Trail riders, time for camp |

Trail riders, time for camp

Shauna Farnell
Special to the DailyA participant in one of Vail Mountain Bike Camps' women's weekends makes her way down a trail in Moab, Utah. The next women's weekend is scheduled May 13 and 14 in Fruita.

Making progress on trail skills intimidates some two-wheel travelers, but local mountain bike camp organizers and participants insist it’s as easy as riding a bike.It’s not necessary to get off the bike when a trail meets a log, rock, or a steep downhill or uphill section. Vail Mountain Bike Camps offer workshops and programs for women and children to learn how to ride through obstacles and gain confidence in taking their bikes where they’d never thought to ride before.”You can learn simple skills to keep you going up higher on the trails,” said Edwards resident Linda McDonald, who has done women’s weekends through Vail Mountain Bike Camps in Fruita, Moab and Vail. A mother of four boys, McDonald moved to the Vail area three years ago from North Carolina, and mountain biking struck her interest as a means of exploring her new environment.”It seemed so intimidating to go mountain biking,” McDonald said. “The trees, the cornering, the switchbacks, they make it so easy. If there’s a log on the trail, you can go over it without going over the handle bars. If I can do it, anyone can do it.”

Vail Mountain Bike Camps was founded 10 years ago by former World Cup racer Mia Stockdale, whose next women’s weekend is May 13 and 14 in Fruita. Not as hard as it looks”A lot of the workshop is about just gaining confidence on the bike,” said Stockdale. “The groups are small – we divide them depending on abilities. We do a skills workshop at the beginning, which helps everyone in realizing they have the skills to do it – to pick up their front wheel and time it right when there’s an obstacle. We re-ride sections that are difficult. The women’s weekend’s are great for all levels.”The women’s weekends usually begin with a Friday-evening skills clinic in a park, followed by a group cocktail. The clan reconvenes Saturday morning at a trailhead for a 3- to 4-hour ride, with special focus on correctly riding the technical sections of trail. Lunch is paired with a bike maintenance clinic and the group sometimes takes an evening hike. Sunday morning, another long, coached ride follows, and the weekend ends with the distribution of awards for various improvements.”The more you keep going to the women’s weekends, the more you continue to learn,” McDonald said. “One of my favorite things about mountain biking is that it’s something you can do with your friends. But you don’t want to feel like the other people need to wait for you. It’s so beautiful here, and there’s so many trails, but some are harder than others. You want to be able to go on all the rides.”

McDonald’s boys are involved in Vail Mountain Bike’s kids’ camps designed for children ages 7 to 13, and have learned many of the same skills as their mother, while also getting the chance to play games on their bikes. Other instructors for Vail Mountain Bike Camps, which Stockdale runs with Shane Sluder, include trail stewardship leaders, racers and fellow pro riders – Dawes Wilson, Ellen Miller, Dan Weiland, Adam Plummer, Ted Gould, Jen Pinkus. and Gretchen Reeves.Learning to ride the line”In the kids’ camps, there’s a lot of riding on singletrack and through the trees,” said Brady McDonald, 12. “In the afternoons, we do hiking and scavenger hunts. Mia and Shane have taught us, for one thing, that when you’re going downhill on a rocky singletrack, you have to put your butt behind the seat and use both brakes, pressing them every two seconds.”While many 12-year-olds wouldn’t fathom taking their bike up Vail Mountain, or on any other strenuous climb, Brady has learned to enjoy the uphill sections of bike rides as much as the downhill.”When you’re going uphill, people might want to go ahead really fast, but you don’t want to get ahead of the group, because you have to get comfortable and find a comfortable speed,” he said. “You won’t make it if you pedal too fast.”

Pedaling fast is, however, one of the skills taught in Vail Mountain Bike Camp’s kids’ race academy, for boys and girls ages 10 to 17. The academy is intended to help children improve their results in the Vail Recreation District’s mountain bike race series, which begins May 17 in Eagle.”In the race academy, we train for the bike races and get more endurance,” Brady said. “We build up that endurance. We have a fun little race, so the next day, it gets you pumped up for the race. You have a choice to preride the course, too.”Vail Mountain Bike Camp also offers evening skill workshops for adults, group and private instruction for children and adults. The next women’s weekend is May 13 and 14 in Fruita. Kids’ camps and the race academy begin in June. For more information, visit Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext.14632, or, Colorado

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