When it comes to mountain biking not only does practice make perfect, but to become a master at the sport, confidence must be exhibited at every turn of the trail.
“It’s to gain confidence on the bike,” coach Jen Hess said. “For those who want to know how to advance, to know they can do bigger stuff.”
From July 6-8 female mountain bikers descended on Beck Lake State Park to participate in the BikerChix Mountain Bike Camp, an opportunity to hone that mind state. The easiest way to build confidence is to improve technique.
The 26 women participating came from a wide range of mountain bike backgrounds with nearly first-timers riding shoulder-to-shoulder with years of experience.
“It’s a great opportunity for people to learn basic skills because they may have skipped skills along the way,” BikerChix organizer Rene Huge said.
One of these self-taught campers was Melissa Higley, who has been riding for about a year after starting her mountain bike career on a Huffy bike.
“Everyone here is in pretty high spirits,” Higley said. “It’s encouraging to come here to learn.”
Others like Kelly Reynolds have been riding for more than 20 years, yet still attended, proving it’s never too late to learn.
“That anxiety, it’s taken away,” Reynolds said. “It’s a lot of like-minded people that come with the same reason, to build confidence.”
The camp was coached by instructors from the Rowdy Gaudy Camps as well a few local volunteers.
Most of the campers were Cody residents with a few from Red Lodge thrown into the mix.
After an evening get-together on Friday night, the women gathered at Lions Park on Saturday and Sunday to start grinding their gears.
Split off into groups with names like Madam Mayhem, Our Maidens and Black Widow, the women geared up for their education.
“Women learn well in groups together,” Huge said. “It takes other elements out of the equation.”
The camp featured a handful of different stations, each with a different focus. From each corridor of the park supportive hooting and hollering emanated.
“Put the boobs to the tube,” coach Leah Kapeller yelled to encourage bikers to get low.
At one spot the bikers worked on seat positioning, defining correct times to sit and not sit on the bike seat and when to dismount, in relation to the slope and angle of the trail. They practiced alternating from sitting and standing while riding in a large circle.
In another corner of the park a 2-foot-high wood box was placed with riders cruising over it in assembly line formation, with a squeaky toy waiting for them at the end.
“It’s to give them something to aim at,” Hess explained.
The bikers road up onto these boxes via an entry ramp and then nimbly leapt off the other end, a simulation of rock drops and rock gardens that commonly populate mountain bike trails. Even though every trail is different, certain techniques can be applied in almost any situation on a mountain bike.
“It’s good to know they get far back or far forward on their bike,” coach Lisa Murno said.
From there, the BikerChix participants moved to an asphalt road, where they practiced shifting weight horizontally from alternating sides of their bike frame, a perfect training for tight trails with sharp turns.
“When you can separate the body from the bike it makes you able to tackle any situation,” Megan Baumeister said.
The coaches also incorporated video and photo analysis into their regimen and gave a bike maintenance clinic.
After developing their new skills the riders lined up for their final test of the weekend, bringing their new techniques to the dirt trails at Beck Lake and the jump park below it.
“I’ve just learned so much,” Melissa Thompson said. “It’s increased my confidence so much.”
Proceeds from the camp went to the Park County Pedalers, an organization that helps maintain local trails and runs other bike-related outings to promote bicycling in the local area.