This October, Head for the Hills will celebrate the fifth anniversary of our very first coaching session. We’ve taken the time to think about why we exist, what we actually do and how we do it!
Firstly, let me clarify why Head for the Hills exists. Head for the Hills exists to develop pathways into and through the sport of mountain biking. We have developed over 20 programs that span recreational to competitive mountain biking. Our programs guide riders on their first off-road experience as well as prepare athletes to take on Australia’s fastest riders. Most of these programs fall into the following four categories.
Our Program Structure
Our Group Coaching programs are designed for riders over 16 years of age. They give riders the knowledge, skills and techniques required to incrementally progress their riding ability. The intro program teaches basics such as gear selection then the pathway guides riders to advanced topics like jumping.
Veiw all of our Group Coaching Programs
Grass Roots Development
It’s tough to get into the sport if you don’t have anybody to show you the ropes. Our Grass Roots Programs give kids an opportunity to try mountain biking in a fun & safe environment. There are also various skills development programs to help them take their riding to the next level. If they aren’t satisfied with just riding the trails, they can progress further with our line-up of Junior Development Programs.
Jr Development Programs
For some kids, pottering around the local trails isn’t enough. They want to push themselves and their bikes to the limit. Our Jr Development Programs are designed to give young riders and racers an opportunity to fine tune their skills in a safe environment. We offer specific programs for the gravity disciplines (DH & GE) as well as cross country (XC). The programs in this pathway prepare riders to participate in the National Junior Development Programs offered by Mountain Bike Australia.
Veiw all of our Jr Development Programs
Race Support Programs
Racing is a great way for riders to test themselves against their peers. Local races can also be a great place for non-competitively minded riders to learn among the best. Our race support programs are designed to help introduce riders to the various disciplines of mountain bike racing. The programs will also support racers as they progress through the ranks.
Veiw all of our Race Support Programs
The concept of Head for the Hills
To give you an idea of how we came to what I imagine as a “network of programs”, let me take you through our journey so far.
In 2015, I started Head for the Hills Off Road Cycling. I felt that, unless you knew somebody who could help you, it was very hard to get into the sport of mountain biking. The Inside Line Downhill Mountain Bike Club had asked me if I’d like to become an accredited coach. Their idea was to help develop young downhill racers, but my imagination went way beyond just downhill racing.
I was playing the drums in a band that showcased music for primary schools at the time. I couldn’t help but get carried away by the thought of how awesome it would be to do something similar. Instead of music though, I would be teaching kids bike skills. For many years, schools have had opportunities to give their students a taste of mountain biking. By all accounts I had heard however, it was mountain biking as an activity, not a sport.
I think the difference is in the approach. An activity aims to give students an experience in a controlled environment, prioritising safety above all else. I wanted to give students the skills, knowledge and support required to pursue mountain biking as a sport or hobby. That’s not to say that we are not concerned with the safety of students, however the sport of mountain biking requires riders to constantly assess risk accurately.
Our approach is to focus less on sterilising the learning environment of danger. We work to provide a safe environment where students can learn practical skills as well as understand the consequences of their decisions. But that’s a whole other story!
The first programs we delivered were targeted at young downhill racers who competed at Inside Line events. The sessions focused on teaching them bike handling skills as well as how to plan their practice to manage the many risks involved with racing. We soon began group coaching programs for adults as well as a string of programs just for women.
Initially it was the mountain bike racing community that rallied around Head for the Hills and supported our programs. I had been racing downhill for around eight years and for anybody that has ever been to an Inside Line event, you know how friendly, welcoming and supportive the crew is. Mountain Bike Australia has also been extremely supportive in too many ways to mention. Once word started to spread, we found recreational riders coming to the party and now schools and young people from all over Adelaide have jumped on the band wagon!
Into the Future
With five years under our belt, Head for the Hills will continue to develop pathways into and through the sport of mountain biking. We have papered our purpose, vision and mission so that we can continue to play our part in supporting the mountain biking community.
Our Vision: We want everybody to have a chance to try mountain biking and want more easily accessible opportunities for people to have a go. We want a positive and supportive environment filled with development opportunities for all participants in the sport, no matter why they ride or what their goals may be.
Our Mission: We will work to support all mountain bikers; from people riding off road for the first time through to seasoned athletes looking to fine tune performance. We will work to enhance and expand development pathways and outcomes for all mountain bikers regardless of their level of ability or why they ride, allowing them every chance to progress towards their goals and achieve their best.
We truly feel that our programs fit in and around the events and opportunities provided by other clubs, groups and organisations in the South Australian mountain biking community. As the community grows and as new entry points, pathways and destinations appear, we will be here to support all mountain bikers in the sport.