Saturday, October 7, 2017

Fearless Women of Dirt Unite! - The Grit Clinic Experience

A couple months ago, a friend of mine who is the epitome of a rad woman, asked if I could have interest in her coming to Decorah and leading a FWD Grit Clinic. She's an IMBA 1 Certified instructor and would be able to lead a clinic to teach new and experienced riders some of the basic, but very important skills that we may or may not learn as we enter the world of mountain biking.

Of course, I thought this idea sounded absolutely amazing, and I struggled to find a weekend that could potentially work with Casey's time frame and mine. September 22nd-24th ended up being the weekend of choice (Darn this whole getting married stuff!) and we went full-force into inviting folks and creating an event.

Registration was slow, but we were grateful that it picked up! We had a total of 6 women join (8 if you included Casey and myself) two of the women had never ridden a dirt trail before while the rest had some experience. One thing I have to stress is that if you are a seasoned rider but have never attended a skills clinic- you should do so! This was my second skills clinic and my first that truly covered basics. I was excited to listen and observe to how Casey went over skills so I could take away and (hopefully) better explain certain things when I lead rides. I was also humbled into knowing that even tho I thought I was doing everything correctly- I really wasn't. I was impressed!

Friday was a casual evening where a couple of us went over to Pulpit Rock to have a beverage and some conversation. It was nice to have some sit-down time and chat, get some #bikelife history going, and share a bit about why we love mountain biking.

Saturday was skills day and I was nervous! Nervous due to it being out of my usual work routine and I'd be helping out at a clinic. I was anxious over how I would do when it came to skills stuff. I was worried on whether folks would have a good time. Once everyone was set up with their bikes, we rolled over to River Trail so we could get the day started.

We were blessed with great weather, even tho that weather was humid and hot. It wasn't rain and it wasn't cold, so you can't really complain!

First up was learning about the three things you should always be doing-
Scanning 18-20 ft ahead
Covering brake levers
Level pedals
I was fine with two out of three, but I will admit I had gotten into a habit of not having my brake levers always covered. It was fun as we progressed into learning some skills, like the Neutral/Ready position and Bike/Body Separation, I would start increasing awareness on what I was doing or not doing. I totally caught myself several times without my pointer fingers on my brake levers- "Dangit!"

We worked on some additional skills and then went to my house that was close by for a little AC and restroom usage. We had a group ride on River Trail to take us to my house; our first group ride of the day! We went the less-twisty route, so folks who have never been on a dirt trail before could establish some comfort level with 1. riding on dirt and 2. not feel overwhelmed with all the new-ness of the day.

Our rest at the house was refreshing, and the cats (especially Figgy) were great little hosts!

Lunchtime was calling, so we went back on River Trail and rode to the trailhead, then we all biked up to Dunning's Springs Park to sit next to a cool stream and eat. Natural air conditioning! It's been awhile since I've seen the falls, they were beautiful. We let lunch digest a bit and went back to River Trail to work on more skills stuff before we headed off for our second group ride.
Casey wanted folks to see the pines, so I put together the most straight-shot route to Rocky Road I could and we walked and rode up that trail to the top. We had a long break at the top for everyone to get their lungs calm and to recover. The day had grown quite warm, so I knew it would be challenging with so much "up" however, once we got to the top it leveled off more. As a new rider when it comes to getting yourself to the easier trails there is usually always some sort of climb.
Everyone who is a new rider or doesn't ride in Decorah regularly loves Pines. Pines West and East I would say are great for cooling down from more intense rides. They are also good for working on speed; Pines East is great for working on speed with cornering. Both excellent to use for taking our lessons of the day and putting them to good use- level pedals (and what level pedals can mean besides literally having your feet level), covering brakes, being more separate from the bike, and proper cornering.
We looped back thru Pines East to Pines West, and towards the end of Pines West, Casey crashed. Fortunately, the injuries were minor, but it was a great opportunity to talk about how to react if you're with someone who's crashed and what to do. Not necessarily a lesson that one wants to learn, but a good one to go over if the opportunity presents itself. Once Casey gave the "all clear" we made our way down Rocky Road (much more enjoyable going down than up!) and went on Luge for our exit. I had the opportunity to whip my phone out in time to get pics of folks riding down, they were all smiles!

We went back on River Trail and back to the trailhead to dole out some raffle prizes! After that, those of us who were able went back to the bike shop and made way to Pulpit Rock for a post-ride beverage and some snacks. Let me tell you, the to Hop and to Hold was absolutely delicious after biking/skills on a hot and humid day!
All in all, I was really grateful for the experience to hang around rad women and see so much progress come from all of us- yes, even myself! It's a rare opportunity and one that I was so thankful to have. It was great to see the smiles and eyes light up when something "clicked" and they understood a new skill. That's why I love mountain biking- you have the opportunity to learn and continue to learn so much! I'd say there is unlimited growth- and that is why I love mountain biking so much and want to introduce more women to it.

Often times we say we "can't" but when we're presented an opportunity to learn and explore in a positive and encouraging environment- we start to learn that we CAN. We saw CAN happen...we saw TRY happen, and we saw DO happen.

A huge thank you to Casey for making this happen for Decorah- it's greatly appreciated!
Thank you to the women who signed up and made the clinic an absolute success It was awesome to spend the day learning and riding with you! Ride on!
Special Thanks goes to Decorah BicyclesChamois Butt'r, Specialized Bicycles, KETL, and Shebeest for donating items for the raffle!

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