What better way to spend Valentine’s Day than riding my bike at Ray’s Indoor MTB park with 200 other women! After teaching a full week of school, I picked up Marnie and the two of us drove down to Cleveland under grey, winter skies and in freezing temperatures. Despite the winter cold, the anticipation of the weekend to come fired our excitement. Both of us had heard tales about Ray’s and were eager to put our skills to the test and learn from the best female racers in the US.
An electric vibe greeted us when we walked into Ray’s MTB Park the next morning. All the women were ready to ride and learn from the likes of World Champion Leigh Donovan and her group of top-notch coaches. Marnie and I didn’t feel like waiting for the 9AM start, so once we signed in we took off riding and exploring. We started with the beginner loop, eased into the cross country loop, tried out some of the skills sections and pushed our 29ers over the pump track. A group gathered at the start, so we reconvened just in time to watch the local Trek representative propose to his BMX riding girlfriend! Lots of loud, tearful cheers for the happy couple from the 200 women as he bent down on one knee and placed the ring on her finger!
The coaches introduced themselves to the group, and Marnie and I headed off with Leigh Donovan and Lindsey Voreis, a professional racer and MTB skills instructor. Their positive attitude and encouragement was amazing! Leigh and Lindsey walked us through common errors riders make when approaching certain lines. Then, they each rode the lines showing both good and bad technique with their own personal tips and then had us each practice the line until we mastered the technique. Their tips and demonstrations were awesome! We stopped and asked for help and they willingly gave examples, advice and support. We learned how to ride pump tracks, overcame fear of teeter-totters, practiced riding on and over logs, and choosing different lines to get to the end.
One challenge we had was the bunny hop – both Marnie and I wanted to get that skill down. So, after lunch, we met up with Tammy Donahugh, a pro-rider from CO, and with her advice of giving our bikes a donkey kick, both of us were hopping our 29ers around the room like a couple of cowgirls. We had lots of laughs with that session!
Next we took a break from learning skills and just ripped around the courses a few times, putting our new skills to the test. The riding exhilarated us and gave us the endorphine and adreneline break we needed. After we wore ourselves out for a bit we headed back to Leigh’s session and met up with a new coach there, Rae Gandolf. There we worked some more on bike handling on tough lines with more pro tips from Rae!
The spirit of the women at Ray’s inspired both of us. From the encouragement of our amazingly talented coaches to the kind words from fellow riders who braved a line before we did and pushed us to get back on our bikes after taking a tumble, the women there were inspirational. Now if only this snow would melt so we could shred some trails!
For photos…there is the pinkbike link, there is a shot of Marnie and I that you can grab from my Facebook Page and there are a couple of photos on this Flickr page: