15 November 2008

MtB Skills Clinic - 2008-11-15

I organized a Mountain Bike Skills Clinic for 15/November through the Southern California Mountain Biker Boys and GayOutdoors.Com. So many people said that they were interested, but when the shit hit the fan, only five of us showed up. It was still a great event, and in actuality, the number of students was just right. It appeared to me that everyone who attended got something out of it to make the modest cost and time committment worth while.

I arrived a bit early at the appointed spot and waited for everyone to arrive. Jake pulled in soon after I did followed by our instructor, Julius Syvanen, then Bill S and Jim H. We waited around for the one remaining person, Peter D. It turns out Peter had been there for about 10 minutes before he started asking around for us. Since there were other people using the spot as a starting point for their rides, I just assumed he was waiting for someone else to meet him. But as soon as he asked some other guys if they were there for the skills clinic, I approached him.


Bill and I have both been riding for 15-20 years. I'd put Jake in the "Intermediate" range, Jim in the "Advanced Beginner" to "Intermediate" skill level, and Peter, has been in the saddle for only a month.

From there, we moved to the actual starting point of the ride, got our bikes set up and Julius started his lecture on center-point balance on the bike and using weighting to turn the bike rather than turning the handlebar. We all practiced on the dead-end street for about 15 minutes before heading off to the trail.
The trail started off with a downhill, which I blasted down, enjoying the opportunity to catch some air on several small jumps. We continued down a trail I used to know as "Cobble 2" until we got to the duck pond near "Shits". It was decided that we would do some technical uphill sessioning while we were all still fresh and the weather wasn't too hot.
We practiced going up a sandy, rutted, steep incline with an obstacle in the middle. Bill climbed it without any problems. It took me several attempts, but I finally made it past the obstacle and some distance further up the hill. Everyone else gave valiant efforts with varying degrees of success. It certainly wasn't an easy climb. The wheels would slide in the loose sand or lose traction, or the gearing we'd set up would be wrong. Regardless, everyone learned some important skills at that early stage of the clinic's ride.
After the climb sessions, we headed down to the canyon's main road and then up Powerline. Once we climbed to the top of Powerline, we headed to Tunnels. After a brief introduction to some additional skills, and pointers on our riding techniques, we started descending into Tunnel #3. This was the first time for everyone except for myself (and Julius), and the common refrain was "I'll be riding here more often". 
We rode down Tunnel #3 (also known as "Rocking Horse" for the old wooden rocking horse hanging from a tree at the top of the trail.) and then emerged in Deer Canyon. After more pointers and tips, and discussion as to whether we were tired or wanted to keep going, we opted for the longer long loop back to the cars. The loop took us on some nice singletrack through Deer Canyon and then back into Tunnels, which we climbed back to the mesa top. 

We rode some fairly technical trails, and I was pleasantly surprised by Peter's dedication, willingness to push his limits and the ultimately, by his strong abilities on the bike. It definitely wasn't an easy ride--there were significant challenges in terms of technical features (sand, loose rocks, narrow steep trails, etc.)

After the clinic, Jake, Julius and I went out to lunch (of course, everyone was invited, but other obligations called the others) where the conversation frequenly veered into the realm of socio-political analysis (Julius is currently a student of Political Science/International Relations at UCSD, and I have an MA in Political Science from UC Irvine and did my undergraduate degree at UCSD.) Jake seemed a bit bored by our rantings, but the food was good no one seemed anxious to leave.