John Paul Jones is senior coach at ALine Coaching, a Sheffield-based mountain bike coaching club. Here, he tells us about bringing the Whistler mountain bike coaching style to the UK from Canada, why he chose Sheffield as his destination, and his favourite mountain biking hotspots in the city.
Tell us about a little about ALine Coaching and why you set it up.
ALine Coaching helps mountain bikers to understand where their riding is now, where they want it to be and, most importantly, helps them bridge that gap. We don’t just give our customers a day’s coaching; we put them on the first step of development which can be practiced and developed for months to come.
Our instructors are at least IDP level 2 qualified, a qualification which was developed by the team at Whistler Bike Park over 15 years ago and has been in a continual state of evolution ever since. Before moving to the UK, I lived in Canada where I did a Whistler level 1 instructor course, which really improved my mountain bike riding, and I realised how good this course was and that this type of coaching system wasn’t available in the UK. I spent the next few years training and became a level 6 coach for the bike park and an instructor trainer. I set up ALine with the aim of bringing this coaching system to the UK.
Why did you bring your mountain biking company to Sheffield?
When I came back to the UK, I wanted to move somewhere which had access to a variety of trails, but also which had a strong riding community and proximity to the city centre. Sheffield ticked all these boxes so it seemed like the perfect place to be.
What do your courses cover?
Our courses run through a progression of ALine fundamentals, flow, technical riding and private sessions. ALine fundamentals is the first step, where we do most of our "diagnostics", and is by far our most important course. The courses after that become more specialised in their aims: the flow course is where people learn/improve railing berms, pumping terrain and, of course, jumping, while the tech course is where we advance riders into steep, rooty, rocky terrain and help them become more controlled, carry more speed, and maybe ride things they may have been nervous of beforehand. We do find that without strong ALine fundamentals, nothing else will follow.
Who are they for?
The courses are for anybody who wants to ride with more control and, as a result, carry more speed. We get a lot of enduro and downhill racers looking to sharpen up their technique and get those valuable seconds. Riders need to be of an intermediate level to enter our fundamentals course (that is, you need to be able to ride red-level terrain comfortably) but we do work with any level rider in our private sessions. Our feedback is personal and specific to the individual’s needs, which really helps our clients improve. So if you’re a mountain biker looking to improve your riding, whether it’s jumping, cornering or just staying alive, we have the experience and the expertise to help.
Where are Sheffield’s mountain biking hotspots and what makes them great?
- Peak District – there’s such a variety of trails in the Peaks (long, straight and rough); you just have to be prepared for all types of weather. There are some absolute gems if you’re willing to explore a little.
- Bolehills BMX – this is a BMX track with a fantastic and friendly proactive community.
- Lady Cannings – a professionally built crowd funded flow trail which can’t be missed (banked corners, smooth, rolling bumps, twisty).
- Parkwood Springs – this is a flow trail which is right in the heart of the city and a brand new dual track has just opened.
- Greno Woods – a professionally built flow trail with bigger features and rougher surface (where the Steel City Series is held).
- Wharncliffe Woods – if you like it steep and technical, Wharncliffe is fantastic. A word to the wise though: this is not a trail centre. Any trails in “Warny” will have been built by local enthusiasts, so if you stumble on a new trail ride take care – you never know what is just round the corner… it might be a 15 foot drop.