My years on a bike go back to high school when my 10-speed was my primary source of freedom. I left my bike behind when I got a car, attended college on different sides of the country and then ultimately landed in Colorado. In the early ’90s, I somehow acquired a Trek Mtn Bike ( I didn’t buy it). At the time, I was young and senseless with agility beyond my intelligence as I remember riding Slickrock my first trip ever to Moab, Utah.
Not much later, my BFF and I road-tripped to West Virginia to raft the Gauley River for a season. In earnest, we brought our mountain bikes to WV but were soon distracted by the surprisingly attractive dirt-bag raft guides which meant more time on the river and less on our bikes. In my haze, I seem to remember my Trek being ridden through a bonfire late one drunken night… the mountain bike didn’t make it back to Colorado.
Fastforward a couple of years and I found myself holding my daughter Kenady in my arms. Then life and motherhood took over and my riding experience went from little to none.
Now in my 40s, I seem to have a little more time to myself. 🙂 I started riding again about 4 years ago with encouragement and support from my boyfriend. I enjoy mountain biking. My riding progressed, but any improvements were very minor, my confidence wavered depending on the terrain, and I lacked the fundamental foundation of mountain biking skills needed to really improve.
I like terrain that is less technical and flowier. As soon as there is an obstacle, exposed switchback, loose corner or steep drop my heart races, palms sweat, confidence drops, cursing starts, and I fear bodily injury.
I decided late last season that I needed to take steps necessary to get better and more comfortable on my bike. In March, with a slight hesitation and a pounding heart, I committed to the VIDA MTB SERIES 1-Day Core Clinic and the Beti Bike Bash.
Hands down, the best decisions I have EVER made for myself!
I arrived at the Philip S. Miller Park in Castle Rock earlier than planned, a beautiful facility which was already buzzing with activity. I was scanning the park looking for familiar flags, tents or a vehicle with a mountain bike strapped on it.
My older, beloved Santa Cruz Blur was stuffed in the back of my Subaru Outback. I was hopeful I might have the opportunity to demo a Yeti for the day.
I eyeballed a truck-with-bike and followed it. I was one of the first to arrive at check-in and the ladies were set up and busy getting ready for the day. I spotted the Yeti tent with some fresh Yeti Beti bikes.
First stop – Yeti Bike Tent. The ladies of VIDA Clinic were the FIRST to demo shiny new Yeti Beti ASRc and SB5c designed for women with input from the Yeti Beti team.
I was all over that.
I demoed the black Yeti Beti ASRc for the day and was psyched to leave my Blur in the car. Registration was buzzing with laughter, smiles and activity when I returned. I grabbed a couple of yummy muffin bites, my goodie bag and had too much fun creating my personalized bike plate.
The goodie bag swag included a cool women’s cut VIDA MTB SERIES t-shirt, various coupons, stickers and samples of Enduro bites and Skratch Labs hydration mix and some super cute earrings from Wild Balance.
The VIDA ladies were friendly, helpful and super organized. I chatted briefly with a few familiar faces from Breckenridge and then sized up the other ladies signed up for the clinic. It was a great mix of ages and abilities, a few ladies already in their tight spandex looking super-pro and others were in shorts and tank tops, a couple of ladies were looking a bit nervous in the corner of the registration area and a bunch of moms were herding their daughters to the Little Bella’s Bike Clinic at the other end of the park.
We all gathered together for a quick rundown of the day’s activities and an introduction of the VIDA coaches. VIDA Partners and friends, Sarah Rawley and Elena Forchielli, lead the intros. I was dumbstruck by the riding level and discipline of the coaches. These impressive ladies were recognized Pros and Certified IMBA instructors who rode with some of the best mountain bike teams in the country and had won National and World Championships.
We split up into small groups and met our coaches. The ladies in my group were all fit riders and likely much younger than myself. I was a bit intimidated, but did my best to relax and play it off. Our coach, Elinor Wesner, was born and raised in Haifa, Israel, but now lives in New Jersey. I loved her accent. She had just returned to the States after coaching in Israel for the last 6 months. My first thought, “They ride mountain bikes in Israel? Wow, who knew.” My first impression was this chick is no-bullsh*t and I better hold on for the ride.
Our group started the day in a large grassy field focusing on some fundamental skills:
- Body positioning over the bike
- Balance and technique
- Rolling and dropping obstacles
- Cornering in loose dirt and trust
Elinor would demonstrate the skill and then verbally walk us through body position, weight distribution, pedal positioning, where to look and how to trust.
Rolling and dropping obstacles included being able to individually lift our front and back tire. We took turns practicing the skill and Elinor would tell us what we did wrong, what we needed to work on, and then when we made some progress, was quick with a fist-bump and words of encouragement.
Balance, technique and clearing the long narrow box features are my nemeses. The other ladies in my group were able to accomplish this skill within a couple of turns with coaching tips from Elinor. It was clear that I “think too much.” On the approach, I had speed and looked confident, but then lost my nerve and confidence as soon as I hit the ramp. Note to self: Don’t think so much and keep practicing.
Cornering and trust were my biggest takeaways of the morning. The first most profound element of this skill is trust in yourself. Over and over again Elinor encouraged us to look beyond the first obstacle and trust in our peripheral vision to guide us. This single element sets up a rider for success in cornering, clearing obstacles and setup for the next obstacle on the trail. It was the HARDEST thing for me to learn and demonstrate.
Also, weight distribution and pedal position are fundamental elements for cornering. Multiple times Elinor would remind us “Stick out that butt and weigh down that pedal to get you around the corner.” When I wasn’t thinking too much, I realized this was a move I did as a kid on my 10-speed to make some sharp corners fast in an effort to get home before dark.
Lunch is served! It was a fantastic spread of healthy wraps, fruit and salads with a variety of cookies and brownie bites. I didn’t realize how hungry I was until I saw it. I could have eaten more, but didn’t want a full stomach for the afternoon pre-ride of Beti Bike Bash course.
My legs burned as we climbed the first hill of the course. Really? Elinor immediately stopped us and launched into a repeat of the cornering skills we had just reviewed on the smooth pavement, but now we were on a trail…real trail experience.
We continued on course which was relatively curvey and flowy with some mud from the recent rain. Elinor coached us up gradual climbs and around switchbacks. I was tired and found myself just behind the group. Coach Julie made it clear there were “no sorrys” on the trail and the camaraderie was thick at the top of the hills. We stopped for photos and to chat about particular corners or obstacles.
Midway through the course we stopped to work on our corner skills. The real trail experience required us to look through the corner (trust), pedal positioning, and weight distribution. My heart pounded as I reached the switchback and I tried not to think too much and just incorporate the stuff I had learned that morning, particularly trusting in myself. I feathered my brakes but made the corner without mishap. Like a school kid, I was psyched to hear the positive reinforcement from my coach!
Maybe it was the awesome Yeti Beti ASRc …maybe not. 🙂
I was beat and it hit me just as we approached basecamp just in time for the end-of-day raffle and Stan’s NOTUBES tire demonstration. All I wanted was a cold drink and a place to sit down. They raffled off some amazing prizes! A few of the prizes I know retail for more than the cost of this amazing clinic ($180) …what a deal! I never win anything, so was pleasantly surprised when I won a SMITH t-shirt and socks! A bunch of firsts for me today.
The VIDA MTB SERIES made a profound impact on me.
The next day at the Beti Bike Bash, I had the best race of my life! The course was familiar and I used my new skills to navigate the corners and climbs. I have a lot to work on, but now have a sense of the skills and fundamentals.
Women of all abilities can benefit from the VIDA MTB SERIES Clinics! There aren’t a lot of clinics with women teaching women. The atmosphere is supportive and the camaraderie is motivating and inspiring. VIDA has 6 clinics total around the country and 4 are in Colorado. No pressure, but if this sounds like something that might interest you, check out the Crested Butte and Keystone Clinics.
See you out there!
Enjoy the Climb.