wash it all down.  Yum, yum.  We discuss the track and tactics for the next days event.  Go quickly is the key!

The opening ceremony of the 'World Alternative Games' had to be seen to be believed but I will paint a picture in your mind.  Imagine an enthusiastic samba band, a mountainbike chariot and a 6 inch fountain turned on by the local ex-mayor.  There you go!  The rain has stopped (for now), so all is looking good.  In the excitement we go back inside the pub and have another pint.  I get the feeling that the locals think Phill and I are an item.  Hey ho, another pint it is then.

A plan of action is required.  We're too drunk to drive but the campsite is only a couple of hundred metres away.  "We could go back to the campsite now, or we could get a few emergency beers from the Spa, and try the other pub?", suggests Phill.  It is raining and I think this is a fine plan of action.  Good job we're finely tuned athletes and all that.

At around 11pm we stumble back onto the campsite with as much baggage as we think we'll need.  It is dark and the serious mountainbikers are all tucked up in their beds - not quite the party we thought it may be.  With a belly full of beer, sleep comes relatively quick.  I bet the weather will be much nicer in the morning.

Day 2

I look out the tent at approximately 7am.  It is raining and my head hurts.  I vaguely remember seeing portaloos on the other side of the field.  Its far warmer than the last time we camped up at Whinlatter, but that is little comfort right now.  Is this what it's like in the Olympic village?  We dismantle as much as possible and wonder why we brought so much stuff when the car is so far away (about half a mile it turned out) and dump everything in the boot.  My system for separate bags for things has gone right out of the window and my set of Allen keys has disappeared - I'm sure that I had them on yesterdays run? 

Anyway, we pad up, the Campbells arrive and park up behind us, the timing system is ready at the bottom of the hill, the van is ready to take us to the top of the hill and approximately 25 riders are ready to do this!   Only one problem, and that's that the starting ramp has been inadvertently broken by Beiren on his first roll in.  The solution, rather elegantly, is a wooden roll-in from the rear of the van.  This allows both a 3 foot drop to gain initial speed and give two other riders time to strap in behind with further riders queuing up through the side sliding doors - clever!

"Where's the starting point?  It's where the van was parked up first time. Where was that? Oh..."  For the second and subsequent runs of the day, the starting line is very well defined.

Incidentally, the finish line has been moved up the track slightly as the track was running slightly slower than usual due to the bad weather.  This made making the last corner a quick one less of a priority as there was far less rolling to do after this point.

The communal get together of all these boarders in one location must have appeased the riding gods because as the day went on, the weather just got better and better to the extent that I was applying mosquito spray just after lunchtime - Jungle Formula, very effective!  Lunch was a couple of bacon sandwiches and beans provided by Phill - cheers Phill, the fresh Welsh air had done wonders for our morning sickness.

The riding was very quick and is best described in video form.  First up, my on-board footage, and secondly, the official ATBA-UK version.  From this it is clear just how much speed was being held through the chicane and on through the lower sections.

2012 ATBA-UK Downhill Series: Round 2 - 'Dave' from Adrian McCordick on Vimeo.

So, Phill and I rode until tired.  Everyone else kept going, with Mark Sewell and Beiran looking tight at the top by the time we left.  We hear that the times keep being chipped away with Matt Brind the overall winner with a staggering 3:00 minute run.  The results in full are on the ATBA-UK blog here.

Our drive home is steady and uneventful.  Kit is chucked in the garage and the long, long sleep begins.


Fantastic riding as always with great support from the boarding community travelling far and wide to attend.  Big thanks to the ATBA-UK for organising such events and for taking the time out to repeatedly drive us all up the hill time and time again.  In addition, it wouldn't be much of a competition without the time keepers who take time out from riding to clock us all out at the top and clock us all in at the bottom.  And finally, the medics, who are there just in case, to patch us up after any silliness.   Lets all do this again soon!