Anyway, back to the bike. Ann Trombley, a local mountain bike coach and former Olympic Mountain Biker and sometimes riding buddy for Jonny (no way I can keep up with those guys) was offering a free mountain bike skills clinic at the Valmont Bike Park and it sounded too good to pass up. I've had a couple private lessons with Ann and she's a great teacher, very patient, explains everything clearly, big on breaking things down just like in dog training. So even though I haven't been riding, I greased up the chain and decided to suck it up and go. Thanks to Facebook I knew there was a good chance Melissa would be there and Melissa is kind of crazy. Maybe not 'kind of'. She's a former pro mountain biker and raced Xterra as a pro coming in 4th at Worlds one year. Plus Fearless. She's super nice but I was intimidated by this prospect so I told Jonny that if Melissa was there and wanted to do Scary Things that I would slink off and come home. I wasn't sure of the skill level of the other folks who would show up but I figured I'd work my way in somewhere. As it turned out only Ann and I showed up. So we rode for a bit on some stuff at the park and then there was Melissa and I was already out there so no way to slink off. But as it turned out Melissa was super helpful as was Ann and they taught me how to catch some air on a drop-off rather than just rolling down the drop-off. The advantage of this is that it's smoother because you're landing with both wheels on the ground at once rather than thumping down with one wheel and then the other. Plus FUN. Way more FUN. Something I've never done before. I kept to some small drop-offs that you can roll down, no need to jump, but a good place to start. Very fun and so much smoother and faster because you can keep your speed up. In fact you have to keep your speed up.
We worked this a bit on the flat, ie a flat grassy area with a short gentle slope next to it. We practiced lifting the wheel and it turns out this requires a lot of strength in your lats/shoulder muscles. Ann also showed me how to get up a ledge which requires lifting the bike up from a sitting position, even harder for me, I could barely do it. Plus you have to pedal down hard while the bike is in the air so the pedaling force opposes the uplift force. I struggled with this though I think it would be easier on a steeper hill. Pushing down on the suspension fork then lifting up from a standing position for the drop was way easier, especially when going down the little slope. We did lots and lots of reps. A guy watched on the sidelines for a bit then joined us. Melissa and Ann know their stuff and the guy knew it.
Next we moved over to the Slopestyle downhill track, something I've never been on nor would ever consider going on. Ann was trying to get up the nerve to jump off of a particular ramp so we watched Melissa do it a few times and Ann did a few reps on a ramp with a smaller drop. They were both encouraging me to try the smaller ramp but I thought, 'Oh no WAY!' Crazy talk. So I took the cheater line down that avoided all the ramps and jumps but was curvy and hilly and fun anyway. Melissa went on the advanced stuff, crazy crazy stuff, big gap jumps, it was amazing. She was flying through the air and landing so smoothly, made it look so easy. Then I saw a 10 year old kid go down the little ramp they were trying to get me to jump off. The kid didn't even have to jump it, you could roll right down if you wanted. So I decided to try it. And it was fun! No problem at all, not even scary.
Photo from Valmont Bike Park's Facebook page, don't know how else to credit it. It's hard to see the drop but I didn't take any photos myself. Here's another one from their website. Also kinda hard to see the drop.
This is the one Ann was wanting to do.
In the end she didn't despite Melissa's persistent encouragement that she could do it, that it looked scarier than it was, etc. In the end she didn't try it and I don't blame her. I didn't even try to help talk her into it.
When we got back to the parking lot, there was a guy there with an off-road TAB trailer and Ann went to check it out so I tagged along. Turns out the guy had sold his house and been living in the TAB and touring the country for the past year or so with his 13 year old son. While we chatted with him, a cop pulled into the parking lot, lights flashing, and parked so that he was blocking me in. Next to my car was a super scary looking guy in a car with the windshield and whole driver's side of the car smashed in. I wanted to leave but didn't want to go over there. Another cop showed up and the first cop got back in his car for a very long time. Finally I decided I'd risk getting in my car and I heard the cop saying, 'Your car is unsafe and you were driving crazy like you stole it, tail gating dangerously, swerving, etc. But I know your girlfriend here and she's a nice lady so I'll let you off with a warning'. My tax dollars at work. What's the point of having cops if they're going to let the dangerous people go just because they don't want to deal with them? And the scary guy was getting belligerent with the cop even though he was getting off with a warning. I was pretty mad but unwilling to get involved with that scary guy around. And I was trapped by the cop, the lot was huge, plenty of places he could have parked and not blocked me in. He could have even parking where he was but just a few feet back and not blocked me in.
Anyway, a fun time at the bike park and I'll have to go back and play on the jumps and rock drops some more. But wow my lats are sore. Went swimming yesterday and today which didn't help. Can barely lift my arms, time for some upper body rest.