Finn Swift Singletrack 2019

Following an incredible mountain biking expedition in 2018, run by 204 (NI) Fd Hosp to the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain, the opportunity arose once more in 2019.

2 RIFLES were planning their own expedition and had some places available for 204 personnel.

Knowing what we knew from our previous experience, on what a challenging environment this region offered, we were more than thrilled to be able to send eight of our unit members on this trip.

Sponsored by the Ulysses Trust, the expedition started for 204 0n Sat 25 May, lasting 8 days up until the 1 Jun 19. 2 RIFLES had already been in location from 10 May and assisted in the airport pick up from Malaga, a two hour journey high up into the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

The first day involved safety checks on all the kit and mountain bikes, ensuring it was all capable of dealing with the extreme conditions. The trails in the mountains are really old goat tracks, incredibly rocky, steep with sheer drops on either side.

Our local expert, Michael, who runs ‘Switch-backs’ Mountain Biking in the local area, was able to give us a heads up on which trails were best for varying levels of competence. The majority are extremely technical and beginners were required to spend much of their time tackling each obstacle in slow time. Even learning which gear to be in is tricky if you haven’t done it before. 204 are fortunate in having their own instructors, many who were already familiar with the trails from their previous visit.

Each day, as everyone progressed with their skill set, more challenging routes were taken on. Although uplift with the bike trailer was available to some of the trails, many involved an uphill cycle, not to mention traversing rivers with your bike on your shoulders!

Water flows down the mountain from the snow caps, but as many locals told us, the winters are becoming milder, with less snow, so less water to maintain the mountain villages.

Mountain biking is renowned for causing bodily injury, especially when you are exhausted from physical effort. Fortunately, only minor injuries were incurred, along with total exhaustion, both physical and mental. Mountain biking constantly involves decision making, as well as upper and lower body strength. Many mountain bikers, including professional, are resorting to electrically assisted bikes, to assist in uphill stretches and to maintain their strength for the tricky downhill.

The terrain in the mountains is especially hard on the bikes, so changing an inner tube was a skill quickly learnt by everyone.

The small bike repair shop in Bubion received quite a lot of business from us, for the more difficult repairs.

As the week progressed, everyone had slotted into a particular group depending on competence and if anyone wanted particular tuition on one aspect or another, this was easily accommodated.

Of particular importance, was the evening ‘O’ Group, when everyone could feed back their experiences of the day.

Unfortunately, a week goes past too quickly and before we knew it, we were packing up to go home. All those from 204 have benefitted enormously from this week and cannot recommend mountain biking highly enough as an adventure training activity.

CONCLUSION

Being able to join 2 RIFLES on their mountain biking expedition to the Sierra Nevada mountains this summer, was of huge benefit to 204 (NI) Fd Hosp. Mountain biking is a growing adventure training activity and although it can be run closer to home, the prospect of tackling the tricky slopes in Spain was a challenge too good to miss. Our mountain bikers need to experience different terrains, in order to add to their skill set. 2 RIFLES assisted with the logistics of getting us all there and with the grant from The Ulysses Trust, the option to participate was open to all members of 204. From novice to more experienced, all those unit members who wished to come along with us were able to do so. Listening to all the stories and adventures everyone had, has certainly got the attention of those who didn’t go! Taking on something that initially seems beyond your capability is a skill that 204 enjoy very much!

“ I have literally pushed myself up to and beyond my mountain biking capability, in the most challenging environment I could ever imagine…

“It is so stunningly beautiful here in Bubion, but also the scariest place I have ever mountain biked. I have learnt to trust myself and my mountain biking skills and I know that this experience will enhance my self confidence and make me a more confident instructor.”
SSgt Smith from 204 (NI) Fd Hosp

With huge thanks to 2 RIFLES and the Ulysses Trust for supporting us.

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With thanks to:

Ulysses Trust

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