TRF:So Nigel, the first I heard about this was when I saw Steve Stout’s post on the Cumbria TRF Facebook Group. Is that how you got involved?
TRF:What’s your background in the TRF? Why did this appeal to you?
Nigel:Apart from brief forays into trials and grass track racing over four decades ago, and more recent trail riding on big adventure bikes on the Iberian Peninsula and in North Africa, my bike life has been lived on European tarmac roads and UK track days. A neighbour of ours, TRF member Lucy Dunn, and her partner Steve Stout were clearly having far too much fun on their knobbly-tyred steeds and my curiosity made it a simple step for them to talk me into trying the trails which, with Steve’s patient guidance, I started exploring in February 2016, joining the TRF a month or two later. The Cumbria Group proved to be a friendly, welcoming and lively lot, always ready and willing to share their years of knowledge and experience with a wobbling newbie. I was soon making new friends and heading out on the green roads. At the end of 2016, I volunteered my services as secretary for the Group, a position I now hold. The Run Leader Training appealed on many levels. Primarily it would provide an opportunity to give something back to a Group who had treated me to a year of great riding adventures and fun. To lead rather than follow would demand taking control of route planning and on-the-day navigation; it would involve an enhanced degree of responsibility and attention to the welfare of other riders in a group; it would require an ability to identify and tackle various logistic issues including trying to keep people safe, legal, fuelled and fed. Overall, it promised to be a win win. A chance to help answer a specific problem of oversubscription to ride outs within the Group and a broadened view of the whole trail riding experience for myself.
TRF:How did the day unfold?
1: What to do before the day
2: What to do on the day.
TRF:What were the big lessons you came away with? Any surprises?
Nigel:For me a favourite moment came when Steve deliberately included a lane in the route that would almost guarantee a confrontation with a landowner. This particular lane - lets be accurate here and call it “this particular ROAD” - includes some gates wired shut and others deliberately rendered inoperable, forcing users of the road to make detours over field land which is extremely soft and very easy to mark. Sure enough, we were challenged, not by the farmer himself on this occasion, but by the farmer who owns the neighbouring farm who had seen us making one of the aforementioned detours. The encounter began with the farmer disputing our contention that it was our legal right to make a reasonable detour if there was a blockage on the legitimate road. At this point, he was not a happy bunny. Illegal detours by “off roaders” through his own farmyard (itself a bridleway), fuel theft and various other problems had caused him to have to spend thousands on an elaborate set of access gates for vehicles and pedestrians. We all removed our helmets and crucially did a lot more listening than talking until we fully understood his position. You could not help but sympathise with his problems, and he certainly appreciated that we did. Anyway, the encounter ended with him having a right good laugh with us, eventually confessing to having been a keen biker in his past, and generally realising that we weren’t a bunch of two wheeled hooligans out to ruin his life and intimidate him and that in fact we were all prepared to look out for, and be respectful of, each other’s needs. By that point, an unhappy bunny had become a happy bunny. Job done!
TRF:So will we be seeing you at the front of the group more often now?
Nigel:Definitely. I’ve already taken out my first group (before the training day) and now, armed with Mr. Stout’s excellent words of wisdom, I’m very keen to repeat the experience. I really enjoyed the planning phase - beats watching the TV any day - and contributing in some small way to folks having fun on the day was a great feeling.
TRF:Finally, what would you say to any other TRF members or groups that are thinking of replicating something like this elsewhere in the country?
Nigel:Go for it. The only thing missing on the day were other experienced run leaders. Steve invited them, but none could attend and that was a shame. Everyone can benefit from everyone else’s experiences and nobody knows it all. I would say that even the most experienced run leader in the country would have found food for thought somewhere in what was covered on the day. It’s definitely a more-the-merrier thing. Everyone will benefit so get to it!