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MIAS vs British Cycling Mountain Bike Leader

Selecting qualification for leadership can sometimes be a little hard. For mountain biking there are a good few choices, so here's my thoughts on why I chose MIAS for my MTB leader qualification that I'll use for delivering National Navigation Award Scheme courses.

First up, I'll be open that in my other day job I have done a fair bit of work on the risk management side of coach education for British Cycling and as a result have spent a good bit of time in HQ.

I think the history of the organisations is interesting. MIAS has been doing what it does since 1989 and whilst British Cycling as an NGB has been around since 1959, and launched it's MTB leader scheme in 2011.

I approached my decision by looking at a number of things - what I was going to use the award for, how much mountain biking experience I had, and how much leadership experience I had.

The main outcome I was looking for was to demonstrate that I could run a safe, fun mountain bike navigation training course. In this respect, both courses offer a very similar remit, but perhaps of interest is that the MIAS qualification is more widely transferable outside the UK.

My mountain biking experience has been pretty varied since the late 1980's, well before trail centres - so for me either qualification didn't unduly worry me. I felt like I could demonstrate the relevant skills and have a log book involving racing, mountain bike orienteering, journeys as well as just exploring the wonderful trails and countryside around Dolgellau - both built and natural trail.

Equally my leadership experience has come through a variety of NGB courses - sailing courses started in 1981, holding RYA Yachtmaster in 1997, and then developing various other skills from Mountain Leader, Navigation Tutor award and other outdoor leadership skills.

Personally, I think that if I was inexperienced and wanted to develop either personal skills or leadership skills from scratch, I would choose the British Cycling award scheme - not that MIAS can't deliver a brilliant development and consolidation pathway, more that as a coaching NGB some of the online logbook functionality would swing this for me.

And then, there is the all important cost and availability. Despite trying to find a British Cycling date in Coed y Brenin (just up the road) it was really hard to get engagement from a provider. My experience with MIAS on the other hand was that Thomo's Outdoor World were "on it like a car bonnet" - I'll admit that I do know Steve and Julie from before the course, but even so, we did an online zoom session for some coaching and organised the assessment day to be convenient.

I think perhaps this is one of the biggest differences - British Cycling (BC) is quite an expensive course, with the HQ having a lot of overheads - this means that to be profitable, a course provider has to have quite a few people on a course, and the onward course costs for BC MTB leader are quite high.

Quoting from the BC website here - "The total cost ranges from £367.00-£520.00 depending on the provider delivering your training." And the annual cost thereafter is £43 which does include insurance.

MIAS is operated on a much lower overhead basis, and the main man, Martin, is readily available to help out.

A quick look through the MIAS course for the same level show a range of costs typically around the £200 mark. The annual cost thereafter is £9.99 if you want a membership card. MTB leader insurance separately with ABCC is around £53 and this looks to be slightly better cover than the included membership insurance of BC.

If you're keen, the MIAS award allows you to deliver a number of personal skills award, the Gears Programme so if you're keen on developing a mountain bike focused business then this is a great value add.

It's worth noting that BC do have a wide club network, so if that is your thing, then really BC is your way forward. There is a direct entry for BC's Level 3 qualification from either MIAS or BC, so that's worth being aware of too.

Reading back through this highlights to me why there are different schemes and why "horses for courses" is the way forward for mountain biking. There isn't a one size fits all qualification because the activity is quite diverse. Although I've chosen MIAS for what I want to do, there are a lot of compelling reasons to choose British Cycling. Certainly if all I did was mountain biking and I was starting from a less experienced background I would definitely choose BC. But, I think that for an experience outdoor person who wants to do lots of things AND mountain biking, MIAS is an excellent choice.

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