MTB Coaching/Guiding Provider of the Year - Shortlist

We know that Scottish mountain bike businesses are amongst the best qualified guides, skills instructors and coaches in the world. 

We wanted this award to celebrate all those companies that help us find new adventures and give us new skills and confidence to further our enjoyment of this incredible sport.  

This award celebrates all of the above.

This is your 2019 shortlist

If you wish to secure your place at the Awards ceremony - book now!

Craig Hardie Guided Mountain Bike Services

Craig Hardie

Here is a wee extract from Craig's submission.

I started MTB riding in 2013 as a way to clear my head and just enjoying being out there away from the Hussle and bustle of normal life , later that year having had the MTB bug I attended the then industry leading MBLA Trail cycle leader course in Aviemore.  From their things started taking off to begin with I took a few friends out regularly in the cheviots, over the next few years this evolved into running a Guided MTB service predominantly in the Scottish borders.

I have always found cycling to be a great mood enhancer and just good outdoor fun. I am really focused on getting more females into mountain biking or off road cycling in general, having seen the impact it had on my own daughter.  I am accredited through Cycling Scotland to deliver their GO MTB award scheme and am one of the very few leaders who consistently run these progressive award courses across the Scottish Borders catering for boys and girls of all ages and abilities.  

I firmly believe regardless of any physical or mental health condition cycling is accessible and work hard with a variety of individuals to remove barriers so they can access cycling in addition to being an MTB Leader.  I’m also a qualified MTB coach through British cycling, , staying true to my values and core beliefs about everyone can cycle I employ my daughter Emma who has undergone British cycling coach training and regular supports our sessions bringing a female face to the business.  

In 2019 this saw her running female only sessions independently that have been well received by our client group .  To this day I still use cycling to maintain positive mental health having myself suffered previously following active service in Afghanistan so I have first hand experience of the benefits it can bring something I’m keen to share with others who find themselves in a similar position. 

Dirt School

Dirt School Little Rippers (1 Of 1)

Extract from Dirt School's application:- (Andy Barlow)

Dirt School Ltd was founded in 2007 with one simple aim; to provide mountain bikers with the best possible coaching service across all aspects of the sport regardless of rider level, from coaches at the very forefront of the sport. Since inception, the mission hasn’t changed and 12 years later Dirt School continues to learn from the working with the very best and pass that knowledge in the best possible way to every customer. From world class athletes, to families, kids, novices, people who want to go faster further or ride more safely, it’s all about making sure people on bikes have as much fun as they can have and are equipped with the right tools at the right time to get the most out of every ride they have. 

Dirt School has been at the fore in developing the now world renowned Borders Association of Sporting Excellence (BASE) college course now seeing over 100 graduates, rolled out the Scottish National Performance programme that led to rainbow jerseys and countless other medals, kids programmes for all levels, an app that has seen over 15 thousand downloads worldwide and from the middle of 2019 a guiding service under the name Tweed Valley Guides. The coaching and guiding team have expanded beyond 15 staff and now follows its own internal coach and guide training curriculum, developed from delivering thousands of hours of activity every year to make sure that every guide and coach provides our riders with exactly the same level of service, and makes sure that everyone learns from the years of experience in the team.

Dirt School have delivered high quality coaching and guiding sessions to riders of all abilities from complete beginner to professional athletes from across the globe throughout 2019. We’ve run a wide selection of courses from novice to expert, private sessions, kid’s academy programmes for all levels, women’s courses, winter workshops, social summer community ride outs and a vast number of guided days with Tweed Valley Guides showing visitors to the area the very best on offer here. All of this alongside our Mountain Bike Coaching UK leadership awards, training plans, the Laughland Enduro Scholarship and our BASE programme.   

Our BASE mountain biking performance program hosts the highest number of students to date in 2019 and is the only one of its kind in the world. We have aspiring young riders travelling from all over the world to work on their riding technique with us whilst studying with our partners at Borders College. This year sees a huge increase in students from other parts of the UK and Europe, all of whom have relocated to the area for the course. We’ve worked internationally at the Danish Mountain Bike Festival and in turn have also brought many international visitors back over to the Tweed Valley to ride with us. We write monthly skills articles for MBR magazine which has also attracted heaps of different riders from across the UK, making a visit to the Tweed Valley to experience some of the outstanding riding here and improve their skills. 

We’ve been working with high profile industry brands, such as Santa Cruz Bicycles, Specialized and Trek Bicycles to put the Tweed Valley on the map as a world class cycling destination and have collaborated with other local businesses to host high profile journalists, increasing coverage of the area in widely read national and international publications – both mountain bike specific and mainstream press. We believe we have a positive impact on the economic growth in the Scottish Borders.

Off The Grid MTB

Otg

Extract from Off The Grid's Application:- (Neil Wilson)

I have been interested and involved in outdoor activities for over 35 years starting off with rock climbing and mountaineering before buying my first mountain bike when the sport was just starting. I have always had an appreciation and a sense of being privileged to have access to the places I visited. I feel very strongly about preserving them having a no trace policy whenever I am out on a bike or walking.

I started out as a club coach about 8 years ago and progressed to coaching a mountain bike and cyclocross, thereafter achieving all the MBLA guiding qualifications. I started Off The Grid MTB in 2016 when I became aware that there were a lot of youth riders that were keen on the sport but didn’t have the chance to get involved for a variety of reasons. Since then I have had the chance to coach riders of all ages and abilities, which has been hugely enjoyable. One of my mantras is Expanding Your Horizons as I try to get riders to think slightly beyond their expectations and consider other possibilities on a bike. 

Every person’s expectations are different so getting them to consider their personal progression and their potential doorstep adventures is very rewarding. My guided trips vary from children’s trips to high mountain adventures but the same principles always apply, that they need to be safe and we only ever leave tyre tracks. I also feel that these days society has become far to risk adverse and children today don’t have the opportunity to do some of the things I used to do as a youth, all legal obviously. Using tools, learning bush craft, going on adventures and being allowed to do things independently, all be it with remote supervision are great for children and young adults. I have teamed up with other providers who have the same ideas and principles as I do, which I feel is very important for me as a person and for the riders I provide for.

I have been working in primary schools running Go MTB sessions which are great as they have the elements in them to promote self-sufficiency, trail appreciation and respect, which is what I strive to promote in all my other coaching session.

I have been sitting on of the Cairngorms Local Access Forum for over a year and will be taking a position as Vice Chairman at the next meeting, which is a privilege and great way to further get involved in issues in the National Park concerning access and path / trail networks.
I cannot take sole responsibility for the Badenoch and Strathspey Trail Association but I can take responsibility for making it happen. Last year I started asking landowners about possible trail building options and was allowed to build the first trails at Badaguish, due to the presence of Capercaillie, for over 20 years. Through this process I became more aware of the issues in the area and the possible conflicts that could arise through trail building. I spoke to locals and found that there was a real enthusiasm to get an association formed but no clear direction or willingness to take those first steps, so I decided to make it happen.

Something that was brought up at the conference last year was the benefits that being outside can have on the well-being of patients with physical or mental illnesses. I have become involved with The Highland Green Health Partnership, which is a pilot project to develop referral pathways from the health sector to green health services. There is government money behind the pilot so things will happen early next year. One of the ideas that I am pushing is to use a currently vacant building next to Aviemore train station to be a hub for people to use bikes and ebikes. They can be referred to it by a GP and use a bike for a month or how-ever long they need it. The bikes would be stored there, and the local bike shops would maintain them so keeping everything local. We will initially be targeting two groups, young families as they are often over-looked and mental health can affect young people, so getting them active and healthy might prevent mental health issues in later life. The second group is adults that suffer with mental health issues.

I am always looking at how to get kids on their bikes and keep them on them. A lot of kids hit their mid- teens get other interests and sometimes pick up their bikes again when they as adults. I have gone into partnership with Badaguish Outdoor Centre to provide mountain bike specific Duke of Edinburgh practice, qualifying expeditions as well as residential course. Most training and qualifying expeditions seem to focus on walking and canoeing and sadly mountain biking does not get the exposure it deserves to get. I will also introduce and promote full inclusive courses so that anyone can achieve their potential or goal. I am working with other companies to achieve this along-side Badaguish which has facilities to make this possible. Badaguish is ideally placed to allow me to provide the experiences I want to give the riders. We can leave from the centre and not use a road for the training or expeditions till we return after our adventure. I am very excited about this and is looking like I will be running quite a few D of E courses next year.
I ran family coaching sessions which are always good fun I also family trips with another company which gives the clients the opportunity to experience a very different adventure which incorporated mountain biking, canoeing and wild camping! Parents were able to share an experience that both them and their children were able to enjoy and which pushed some boundaries with each other and instilled trust in each other’s abilities.
I also ran various 3-5 day residential trips for kids over the year, which were great fun with coaching, skills progression and riding new trails being the focus.
I managed to run some kids bike packing trips which is always good fun as well as a Micro Adventure which is a shorter bike packing trip 1700-1200 the next day.
In August I ran a mountain bike trail familiarisation day through Interopa a London based tour operator providing tailor made travel services, for 16 Norwegian farmers and land managers. This was held at Marr Lodge and some local mountain bike trails. They were over on a fact-finding mission to find out how we manage and build our trails as they were looking to develop their land with trails and link some mountain huts. I asked Aberdeenshire Trail Association to assist with this as they have the local knowledge and were able to show the clients some recent projects.

I still volunteer with Scottish Cycling coaching days one of the sessions was on the Fort William world cup downhill track with Ben Cathro, which was memorable for a lot of reasons.   

I continue to coach with Laffan Wolpax which is a great club and allows me to coach kids from all over Scotland. This year they ran their coaching session at various locations which was great for the kids, allowing them to try new trails.

GoWhere Scotland

Go Where Blue Green Logo

An extract from GoWhere's application:- (Anneela McKenna)

We’ve been doing our thing since 2008. And as you’d expect, things morph - priorities change, and what’s important becomes more and more apparent. Go-Where Scotland began as a Scotland-wide mountain bike guiding service and incrementally over time we responded to the market and evolved into a specialist Scottish mountain bike package holiday outfit with a reputation for infusing a distinct Scottish flavour into every trip.
More and more we’ve recognised the fundamental principles that drive us as humans behind the business, in the business, and everyone we work with. ‘RIDEMÒR’ is the expression of who we are and what we do. We’re a mountain bike tour operator but we’re more than that - we utilise our place in the market and the industry to bring about positive change for Scotland, for our visitors, and for those that do not have the opportunity to experience the physical and mental benefits and sheer joy that riding mountain bikes on Scottish soil can have.

Derived from mòr (Scots Gaelic for ‘great’ and ‘big’), it's the expression of husband and wife team Aneela and Andy McKenna’s passion for Scotland; it's the impact they and their pool of 10 (and growing) professional freelance guides strive for in every mountain bike experience created since turning a lifelong hobby into Go-Where Scotland in 2008.

Scotland's a magical place. For a small country, it packs a mighty punch. It gets under your skin. In a good way. Clients can experience it with our help by tapping into a lifetime’s knowledge of Scotland's best trails, magical landscapes, professional coaching and sharing and benefitting from the relationships and people they’ve met along the way.

Irrespective of fitness or ability - if it’s two wheels on Scottish dirt, we know the logistics on land and sea to make the very most of guests’ riding time, to connect with culture, the locals and to show the hidden gems, the off-map trails, the best inns, pubs and restaurants with a team of professional guides ready and waiting to help plan our clients’ next mountain bike adventure.

Our product range is diverse:

● Guided, self-guided and bespoke mountain bike, gravel and bikepacking adventures in the Tweed Valley, Trossachs, Highland Perthshire, Cairngorms, Royal Deeside and Angus Glens, Lochaber, Wester Ross and the Inner and Outer Hebrides; ● Organising and hosting industry press camps and product launches ● Community events and rideouts e.g ‘Afternoon Tea Rides’, annual women’s charity MTB mini festival ● Mòr Diversity projects e.g girl’s bikepacking trips working with local schools and bike clubs to build confidence and encourage future female leadership into mountain biking; offering job shadowing opportunities to those aspiring to be leaders and contributing Go Where’s knowledge and expertise of guiding and coaching e.g. as part of the launch of this year’s British Cycling’s Ride to Leader programme.

In 2019, we have continued to deliver on our own ‘ridemòr’ goals including a range of inclusive scheduled and bespoke mountain bike trips; increasing numbers of international customers and increasing levels of engagement with more diverse groups, particularly women.

Only one thing matches our desire to enjoy Scotland’s amazing outdoors and that’s our commitment to contribute to sustainable adventure tourism in Scotland. 

Aneela is secretary of the Tweed Valley Trails Association, a trail advocacy charity; and has invested a significant amount of time and energy in bringing together a new partnership with Forestry Land Scotland to adopt part of the unauthorised trail network and carry out regular trail maintenance and repair. She has been an active member of the board since 2017 and is also a qualified trail leader co leading dig days in the Tweed Valley. Aneela was pivotal to organising a Love My Trails women’s dig day in November encouraging and educating more women to give back to the trails they ride.

We actively encourage the use of public transport by providing clients with a detailed breakdown of travel options in the pre trip information pack. Many of our clients use the sleeper train from London to access our tours in the North West Highlands.

We maximise the use of public transport by picking up clients at different meeting points along the way. For example our ‘Torrid Affair’ pick up starts in Innerleithen and we have meeting points at Edinburgh Park, Perth, Dunkeld and Aviemore train stations.

Additionally, we are developing products more closely aligned with public transport options e.g Borders Bike Bus and (in 2020) we are incentivising customers to use public transport wherever practical to join our trips through a ‘green deal’ incentive whereby we offer a scaled % trip fee discount linked to public transport usage.

Annually, we select at least two environmental organisations or relevant causes and donate a % of trip fees e.g TVTA or NTS Footpath Fund.

We operate ‘small footprint’ mountain bike adventures to minimise any negative environmental impacts of running this kind of business. Although we are often asked about running large group trips in remote, sensitive locations but in line with our safety and environmental policies – that’s not really our forté.

We encourage our clients to consider their interaction with the environments they are riding wherever possible.

Our office practices have been thoroughly optimised and we are now almost entirely digital i.e 99% paper free.

Good luck to all - WINNER ANNOUNCED ON THE EVENING OF THE SCOTTISH MOUNTAIN BIKE AWARDS 21st November

Ridelines

Winner 2018 - RIDELINES Mountain Bike Tuition Ltd 

Ridelines is a mountain bike tuition and experience company based in the Tweed Valley, Scotland. 

The company was started by Andy Weir in 2011 with the goal of bringing his passion for mountain biking to people who lacked the confidence or ability to take their riding forward. It was a dream of his to take the riding he enjoyed, his passion for working with people and promoting active lifestyles through cycling, and make a living from it, something many people can relate too. 

8 years later Ridelines is one of the most respected businesses in this sector, catering to a wide customer base, from family orientation days, to coaching hardened riders on the valleys most challenging trails.

PREVIOUS WINNERS

H&I Adventures – Scottish MTB Provider of the Year 2016

Off the Grid MTB - Scottish MTB Provider of the Year 2017