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.