Thanks again for exceeding expectations on so many levels. Women In The Mountains is like being in an excellent restaurant! You are the “chef”... because it is obvious that you have a high level of expertise, meticulously prepare, and strive to ensure that the “cuisine” is presented in the best possible way. And it is clear your goal is for the customer to come away with a special experience.
To get away from the food language for a minute, it really comes through strongly that you want to share the unique pleasure and joy of mountain biking. Its not about how cool you look, but rather the feelings of satisfaction that moving in harmony with the bike and the terrain can bring. I especially liked watching the way you demoed skills. Very controlled and precise, less-is-more kinds of movement. To me that is the mark of an expert. Showing how just the right amount of exertion at exactly the right moment. It looks beautiful and effortless, but of course, it takes years of hit or miss, trial and error effort to get to that, not to mention some natural gifts. Jealous! Sigh. But watching you does give something to aim for. And I think something realistic and achievable, which is the attention to detail and precision in small movements. And simple awareness of body/bike position. Kind of like mindfulness, almost, if you’re into that type of thing?
With your progressive, incremental approach to skill building, you provided a sort of template to use in "learning how to learn” independently, which was one of my main goals of the clinic. Mountain biking is a weird thing to learn as a 57 year old female. Very hard to navigate the Youtube world of instructional videos without feeling like riding manuals for a mile and sending huge whale tale jumps are the essence of the the sport. Your approach gave me more of a sense of how I (with all my real world limitations) could get to know my bike and myself a bit better, on my own terms. Feeling what was happening with the small movements that ultimately create balance and control that you should have before going on to bigger challenges. (You gotta start where you are, right?) Beyond that, you convey a much needed, at least for me, sense that its OK to be just where you are. In fact, it’s good. Kinda like a self-esteem, yes-I-do-belong-on-a-bike feeling. Rather than a sense of “go big or go home”, the culture and marketing of these kinds of male, youth oriented sports tend to convey.
An aside: I mentioned I took another clinic one recent evening at Trailside. The park was sooo crowded with mostly young males. The instructor had us standing in the brush to the side of the landing of a feature, while we waited to walk back and do laps of it. There were lots of folks riding the same feature coming through. We had to navigate a crowd, at least it seemed like a crowd to me. I had never even been in a bike park before and was way out of my element. I got into mountain biking to be in nature… Am not good in crowds! While I was standing there, a guy actually purposefully skidded his rear wheel at me and sprayed me with dirt. It made me feel terrible. Although I must say, it may have made me angry enough that I then rode with more focus and intensity. Aggression, even? (Maybe I should have just laughed it off, but I was already pretty freaked about the level of difficulty of the clinic. I partly blame myself. I didn’t have enough (ok, any) experience riding wooden features to be doing drops off them and should have probably bowed out. It’s a miracle I didn’t get hurt!) Your clinic was an antidote to that experience. You created a safe and such a welcoming space for us and that means the world to me.
So, above, I also used the word “banquet”. That’s because of the content of the clinic being so full. Like a really big buffet. You explained that you don’t usually teach that way and usually do the second half of the clinic as a trail ride. I can see why you do that of course, but I kind of enjoyed the skills only curriculum, because, for me, it gave me more examples of “learning how to learn”. Often, we rush off to ride with friends, pushing ourselves to do milage and terrain, without properly warming up or even getting a sense of the bike underneath us. When I ski my first run of the day, I always do a few warm up stance and balance moves so I can feel the “sweet spot” of the skis. Doing the drills at slow and careful speed really helped me internalize some stuff about how the bike behaves. And gave me a safe opportunity to play around with speed, gearing, and timing/intensity of movements, etc. When you’re on a trail, you don’t usually have that opportunity. I’m going to try to integrate an abbreviated version of some of your drills into the beginning of every ride, I think.
I followed up Sunday with my own ride. I rode “Kruzer” at Solitude and was able to do sections of the trail I thought I never would. One especially: a curvy, rock garden drop with a steep rocky switchback at the end. I felt like I could slow down, and find a line, I think because I was in better balance from some of the slow drills (and ratcheting - life changing!) Even the simple braking practice was something I had never taken time to do before. It’s the little things! Rather than just doing a “Hail Mary” and hoping my awesome bike would take care of me, I felt in control enough to ride more smoothly and easily. Picking and choosing my battles, without working so hard to overcorrect and then overcorrect the overcorrections (exhausting) or feeling on the verge of a crash. That is an awesome feeling.
Another awesome trail practice opportunity yesterday. Rode Corner Canyon for first time, Vertigo Trail. Pretty big berms! Definitely a different feeling than a tennis court, but instead of freaking out, I felt like I could trust myself to experiment with finding the right speed and line to take. What a fun trail! Because so smooth, didn’t have to ride so judiciously like I rode on “Kruzer”, but instead could experiment with speed. Still a lot to learn there, but feeling optimistic I can make some progress.
Another big thank you for directing my attention to the handlebar/controls setup thing. I definitely didn’t ignore your advice about moving the controls out farther. Just needed to take some time with it. I was just too flustered first thing in the morning to think about it. I have been messing around with that the last couple days. In addition to moving the controls out, I also angled them differently. I think the brake levers were tilted up too much, which was forcing me to do a whole bunch of other stuff up the kinetic chain, as they say, finger to wrist to elbow and shoulder. With the levers tilted down a bit, now all of a sudden I have more range of motion and can get those elbows out. Maybe even more able to move body forward over the bars a bit more. Really appreciate your observations about the importance of setup as well as elbow position. Thank you, I think it's going to make a huge difference.