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.