Learning right from the start…the right way
January 1, 2012
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.