My Trek Dirt Camp Experience by Cherubin Cebedo
Before the summer season started, I was fortunate enough to take part in one of the Trek Dirt Series camps in Los Gatos, California from May 12-13, 2012. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into, but I knew I wanted to attend this camp. Why? I wanted to get more comfortable and confident on a mountain bike, as well as learn some techniques for proper bike handling. I am a newbie to mountain biking, but I’m not that new to cycling.
I have been a road cyclist for a little over 5 years and on occasion would do a family mountain bike ride with our two children (ages 11 and 9). Even though the trails we would ride were not that difficult, I found that I would always have a full death grip hold on the handle bars and brakes (yes, not just one finger on the brake and no one finger fluttering (small pulls on the brake lever to slow down), a full grip on the handle bars and brakes) when I would descend on any bumpy terrain, and would almost always get off my bike on switchbacks I found too difficult. I think the only time I felt somewhat confident was on flat fire roads and climbing small inclines. I knew mountain biking was very different from road cycling, and it was time for me to finally learn how to do it right.
I learned about the Trek Dirt Series camp from my husband who is an avid cyclist. For many years he’s been trying to get me out onto the trails and on a mountain bike. When this opportunity came up for me to be able to attend the camp, I couldn’t say no. It was a great opportunity to learn mountain biking skills from other women who are passionate about the sport.
My camp experience
After months of waiting, I couldn’t believe Saturday morning of camp was finally here. I was nervous, anxious and almost thought of backing out. Was I really going to do this? I didn’t get much sleep the night before either and after talking with some of the other women, I think we were all in the same boat.
There were a lot of smiles and warm welcomes from the Trek Dirt Series Team and the volunteers at check-in and registration. I met Leandra Furber (Lu for short) and Amy E. at the registration, and they led me through check-in and gave me some ideas of what the day entailed. The energy was high and everyone seemed really excited to be there. I started to feel a little bit more at ease. I even met some women while waiting in line, and it turned out they were in my group for the day.
If you happened to be one of the lucky few that reserved equipment for the day, there was a whole team of coaches who helped you set up. You could try out some of the newer Trek mountain bikes, do a trial run in Five Ten flat shoes, or borrow protective arm and knee pads (body armor). Yes, some women were in full body armor ready to tackle some really tough terrain.
After registration, there was a meet and greet led by Candace Shadley. Then we were off to the park where the skills sessions were being held. Once there, we divided up into our groups for the day. The first session I was in, we learned some basic bike handling skills. We rode around in a circle pushing and pulling our bikes back and forth underneath us. We would start and stop while still balancing our bikes as we road around in a circle. Not as easy as you would think, but I got it. Next session, we focused on braking without skidding. I managed to use only one finger on each brake and flutter it softly as I came to a complete stop. No full death grip on the brakes and fear of going over my bike. “This is great,” I thought. “Make sure to have your cowboy legs,” one of my coaches said. This means to have a cowboy like stance while you are standing up on your flat pedals and still have your hands on the bars with one finger on each brake, arms slightly bent and elbows facing outward. I had a feeling my cowboy legs were really going to have a workout and by the end of camp they were tired and sore.
Soon after the braking session we focused on drops. Our coaches for this session had two different heights of drops for us to try. At first glance, they didn’t seem that high, but when you’re on your bike, it’s a very different view from up there trying to drop off the ledge. One of the coaches demonstrated how to ride up the ramp, slow down before the drop, look, drop your wheel, lean back and roll. Everyone in our group got in line to take a turn. I’m a little unsure but I am able to do drop off the lower box. I practiced on the lower drop a few more times before moving onto the box that has a higher drop. This one is a little bit trickier, but I manage to do that one too. I couldn’t believe I had just done some drops and a few hours earlier I wasn’t able to do them at all. After drops, our group moved onto riding in a straight line, rolling over obstacles and skinnies.
“Your bike will roll over anything,” one of the coaches says. I was a little unsure about how my bike wheel will roll over that log that is almost a foot high. She demonstrated with ease how to do it. We practiced on the littlest and lowest log first, then gradually move up onto the bigger and higher logs. As we mastered rolling over logs, we moved onto riding in a straight line and over skinnies. Who knew trying to ride in a straight line would be a little difficult. We practiced riding a straight line then move up to going over the skinnies or narrow planks. My first try, my wheel fell off as I near the end of the plank. I knew I could do this one, so I tried it again. My second turn, I almost made it to the end of the plank, but my wheel falls again. My third attempt I roll over the skinny all the way through to the very end and I balanced my bike on that narrow plank all the way across. I gave a little “woohoo!” as I turnedback around. The women in my group all seemed really happy they were able to do it too.
After lunch it was time to put our newly found skills into action. We were divided into 7 riding groups. I was in Group #2 and we were headed to Saratoga Gap, a popular place for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking and mountain biking. There are tons of trails varying from somewhat easy terrain to more technical, rough and steep climbs. My group took a trail that was perfect for practicing what we had just done in the morning sessions. It was nice to have a coach with you on the trail. The women in my group seemed to have no fear and really tried to do each section we stopped at on the trail. When someone was able to clear the section, there were a lot of cheers. I always found myself at the back of the pack watching and observing. Actually implementing what we learned that day onto the trails was a lot harder than I thought. The drops I did earlier at the park on the grass, wasn’t that same as doing the drops while on the trail over a branch. I had to get over my fear.
By the time the instructional rides were over, we were all tired, but we were excited about everything we did that day at camp and everyone we got to meet. If you could attend it, there is a dinner back at Summit Bicycles with catered food, beer, wine, and desserts. You could attend one of the featured talks like proper bike fit or maintenance, or look around the store for gear you want to purchase. I stayed for a bit to chat, had a glass of wine and some food. I headed home to shower and rest up for what Sunday activities.