"Blood and bruises."
That's what Alice said makes a great mountain bike ride.
I must have had an incredible ride. This morning I awoke covered with blue bruises, oozing scratches and, maybe, a couple of cracked ribs.
Would I do it again?
In a heart beat.
Along with battle wounds, I gained confidence on my bike. After two full days at a mountain bike camp, I rode away with more technical riding skills and an understanding of balance. Now, I have the tools to take high-speed corners, switchbacks and drop offs. And, I have the black-and-blue marks to prove it.
My new mountain bike skills came during the Sugoi Dirt Series, a women's mountain biking camp. The Canadian-based company travels across North America to encourage women to mountain bike. The Dirt Series stopped in the Wood River Valley July 8-9 for a camp based at the BMX Track on Croy Creek Road, near Hailey.
Over 30 mountain bikers attended, ranging from women who were just getting started to more experienced riders. Bikers traveled from Boise and Park City, Utah to participate.
The instructional program began Saturday morning with on-bike technical skill sessions. Instructors divided the women into small groups according to interests and experience. A skill and interest questionnaire distributed before the camp gave leaders an idea of each rider's ability.
The groups rotated among the skill sessions to learn concepts like efficient gear changing and wheelie drops. With a six-to-one coach to camper ratio, there was plenty of individual instruction.
The staff included expert women riders like Denise Britton, 2005 Masters downhill world champion and Cassandra Boon, a former Canadian National Team member and U.S. pro team rider.
With the instruction, I attempted advanced maneuvers like wheel lifting. After a few awkward attempts, I learned to "pause and punch," to lift my front tire over a log on an incline. I also rode over a teeter-totter. The camp provided teaching aids such as teeter-totters, logs, and boxes to simulate obstacles on the trails.
We put the skills into action on afternoon rides. Again, the coaches divided participants into small groups. Grouped with two close friends and a new riding partner, our group rode Carbonate, in Hailey.
Mid-July afternoon heat is not the ideal time to ride the Carbonate trail. The steep climb is exposed with no escape from the sun. Between the heat and the physical exertion, I was off my bike again and again.
Luckily, our coach was Rebecca Rusch, a Ketchum-based professional international adventure athlete. Incredible athletic prowess aside, Rusch led with extreme patience and great motivational skills.
Our group finished the ride feeling accomplished. A handful of bumps and bruises marked the achievement. But, the day wasn't over. We left Hailey to attend an evening bike maintenance clinic at Backwoods Mountain Sports in Ketchum. After learning the ins-and-outs of routine bike maintenance, bike camp was over for the day.
And, we did it all over again on Sunday.