Category: Biking

Lunch ride…

Wednesday wasn’t a lifting day, and I knew Kiddo had another Little League game tying up my after work time. I’ve accepted I am kidding myself to think I will ever work out after dinner, maybe start throwing in some light yoga. But even that is really that’s a fantasy. For several reasons, I’ve been a bit reluctant to pick back up on the bike commuting. The new commuter bike is not as comfortable as I’d hoped. I still need to do some fit tweaking. I’ve got concerns about fitness and stamina, if I make the round trip. Most of all, I’m still a bit tentative about the traffic, both in that section of State Street, I’ve had issues in past, and with all the construction.

Yet, I wanted to ride.

Solved it by throwing XCal on he car, and making it “Bring Your Mountain Bike to Work Day”. The Oak Hill, Hoyt and Bubba’s Woods trails are close to the office. Hoyt is close enough to bike from the office – via that above mentioned section of State Street. I drove over the tosa and parked by the Oak Leaf. Got in a nice 10 mile spin. A combo ot paved path (Oak Leaf) and dirt a lap and a half of Hoyt. Rode about halfway home on the commute to confirm my path was still open despite the construction.

Not sure when I’ll start bike commuting again. Still have to work out the traffic scare demon. But damn it felt good to ride over “lunch”. Doing it again today. As I continue to strive for consistency in training, his is a great option when I’m not travelling.

Washington DC…Biking Family Style


One of the joys of family travel is rediscovering the world through the eyes of your child. With Kiddo in 6th grade beginning to understand and show interest in politics and government, a spring break trip to Washington, DC seemed a perfect idea. Planned a trip that included all the typical touristy highlights, along with side trips to reconnect with family (Kiddos sister & hubby’s brother live outside Baltimore).Of course, many of the sites were visited by bike. Others by foot. Or via the use of public transit. Or a combination of all three. We’re a get up and go kinda family with a firm belief that exploring by foot or bike allows a much deeper experience no matter where you are. WARNING: FAILED AT LIMITING PICTURES AND WORDS BELOW. Hang with me. In a complete aside for biking people: All three days I was rented a mixie (being a *girl* and all). And I don’t think I ever stepped through it. Always threw leg over saddle. Old habits.

Our first rental was from the Union Station location of Bike and Roll. We’d taken the subway from our hotel, choosing this vendor both due to location, and we’ve rented from these folks before in San Francisco (read about it). This location only had “comfort” bikes – whose wide, padded saddles are the opposite of comfort when riding all day, just saying. Once we got suited up with the proper sized bike and helmet, off we went.
First stop was the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum. Spent a couple hours wandering around looking at the exhibits. In our case it was just enough time. We were ready to move on.
Started heading up the Mall, with a couple of photo opportunity stops. First by FEMA then by the Washington Monument.

In fact most of the rest of the day was stops for quick exploring of monuments, reading plaques and taking pictures. The World War Two Memorial, Vietnam War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial.

A spin around the reflecting pool brought us to the Martin Luther King, FDR, and Thomas Jefferson Memorials. Sadly we were a couple of weeks too late to enjoy the cherry blossoms.
The day was getting long, so it was time to head back to return the bikes. But first a swing past the White House.
A great day of sightseeing. Much, much more seen, much more enjoyable, cheaper, healthier and fun than a bus tour.
On another day, we rented bikes from Bike and Roll’s Alexandria location, opting for their Combo bike rental, Mount Vernon tour and ferry package. In this you bike 11-12 miles on a bikeway along the Potomac to Mount Vernon, receive tickets to the site, lock your bikes up on the grounds and take a ferry back to Alexandria.
It was a nice easy ride, great for families. Mount Vernon is such an interesting place to visit. The gardens, the plantation house, the glimpse of how for Washington and others of his day their lifestyle only existed due to slaves.
The ferry ride home was also quite enjoyable (even if I would have liked to bike a bit more).
Equally enjoyable were the oysters and beers when we got back to Old Town Alexandria.
Other trip highlights were visits to the International Spy Museum, and using their GPS enabled “Spy in the City” handheld to go on a walking spy adventure around the city.
Plus visits to the Ford Theater (make reservations!), the US Capitol, The Library of Congress, Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Fort McHenry (oh say can you see….), seeing friends and family, catching Uncle Mike’s band perform, meeting cousin Wrenn’s fiance and hanging out with big sis, a Food Network inspired trip to DC-3, a visit to Dogfish Head Brewery, and another bit of biking this time along Ocean City, MD boardwalk.
Yes a busy week…that’s how we roll…and how we like our vacations!

Read all the way to here, and wondering why I wrote a recap of a 2012 spring break trip in spring of 2013? It has occurred to me that maybe if I either deleted or finished all the partially written drafts I have hidden behind the scenes of this blog that I might feel like writing more. Take away some of the pressure created by evidence of procrastination. Or some such. I have a tendency to start a post, give it a title, throw in a picture, and then get stuck – usually because I can’t figure out how to limit the # of pictures or words. Looking at the list in the draft folder, a few were easily deleted. Others I would like to finish.

This recap of our spring break 2012 trip to Washington DC fit under the need to finish category.

No Boys Allowed – Ray’s Women’s Weekends

Two years ago my love of mountain biking was ignited by a spur of the moment decision to take advantage of the free women’s clinic at Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park here in Milwaukee. This year I was fortunate enough to be able to attend both of Ray’s women’s events, the February clinic at the original Ray’s in Cleveland, and the March event in Milwaukee. Hosted by 1995 UCI Women’s Downhill World Champion, Leigh Donovan,these events are a resounding success in bringing women interested in mountain biking together, an amazing 218 women in CLE and 203 in MKE.

Ray’s and Leigh put together a list of coaches that read like a who’s who of women in mountain biking, too many to mention but included: Tammy Donohue, Cory Coffey, Angi Weston, Hillary Eglert, Lindsey Voreis, Carley Young, Sarah Rawlings, Suzanne Summer, Nadi Stenbrecher, Wendy Palmer, Rae Gandalf, Jeni Roosen, Tania Juillerat. The women who attended the clinics were a diverse group in all respects  A wide range of ages from 8 years old to late 50s and beyond; skill levels from never mountain biked to regular racers; interests covering cross country, jumping and freeride, along with BMX racing. Both Ray’s locations offer areas for learning technical skills like log overs, drops, rocks and skinnys, areas to work on jumping and bmx freestyle skills, along with pump tracks and a cross country loop around the perimeter  All sections are defined by skill levels from novice to expert allowing visitors to Rays to progress through the park as their skills develop. Following introductions of the coaches, everyone split into groups around the Rays park, complete newbies to learn body/bike position in the Novice room, beginners and intermediates to the sport and beginner skills areas, many to beginning and advanced jump lines, others to the pump track.

The reasons behind the success of these clinics are twofold. First by the enthusiasm, passion and expertise the coaches bring. They break down skills. First explaining in words and gestures and then demonstrating themselves with their bikes. Angi Weston using her hands to explain cornering, Lindsey Voreis using her entire body, and Jeni Roosen demonstrating rolling over a drop with perfect form.

But probably the biggest factor is the women only format. It’s not just the lack of testosterone driven egos and bravado. There’s a sense of safety in the encouragement. Encouragement and urging to not doubt yourself and just try. Cheering as you attempt, even louder cheering when you succeed. A group that picks you up if you fall, and nudges you to succeed. Even more there’s the witnessing other women learn and do. A sense of if she can do it, perhaps so can I. 
Both clinics ended with shared stories over beers while the coaches conduct a swag raffle. All participants were winners – not just of t-shirts, water bottles, forks, tires, even season passes, but of a sense of accomplishment. I will always fondly remember a young woman XC racer animatedly talking  over lunch about crying in joy when she finally mastered the pump track. Or of plans being made for summer rides, contact info shared with other local women. Huge thanks to Rays for sponsoring these clinics, and to Leigh for hosting…and to all the coaches and women riders who traveled far and near to come together for these great days of riding!
My entire album of pictures from the two clinics 

You’ve come a long way, baby

It just hit me that I’m coming up on my 2 year anniversary of my first attempt at mountain biking. That visit to an Intro clinic and short, short ride on a beginner trail was really more of a putting my toe in the water, versus jumping right in. If someone was to ask me how long I’ve been mountain biking, I generally consider spring of 2011 to be the beginning, the point I actually started going out and riding trails…and dragging my family along for the ride so to speak. But it was at the Fall Colors Festival in September of 2010 when I first did a timid ride with dirt under my wheels. Even then I knew I was hooked.

Mountain biking is an all in kinda sport. Meaning your focus has to be all in, on the here and now. The rest of world gets tuned out. Not just by being in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of life. But by the very real need to keep a single minded focus on that single track ahead while at the same time giving into an almost mindless bike/body connection, constantly shifting weight and balance. That feeling of flowing with the bike, with the trail, coupled at times with an adrenaline rush due to speed or difficulty of the trail or drop offs or jumps is wonderful. Almost addicting, Brings me back time and again.

We’ve added mountain biking to our vacations.Re-introduced my brother to the sport.

 Now with two summers of riding under my belt, it’s great to realize how much progress we’ve made on our skills. As our skills grew, our interest in the sport also increased – as did our stable of bikes. Riding trails we know over again, allows us to benchmark our progress. It’s a great feeling to to clean a trail you couldn’t before. To make it all the way up a climb that you’ve had to get off and push in the past. To ride over a log as if it wasn’t there. Beaver tree, what beaver tree (a particular place on an otherwise easy trail that has vexed me in the past). These improvements all help our confidence grow. With confidence comes ability, a virtuous cycle that allows us to tackle new trails, try new things. Downhill riding in Colorado this past summer, Kiddo and my first “Super-D” race. And in a full circle, we plan on doing our first cross country races at this year’s Fall Colors Festival.

Learning right from the start…the right way

 I’ve written on this blog how a couple of women’s only clinics are what got me started mountain biking. The first one at the Fall Colors Festival in the Kettle Moraine. This was a casual affair, almost better described as demo, which introduced me to some great trails, and got me over my fear of leaving the pavement and trying out some dirt. The next at the Ray’s Mountain Bike Park was a more formal clinic following the International Mountain Bike Instruction Certification guidelines for teaching. Beginning to learn proper body position made immediate improvements in my riding.
Wanting the same for my family, was thrilled when I saw the 2011 Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic was also offering a Kid’s clinic (ages 8-12) and a Men’s Novice to Advanced clinic. Started several years ago as a clinic for a small group of women, The Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic is a weekend long event attracting over 150 people annually in June to Brown County State Park in Indiana. Sub-9 Productions does a great job of organizing the clinics using only IMBI Certified instructors and guidelines. Naturally, I jumped at the chance to sign up my kiddo and my hubby (after all I was attending no matter what!). 
After checking in and receiving their name tags for their bikes, the kid’s clinic begin with introductions and questions from the coaches about what they wanted to learn. Coaches spent some time checking over bikes, adjusting seats, and getting the kids at ease, before they rode off to do skills drills on the pavement.
Soon the kid’s were split into two groups based on abilities. Kiddo was placed in the more advanced group where Angie Weston and Todd Boucher began working on things like high speed cornering, front and rear wheel lifting. After some practice time, the group took off on a ride on the LimeKiln trail, where they were introduced to the concept of sessioning areas of the trail.
That afternoon when I picked Kiddo up from the clinic, he suggested a quick ride on LimeKiln to show me what he’d learned. I was surprised when he tore down the trail. In order to put that in perspective, I’d written an essay prior to the clinic that talked about how I’d hoped the clinic would help him overcome a fear of riding downhills. Dramatic improvement is an understatement. And done with good form to boot. In May, he barely rode his bike, after the clinic he was hooked. 

As an added benefit, because he learned to ride correctly at the time I was also just learning mountain biking, as a family we have been able to push each other. Kiddo doesn’t let me take the bail line around obstacles. Instead there’s a lot of “Mom, you can do that, you’ve been over bigger logs (or drop offs, or jumps or whatever)”. We now feel confident on all the local trails from intro to more advanced. Our weekends typically include getting in weekend rides at our in city trails (Hoyt, Oak Hill or Crystal Ridge), or at the more extensive Muir/Carlin trails in Kettle Moraine of southeastern WI.

Mountain biking has become part of our family travels.  I was able to work in a couple of days of Brown County riding around a business trip in September, and over Thanksgiving, we tackled trails in the Nashville area. To keep active over the Wisconsin winter, the entire family are season members at Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park (where kiddo is also taking up BMX and jumping). Next summer we’ll try our hand at riding Keystone in Summit County, Colorado, our first trip to a downhill/lift shuttled bike park.

I credit the Midwest Women’s clinic with not only helping our family find a great family activity, but also with helping our skills and abilities progress at levels we would have never been able to attain on our own. This will be an annual family activity for us….and one we look forward to immensely.
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