Go Play: Take a mountain-bike camp to better skills
UPCOMING LOCAL CAMPS
Attend a biking camp in western Colorado or eastern Utah:
TREK DIRT SERIES SKILLS CAMP
Sept. 27-28, Durango, $345, http://www.dirtseries.com
Sept. 26-28, Fruita, $750, http://www.betterride.net
SHERIDE MOUNTAIN BIKE CAMP
Octo. 11-12, Moab, Utah, $420, http://www.sheride.com
Every Wednesday September through November, Canyon View Park, Grand Junction, Free
Every Saturday and Sunday, BMX Race Track at Mesa County Fairgrounds, $10, http://www.grandvalleybmx.com
Most children are taught to ride a bicycle when they learn to tie their shoes. When riding singletrack on a mountain bike for the first time, however, it’s a completely different ball game — steep hills, rocky downhill and tight ledges abound across Grand Junction, Fruita and Palisade, where a wrong turn can mean injury or possibly even death. That’s why honing basic bike skills through clinics and one-on-one training is gaining in popularity.
“It’s never too late to go back and learn how to do certain skills differently or confidently,” Dirt Series Skills Camp coach Samantha Sedlowsky said.
Sedlowsky, along with a group of out-of-town mountain-bike experts, recently powwowed in Fruita Sept. 20-21, on a cross-country coaching tour called Dirt Series Skills Camp. On this particular stop, they hosted women only and approximately 48 participated in two days of instruction and riding for all skill levels.
Dana Johnson, a Grand Junction resident and avid mountain biker, attended the Dirt Series camp to better hone her skills in a relaxed environment.
“Overall it was an excellent experience and I’m very glad I did it,” she said. “Not only did I gain confidence, knowledge and skills, but I met friends and have more resources now when I want to try something new. It gave me a new way of looking at the trail, so that hopefully I can become a more effective rider and not become frustrated or worn out as quickly.”
Simply taking a class may not prepare students for optimal results if they’re not sure what they want out of it, however.
Here are four expert tips for maximum education and enjoyment:
1. ASK QUESTIONS
Bike camps often rely on several experienced coaches with specific areas of expertise.
“Speak up for what you want to get out of the camp,” said Jen Zeuner, owner of Fruita’s Hot Tomato Pizzeria and a local advocate for women cyclists. “These coaches are here for you.
“Take responsibility for the effectiveness of your training,” she added. “Ask questions, be engaged, be present and understand that it is a process.”
Coaches also know how to explain mountain-bike techniques and break skills down to basic components. For example, if there’s a stunt a new cyclist wants to attempt, it’s important to simply ask for direction.
“We have a trained eye to see what each participant is doing,” Dirt Series Skills camp coach Slyvi Fae said. “We notice the one little thing to shift, adjust and change to make it correct.
“We are there to accommodate the riders.”
2. KEEP AN OPEN MIND
Skills camps and clinics aren’t just for beginners; advanced riders can learn a thing or two as well. There is always a new trick or tip to be learned.
“Don’t be too proud to focus on the basics,” Zeuner explained. “Even advanced riders can benefit from working on basic skills.”
Candace Cross, an avid rider from Aspen, came to Fruita to participate in the recent Dirt Series Skills Clinic and said she loved attending the camp because she learned a variety of new techniques. And it pushed her physically further than what she would have done on her own.
“Professional athletes still have coaches to better their skills,” Sedlowsky said. “You can always be better at it and fine tune.”
3. WORK HARD
According to Dirt Series coaches, if participants leave a clinic unsatisfied with their skill growth, it’s likely due to lack of confidence during the session.
“Having positive peer pressure in a women-only group setting helps you get over obstacles you wouldn’t normally try with a boyfriend or a husband,” Sedlowsky said. “It’s neat to see when someone makes it through, someone else is influenced to try it as well and succeed.”
Coaches also split students into groups by skill level, so they feel more comfortable while stepping outside their skill zone.
4. EXPERIMENT WITH EQUIPMENT
If a camp provides demo equipment, cyclists should use the opportunity to try new gear — like bikes, pedals or body armor.
According to Johnson, she wished she would have borrowed one of the demo bikes for both days at the Dirt Series Skills Camp because she didn’t realize what a difference it would make.
“Check out anything different because there’s a reason that you want to get better,” she said. “If you keep doing what you’ve always been doing, you’re not going to get any better. Just open yourself up for experiencing a new option.”
Also, bring extra clothes and rain jacket, especially if participating in a Colorado clinic, as weather can change quickly.
For more information about the Dirt Series Skills Camp, visit http://www.dirtseries.com. Other local groups that often host skills clinics include Mountain and Desert Racing and Grand Valley BMX.
Caitlin Row, Free Press editor, contributed to this article.
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