Mountain bikers get a taste of the Alps, right here!

Ed Oxley mountain biking, photo by Henry Iddon

Ed Oxley mountain biking, photo by Henry Iddon

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You can’t help but be inspired by Ed Oxley when he talks about mountain biking.

Ed runs Great Rock, a Hebden Bridge-based mountain-skills course centre.

Great Rock (and Ed Oxley) This is the rock called Great Rock after which I named my company. Also taken by Benji Haworth

Great Rock (and Ed Oxley) This is the rock called Great Rock after which I named my company. Also taken by Benji Haworth

He has been riding for 20 years and also teaches beginners.

His latest project is aimed at those for whom steep hills, rocky climbs and muddy bodies are no obstacle.

He is using the hills of Hebden Bridge to get riders trained and ready to tackle the challenges of the Pyrenees or Alps.

“It’s quite Alpine in the way it’s craggy, has steep- sided valleys and plenty of rocks,” said Ed.

Picture of Ed Oxley cycling. This one needs to be credited to Benji Haworth

Picture of Ed Oxley cycling. This one needs to be credited to Benji Haworth

“Much of the mountain biking here is very technical, much more so than if you go a few miles away,” he said.

Already he is attracting interest from around the country – mainly the south where riders have to use man-made courses.

“Their minds are blown when they come and ride here,” said Ed.

Mountain biking, for those of us not in the know, follows a similar grading system as ski-ing. That means the snowless ski runs across Europe can be used by mountain bikers during the off season.

Ed Oxley riding. Photo Henry Iddon

Ed Oxley riding. Photo Henry Iddon

“Your speed picks up a lot more in the mountains and the terrain is more serious than a lot of people are used to,” he said.

“Coming to Hebden Bridge gives them a taste of that and to develop some skills which mean they will enjoy their ride more and deal with the features they’re going to come across.”

His Alpine classes get people ready for the rocky, often unpredictable terrain.

“Rather than battering into things you’re learning how to read them,” he said.

Ideal preparation for riding in the big mountains like here in the Basque country in NW Spain. Photo from Doug McDonald of Basque MTB

Ideal preparation for riding in the big mountains like here in the Basque country in NW Spain. Photo from Doug McDonald of Basque MTB

Ed, who has travelled around the world with his bik,e still boasts about Hebden Bridge.

“The great thing about Hebden is you don’t have to go very far away for great riding.

“It also means we get all the best bits about Hebden Bridge. We can park here and have the back-up of shops like Blazing Saddles if anything goes wrong. We have got the cafes and businesses so we’ll always come into the town and have a nice lunch,” said Ed. “People love the views and we’re really lucky to have such a wonderful landscape.”

“People who like mountain biking like intense activity.

“Outdoors you’re connected with the landscape because you’re covered in it and especially here in Hebden you can come back and go somewhere nice. People are very welcoming.”

And the word is spreading.

Single Track magazine based in Todmorden has been championing the routes and benefits of the Calder Valley and there’s no doubt Ed’s courses will continue to promote Hebden and its appeal to the world of mountain biking.

For more details on Ed and the courses visit www.great-rock.co.uk.