From the side, it didn’t look that steep. But from the saddle of my bike, standing up on my pedals looking down, the little drop from the wooden platform to the dirt course suddenly looked monumental.
At the top of the mountain bike skills area at Keystone Resort, I teetered on my borrowed bicycle, taking in my proposed route — ride over the drop, down the hill, take two sets of rollers, bank around a berm and end with a small dirt tabletop feature — a piece of cake for an experienced rider, but for a mostly first-timer to mountain biking like me, it was an Evel Knievel feat of derring-do.
The longer I stared, the longer my brain had to try to talk me out of it, backed up by my rapid heartbeat and uneven breathing. I might never have pedaled forward, if not for the background noise that suddenly came back into focus.
“Woo! You can do it!”
Several women around me and farther down the hill clapped and cheered, offering their vocal support. These were my fellow riders and instructors at the Beti AllRide Clinic, a program designed to teach women how to develop and improve their mountain biking skills. One of the instructors walked just past the initial drop off, the part that had my overly cautious brain hung up.
“It’s just like going off a curb,” she called back to me.
Steeling myself internally, I took a few deep breaths, straightened up, pedaled forward, and let gravity take hold.
This summer is the second for the Beti AllRide Clinic, which hosts two-day weekend-long clinics in Keystone, Crested Butte, Sedona, Arizona, and Angel Fire, New Mexico. The idea for the clinic came together when Lindsey Voreis, rider and instructor of www.ladiesallride.com, and Sarah Rawley and Amy Thomas, co-founders of the Beti Bike Bash race in Lakewood, came together in the fall of 2012.
“A lot of us are just transforming our riding,” Rawley said of the growing popularity of Enduro racing and riding, “and really realizing we need to learn how to ride our bikes.”
They decided to extend the learning to all abilities and age ranges, pairing knowledgeable instructors with women interested in all levels of mountain biking. Ages at the clinic have ranged from 11 to over 60. Newcomers come to learn the basics, and more experienced riders come to brush up on the basics, and maybe learn a few new tricks in the process.
“Fundamentals are key and you can never practice those enough,” Rawley said. “A lot of even my racing peers, you know, are taking the clinic.”
In addition to the fundamentals, clinic participants are taught all aspects of mountain biking.
“The very fundamental things can be broken down on a very conceptual level: This is physics, this is biomechanics, this is physiology and then there’s the whole emotional aspect, too, of overcoming fears and how do you think through these situations,” Rawley said. “Instead of being a passenger on the bike you’re a driver and how do you move the bike and how do you manipulate (the bike), that’s a big part of it.”
Having a clinic designed specifically for and taught exclusively by women is a key part of the Beti AllRide design.
A “Beti,” according to the clinic website, is “a self-confident female who is bold and daring, seeking out adventures in life, and enjoys sharing her zest for life in the company of others.”
Women in the company of other women will have an easier time learning, Rawley said, than if they are tagging along with a group of guys, or attempting lessons with a husband or boyfriend.
“Women have a different way. We have our own language, we communicate things and we can think of ways and metaphors that we can (understand) a lot better,” she said.
Doing even one ride together, not to mention two whole days of learning and challenges, cements a group of women together. In addition to help and support, the group serves to push its members to new achievements.
“It’s really that synergy that gets created and it’s just very, very supportive,” said Rawley. “It turns into this, ‘Well, if she can do it, I can do it,’ and more often than not we all have a little bit of competitiveness in us. And competitive or not, it’s just, I can relate to one of my peers doing something more than I can relate to, say, my boyfriend, who’s a downhill racer.”
It was that connection with the coaches and other Beti AllRide members that got my bike rolling at the top of the skills course in Keystone. With their shouts in my ears, I made it over the drop (it really wasn’t so large after all) and down onto the course, gliding over the rollers the way I was instructed — pedals even, elbows bent, one finger ready on the brakes — around the berm and triumphantly over the final tabletop. Getting off my bike, I entered a round of high-fives and congratulations, then turned to yell and clap for the person behind me.
As an instructor and participant, Rawley has a lot of favorite moments during the Beti AllRide clinics. One that resonates with the other instructors, she said, is “that one really simple moment where you see that sheer joy overcome somebody when they did something that they truly did not think was possible,” she said. “It can come in the form of whooping or being like, ‘Yes!’ and you can hear that really emotionally driven feeling come out. It’s that feeling of just overcoming something and this whole newfound confidence that comes.”
The Beti AllRide Clinic in Crested Butte will take place Aug. 2 and 3. Those in Summit County who are still interested in learning about mountain biking can participate in Women’s Wednesdays. Instructed group rides are available every Wednesday from 3:30 to 5 p.m., with a lift ticket and full rental for $30.
“Why come to a clinic? You get better at riding your bike and the more fun it is,” Rawley said. “It’s also a confidence thing. Mountain biking is really a metaphor for life, so I think a lot of our women learn things from our clinics and take that confidence into other aspects of their life as well.”