Teaching mountain biking skills seems so straightforward… I’ve been teaching women during my Rippin Chix Camps with Osprey Packs since 2003. Watching the confidence build and the fears fade changes women’s lives, and not only in skiing, biking and surfing. It permeates into family, jobs and dealing with whatever life throws your way. At Red Rocks Rendezvous, Jeff Fox, the bike marketing manager for Osprey, and myself were in charge of teaching men’s and women’s mountain bike camps. Most of these participants are climbers, looking to do something in addition to all the amazing rock climbing camps at the event.
This year I had tons of women’s only camps, which is what I have dreamed and hoped for. I founded my camps because I was frustrated with how differently guys learned than gals. The only advice I learned when I first started mountain biking was chain ring ratios, “just go for it” and “if you don’t come back bloody, it wasn’t a good ride”. It didn’t work for me. I had to name certain moves, figure out where my pedals had to be just perfectly over logs, where my chin needed to be pointing and every little detail of my ride. Slowly, by teaching myself this way, I really learned to ride, and then was able to figure out the exact meaning of “just go for it”.
So my skills stations were born. I mostly taught in the parking lot and not on trails because it was less intimidating for beginners. Switchbacks, log piles, bridges, teeter-toters and ramps all to be mastered without dirt, sweat and tears.
Its weird that I didn’t notice, but maybe I just don’t teach guys very often. At our clinic last month, men were bored in 5 minutes, but the gals could have spent all day learning baby steps. The dudes just wanted to be out of the trails doing their version of a Nissan truck commercial — looking to get as rad as possible regardless of skill.
While I may be generalizing, I have to say, I miss teaching guys. Oftentimes it includes more riding and less talking. Guys are so simple sometimes. But the real take away here is to celebrate our differences. Sometimes we need to study something, break it down into baby steps and master it piece by piece. But other times we just need to throw all that out the door, grab our Osprey Pack and kick some ass.
Alison Gannett is a World Champion Extreme Freeskier, founder of The Save Our Snow Foundation and an award-winning global cooling consultant who has spent her life dedicated to solutions for climate change.