Ride Like a Girl…Ray’s Women’s Weekend
February 28, 2011
Seriously, they expect me to ride up that ramp the very first thing…don’t they realize topping little steep hills is one of my weaknesses…I am going to embarrass myself right from the start…I have to get to the top…..
Ok, I know what to do, pedal hard, shift weight forward when losing momentum towards the top, keep pedalling…..
And so began the day at the Women’s Weekend Ride and Clinic at Rays Indoor Mountain Bike Park in Milwaukee. I’d read about the women’s weekends (they also do one each year at their Cleveland location) on the forums of Team Estrogen and MTBR.
I was both nervous and excited about this day. Kiddo and I have been talking about checking out Ray’s since it opened, but I’ve been a bit too intimidated by my lack of experience and fear of riding ladders to go on my own. However, when I saw they’d be having the park closed down to women only with a free clinic, I jumped at the chance.
Then it hit me, the other half of the equation. That the MTB mantra of “Momentum is your friend” meant…
Oh shit, they expect us to ride down the ramp to hit the ladders….now I’m seriously freaking. I don’t know how to do this. The one time I tried to ride the wooden skill obstacles at Muir had been a bit of a disaster.
I must not have been the only one with a bit of fear showing on her face. When Tania and Jeni, our coaches, arrived, they sized up the group, moved us off the ramp, and over to a flat area to work on beginner skills. Tania and Jeni are both graduates of the International Mountainbike Instructor Certification (IMIC) program and followed that program for beginners. We learned bike-body positioning from neutral to attack position, how to brake, steer, shift weight forward and back, stop fast bracing our heels down, and began to work on front wheel lifting. Tania or Jeni would talk us through the skills, demonstrate and then have us practice on the flats, offering comments and suggestions to each rider individually.
Quickly our confidence grew and the group headed back over to the ramps, to the beginner sport area. It was time to use our new skills on the trails. The coaches stayed down on the runs. This position allowed them to coach the riders as they passed; often giving extra pointers as the rider headed back up to the ramps. They encouraged us to try increasingly difficult obstacles. The teeter tooter, going over a small log, a larger log, riding over a boulder, pedaling our way through a rock garden.
Even “picking me up” when this small patch of rocks, taught me a slightly painful lesson about momentum… specifically what happens when the bike stops and you don’t, my first “endo”. Not going fast enough, looking down, my front tire stopped by a rock, me flipping over the bars, hitting my head. Being both embarrassed and just slightly disorientated. A quick check over by one of the Ray’s staff. Then being encouraged by Tania to try a slightly easer run to get my confidence back. And finally moving back to this line to make it through, prove to myself that I could do it.
I feel like I learned so much on this day. I’m getting more confident in trusting that I can look ahead, becoming more aware of my position on the bike. Understanding a bit more of the difference between controlled momentum and out of control speed. That much of this sport I am enjoying learning is a mental game, pushing both physical limits and those set by our minds…..which makes it all that much more appealing to me.
Ray’s has done a great job in building this facility. There’s something for all skills levels. A great option during the cold and snow. And this women’s weekend a perfect way to get acquainted. I can’t wait to take these skills out on the dirt. And am even more excited for the Midwest Women’s Clinic in June; an event hosted by Sub-9 productions, a company owned by Tania and her husband. Can’t wait!
Time to try something new, a bit of mountain biking………
September 25, 2010
In one of the many biking forums I pop into from time to time, I discovered there would be a Women’s MTB Skill Clinic at the Fall Color Festival. TrekWomen’s Demo team was doing the clinic (and providing some great demo bikes) while the festival itself is hosted by the South Kettles chapter of WORBA (Wisconsin Off-Road Bicycling Association). The Fall Color Festival is a mountain bike event held annually at the John Muir trails in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest of southeastern WI. The festival consists of several races of varying length, a children’s ride, and of course, the women’s skill clinic. Oh, yeah, and a beer garden…….. How could I resist?
I’d emailed the Trek Fit for Women team the day before to ask about a demo bike for the clinic. Lindsay Bradley of Trek emailed me back that she’d hold a Trek Fuel EX 8 WSD ( a sweet, sweet full suspension model) for me. Because I sent my height and weight, she even had the proper size bike selected and had pre-set the hydraulics. All that was left to do was swap out to SPD pedals.
Wasn’t really sure what to expect with the clinic. After all, I’ve only been biking for a bit over a year, and with the exception of a few loops around the Hoyt trails in Wauwatosa, WI (a project by Metro Mountain Bikers, the Milwaukee chapter of WORBA), I’d never been mountain biking. I was worried that my lack of experience would hold back the rest of the group. And that I’d be the oldest by far. Didn’t need to worry about either. Of the 9 or 10 women in the group, I’d guess 5 were in their 40’s or older. There was a variety of levels of experience in the group with other beginners like me. I, though, was the only beginner wearing click in shoes. And on that note, let’s just say while I would never ride without them, I have done myself no favors with my road bike habit of clipping out well in advance of stops. That is not an effective habit for mountain biking, and I desperately need to develop more of a second nature of clicking out quickly (more on that in a bit)!
We began the clinic in the brand new skills section of the John Muir trails. Lindsay was our instructor. Here she made sure everyone understood how to shift, how to brake (gotta work on that single finger thing), explained about momentum over obstacles, standing and riding with pedals level, always looking 30 or so feet ahead and a variety of other tips.
We made several laps around the skills course. Signs entering the area explained this is a work in progress – to date three wooden skill obstacles are built. Lindsay augmented the course with a small log for us to ride over, and a section of 2 4×4’s laid parallel about 8-10″ apart. It was this narrow obstacle that gave me the most trouble. Lindsey reminded me to look ahead, not down. Mentally I really struggle with keeping the bike on a narrow path. The look ahead hint makes a huge improvement. Did have my first fall in this area – solely due to having to stop quickly as someone balked at an obstacle and not getting unclipped. Scared the other women, bruised my ego a tad bit, but jumped right back on.
Once we were comfortable here, it was time to ride a trail. We were somewhat limited to where we could ride because the races were still running. Had a bit of confusion at the beginning, accidentally ending up on the race course where several riders flew by our group. Found the brown trail. Formerly known as the red trail, this is a great beginner trail. A couple of gentle rock gardens, some fast downhill sections (remember I’m a beginner), a punchy uphill section. Took a bad line in the sharp turn leading to the uphill section, rear wheel caught a big root as I turned and spun out from under me. Once again, didn’t get a foot out fast enough to catch myself. Fall two. Did I mention I need to work on un-clipping fast?
After the ride, we went back to the skills area, where Lindsay demonstrated how to change a flat tire, and patiently answered all of our questions. Questions which ranged from bike repair and maintenance, full suspension versus hard tail, 26 vs 29, best group rides, bike clothing and gear.
As to the festival itself….very nicely run. Bikes and bikers everywhere. Riders of all ages and sizes.
Beer and food. Highly recommend going if you are in the area – it’s the annual fundraiser for the trails, and a darned good time.
Unfortunately, I was in the clinic during the main races so don’t have any pictures from those. However, was fun to see the kids taking over the course in the afternoon.
Even with that fall (ok, 2, but who’s counting), really loved the day. Mountain biking brings an entirely different aspect into riding. On the road, there’s a rhythm to riding that becomes almost hypnotic, mindless; while mountain biking requires a constant connection with the bike. Getting off your saddle, shifting weight forward and back, holding pedals in a position to not hit rocks or roots, finding lines. All provide a challenge, a change. Still love the road bike, but can tell I will do more of this style of riding. Having the opprotunity of learning this within a group of women was a bonus, a huge bonus. (Thanks, Trek!!) And they even gave us gifts, and not to mention let us ride some great bikes.
Wine Country Trip: Part 4 Biking
August 28, 2010
Alright, this 4 part series on my trip to wine country is finally coming to a close. You can catch the other pieces, by clicking below:
Day One: Sonoma, Wine Country Bikes
Wine Country Bikes is located a couple of blocks outside downtown Healdsburg. They rent Trek bikes with a variety of options from Hybrid/fitness style Trek 7200 to high end Trek Madone road bikes for those wanting to feel like Lance Armstrong for the day. I knew our day riding in Sonoma would be the longer and hillier of our routes, and decided to go with their Trek 2.1 Road bikes. These bikes were nicely equipped with a computer to track mileage, time and speed, a back rack and expanding trunk bag big enough to hold a bottle of wine, or pair of shoes, a jacket or lunch – or a combination of the above. They’d also swapped out the standard pedals for a set of Shimano SPD Sport clips. A couple of spare tubes and a multi tool completed the package.
Well, not quite….the rental also includes free roadside service within the area shown on their guide maps. Which proved to be a good thing.
Wine Country Bikes location in Healdsburg gives you the option of heading south towards Windsor/Graton/Sebastopol for a much more challenging hilly route, west out River Road towards the coast, or north through Dry Creek Valley. We choose to head north, creating a 26 mile route through somewhat rolling terrain (a bit over 1000ft elevation gain/loss). The shop suggested that with winery stops, lunch etc this would make a good days ride.
We rode a quick tour of Healdsburg then west to pick up the southern end of West Dry Creek Road (which parallels Dry Creek Road). The shop had warned us the only place to pick up lunch would be the Dry Creek General Store, requiring a quick mile across Lambert Bridge Road (and the actual Dry Creek) then back after grabbing our lunch to go. The plan was to continue onward with the lunches, picnicking at either Preston or Bella. The plan got slightly altered when in a bit of deja vu to our Ride for the Arts experience, my husband got a rear flat.
My first real bike "ride" – Miller Lite Ride for the Arts
June 8, 2010
This weekend I did my first organized bike ride. Until now all of my cycling has been done either solo or with one or two other riders – in fact with the same one or two other riders, my son or my husband. Unless of course, you count time on a compu-trainer with other “real” riders, teaching me that my pace has, well, some room for improvement.
The combination of worrying about pace combined with an uneasiness in having another bike too close to my wheel (defined by within several bike lengths) had me just a tad concerned about an organized ride. At the same time, it is something I want to do – and if I do plan on finishing a triathlon, something I need to get over.
This was the perfect first ride. Many different options for length (5, 12, 25, 65, and 75 miles) with staggered start times, many volunteers along the route to keep you on course, well placed and stocked oases, and as we found excellent rider support.
Hubby was doing ride with me and we choose to do the 25mile distance – one we can easily ride, and knew would not be a challenge. The ride had an early start so the night before we got everything set up, clothes laid out, drink bottles filled and chilled, rack on car, spare tube and tool kits, and road ids set on the counter next to car keys and coffee mugs. I checked the pressure and aired up my bike tires. Morning brought the hint of a beautiful but cool day – perfect riding weather. And the first of our mishaps – two flat tires on my bike. I’d not closed either valve correctly. Oops.
Starting line was the Summerfest main gate, and it was filled with bikes when we arrived.
Appreciating things close to home and heart…
April 13, 2010
From reading this blog, you’d think I lived in Chicago. There was a post about bike riding along their lakefront trail, a streetscape post, another streetscape post, and yet another streetscape post. Fact is I live in a suburb of Milwaukee – another city with a great lakefront along beautiful Lake Michigan. This weekend my son (one of the things closest to my heart) and I took advantage of a gorgeous spring day to ride along Milwaukee’s Oak Leaf Trail in the section from the Summerfest grounds, around Lakefront Park and north to Bradford Beach.
First stop was a cruise around Lakefront Park which brought us to the back-side of the now empty Henry Maier Festival Park, aka Summerfest grounds. So odd to see this empty – but the Harley stage and the Miller Lite stage brought a smile to my face – honoring these two icons of our proud city.
Moving onward, the smart (read, sneaky) Mom in me knew that in order to make *my* goal of riding 10 miles that we needed to take the occasional break. Which we did, first stopping at the park in front of Discovery World to play some tunes – on the bench and the pebble waterfall, a quick pause on the promenade by the art museum to watch a couple of spear fishers and finally a stop to check out the kite shop in Veteran’s Park.
McKinley Beach caused us to wonder, how crazy you have to be to be swimming in Lake Michigan in early April. While Bradford Beach brought another hint of summer, and that beach’s strong volleyball tradition.
We enjoyed our stop at what appears to be a new fitness area. I got a kick out of showing the guy you see struggling on the yellow apparatus how an assisted chin-up machine works – I did a couple of sets of squats, assisted chin-ups and back extensions, while my competitive gymnast son gave the p-bars a work-out.
After we left the fitness area, kiddo asked me if he’d ridden 1.5 miles yet. I fessed up and told him, he’d ridden almost five miles. Which led him to proclaim he was going to ride 10 miles this day. We made several laps around Lakefront Park in order to accomplish this goal. What fascinated me was how often he stood to ride, or assumed the bent over determine pose of acceleration. Made me realize the fun of riding as a child – and maybe understand a little the draw of single speeds. Not that I’m going *there* anytime soon – but I get how they might re-connect with the childhood joy of riding.
Once we accomplished the goal of 10 miles, we headed back to the car. With the kiddo telling me his next goal is 15 miles, and then 20. Meanwhile, I was reminded of what a great city I am privileged to live in! Not to mention I am blessed with one great kiddo!