No Boys Allowed – Ray’s Women’s Weekends
March 23, 2013
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.
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.
You’ve come a long way, baby
September 5, 2012
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.
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
January 1, 2012
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.
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!