Hi! For those of you that don’t know me, I’m Jess and I’ve been coming to Dirt Factory for a year. Alongside my part-time job as Operations Assistant at Dirt Factory I also study Fashion Design at Manchester Met Uni.
Before moving here last year I had only been riding Downhill and Enduro for 6 months and was excited to give dirt jumping a go to improve my confidence and bike handling skills. It’s been a year since my first ride at Dirt Factory so I decided to share some of the things I’ve learnt during that time. Hopefully someone out there will find at least one of these tips useful, regardless of whether you’re just starting out riding or looking to progress to the next level!
As someone with no experience riding jumps before, I definitely found it intimidating coming to Dirt Factory for the first time on my own. I got chatting to people when I was riding and started to make new riding buddies, as well as through the uni mountain biking club and Gowaan Gals (a ladies only riding session right here at Dirt Factory). I found that having riding mates who support and encourage you, whatever your ability, is such a confidence boost!
When I first started riding at Dirt Factory on a hired NS Dirt Jump (DJ) bike, it felt so different to my big forgiving full suspension bike, I wondered how I would ever get comfortable on a DJ bike. Fast forward nine months, having invested my wages into a jump bike of my own, I feel a lot more in control of the bike. I’ve learnt that it’s important to not get frustrated if it doesn’t ‘click’ straight away – practice makes perfect and riding every week helped me to get used to the bike and also the feeling of being airborne. (which leads me nicely onto my next point…)
My background of road riding meant I was terrified of falling off. This fear transferred into mountain biking – until I had the revelation that falling off isn’t that bad! In my experience of crashes at Dirt Factory, most times I’ve made a small mistake, slipped off, scraped myself up a bit, laughed it off, and got back on the bike. It took me ages to realise that when you push yourself to ride things you’re scared of, yes, the chance of you falling off is higher, but the feeling of reward you get from achieving something new on the bike is so much greater.
Whatever your ability, things like puncture repair, the M-check, torquing bolts and tyre pressures are super helpful basic skills, both at Dirt Factory and out on the trails. Despite having generally good mechanics knowledge, I still learn new and useful things every day which is a massive help (notable mentions – riding a whole dirt factory session with my front wheel quick release loose). I’ve also found that doing some coaching can help you progress a lot. Last year I took a ‘Learn to Jump’ evening course at Dirt Factory, and thanks to this course I learnt a lot of important fundamentals which have allowed me to improve my jumping massively. I also think that other riders’ advice is invaluable, it’s definitely worth asking others ‘what’s the best way to ride this feature?’ or ‘can I follow you into this line?’. By following other people’s advice, I have found myself doing features at Dirt Factory that I never thought I was capable of.
One of the most helpful things I have done with my riding is adopt the mentality that ‘every time I come to Dirt Factory; I want to ride something that scares me’. I found that after a while of riding Dirt Factory I plateaued, and just rode the same things every week. I decided that to keep pushing myself and constantly improving, I had to challenge myself to do something new every week. I want to stress that this could be the smallest thing, like pulling up more on a jump, or a bigger fear, like trying the Airbag (looking back now I wonder what I was ever worried about!).Thanks to this mindset, I’ve managed to achieve things that terrified me the first time I came to Dirt Factory!