Dirt School: Derek Laughland Memorial Award Funds Coaching for the West Lothian Clarion

West Lothian Clarion Dirt School Coaching

The Derek Laughland Memorial Award was set up in memory of Derek after he tragically passed away due to a brain haemorrhage at a round of the Scottish Enduro Series in 2017. He’d always loved riding and racing his bike, and the Laughland family felt that something could be done in his memory to help give back to the sport that he’d always been so passionate about. 

Since late 2018 Dirt School has been working with the Laughland family to help up and coming riders realise their full potential, and every year we have more and more applicants for the award. This year Anne Laughland thought it would be good to not only support two up and coming riders like we had done in previous years, but also include a cycling club so that we could reach more people. We opened up the application process and in no time at all we were in touch with Dave from the West Lothian Clarion Cycling Club about running a full day for some of their young mountain bike riders. 

West Lothian Clarion was formed in 2008 after a few like minded riders wanted to improve in the company of others. They now have over 250 members, including 80 youth members, and 20% of their senior club are female. For our day with them they selected 6 of their finest XC and Enduro riders and we met at Glentress for a full day of technical coaching. 

Falla Brae at Glentress

Straight away it was evident that West Lothian Clarion are doing something right. The opportunity that clubs like this give young riders can’t be overestimated. They are the grass roots of our sport, and give new mountain bikers the opportunity and the confidence to make incredible progress quickly and safely. 

Working with young, confident and capable riders presents a few challenges. A big one is that they tend to measure how fast they are going by using what we call their ‘perceived exertion’. In other words, they try really hard and put loads of energy into going quickly. While this feels fast to them, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going fast. Speed comes from confidence, and confidence comes from control. With this in mind we set about working on giving the group more time to react, more control, and subsequently more confidence. This was achieved by looking at how they were standing on their bikes, how they used their body weight to apply weight and grip to the trail, and how they neutralised features in order to stay connected with their bike. They were keen to improve and took it all on board. 

West Lothian Clarion at Glentress

We quickly progressed to more technical trails and started looking at the difference between process based goals and outcome based goals. This is essentially breaking a technical trail apart into lots of key elements. Each section or feature should have a particular goal that needs to be achieved in order to tidy up the trail. Execute every one of these to perfection and you’re on for a flier. We spent over an hour sessioning various parts of the trail and making sure everyone had a solid game plan before heading back to the top and giving the group a chance to do a full run. This worked really well and certainly gave us loads to talk about as we climbed back up again. 

We absolutely love working with groups like this because we can save young riders years of clumsy mistakes and bad habits. The riders from West Lothian Clarion started the day as a group of quick, confident riders, and left the day with a mature game plan and a list of specific techniques that will allow them to continue to make progress. 

Dirt School Coaching at Glentress

We are also working with two individual riders over a series of private sessions that we’ll keep you updated with over the next few months. It’s such a privilege to be able to help so many mountain bikers upskill and an incredible way of keeping the memory of Derek Laughland alive. 

Quotes from the young riders who took part:

“Thanks to the Derek Laughland Memorial Award, as well as Andy and everyone at Dirt School, I was able to enjoy a great day receiving some brilliant coaching with my friends at Glentress. We started the day by working on fundamental skills such as bunny hops and manuals, before heading out to the trails to scale those techniques up and use them on the trails. The day was a fantastic experience and I have taken away so much from the coaching, from thought processes and line choice to new skills and experiences that I can use to make me a better rider and a better racer. I can't wait to apply everything I have learnt to my everyday riding and keep improving as a rider. Massive thanks again!”

“At my day with Dirt School I have improved my cornering, confidence and just overall speed on my bike. This is going to help me with my racing and cycling future. I would like to say a massive thank you to all the coaches and the Derek Laughland Memorial Award for setting up this amazing day for us riders. Thank you.”

“I really enjoyed the day, and I got a lot out of the session, especially working on my body position which made me feel better on the bike. Thanks to Andy and Fi for the great coaching.”

“I had a great day, it helped me improve my cornering skills and carrying speed on the trail. I plan to put this to good use in my up and coming enduro races. I also learnt about how to work to race plan. Great to have the chance to be taught by a pro in such a great place.”

“I really enjoyed the day, and I got a lot out of the session especially working on my body position which made me feel better on the bike, thanks to Andy and Fi for the great coaching”

Andy Barlow Coaching for Dirt School

And from Dave:

“Massive thanks to team Dirt School and the Derek Laughland Memorial Award. You all made an enthusiastic, capable, fun and talented group of riders and racers even more enthusiastic, capable, fun and talented! A fantastic day for all...the boys genuinely had 'the best day' and are all putting this experience into practice on the trails and in races.

Several have just signed up onto the L1 cycling coach award that West Lothian Clarion is organising later this summer in partnership with the coach development team at Scottish Cycling. This opportunity has undoubtedly given them more tools in their toolbelt to pass on to our younger riders / racers in the Club during future coaching sessions.

Many thanks.”

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