Generally speaking I like to think I’m a wonderful husband – kind, loving, romantic, caring, generous, the list goes on and on ;-) However, despite my almost unending list of wonderful qualities, it seemed that teaching/coercing a love of mountain biking out my wife was something I did not have the skills for.

Sure I got her out a couple times, and I think she even managed to have fun for a couple of minutes, but somehow I was unable to instill the joy that would keep her coming back for more.

Though there are many benefits to getting your wife on a bike, the main motivator for me was the fact that I really like riding a bike, and I really like spending time with my wife. If I was somehow able to combine these two things, I’d be set! I find anytime I can share a passion with my wife I enjoy it that much better.

I had originally thought that it might be fun for Kerstin and I to do a ‘camp’ together, but I knew that given our different levels of expertise we’d be put into different groups. However, during my hunt for a decent camp I ran across the Sugoi Dirt Series. It seemed like a pretty A-list camp with great instructors (including Alyson Sydor, among others) and one of the camps was conveniently located in Canmore (about 45min from our house). I decided to see if Kerstin was willing to embark on this adventure on her own. After a little bit of hesitation she agreed – a quick questionnaire and a digital swipe of the Visa later, she was set.

Now, rather than recount Kerstin’s story, I thought I’d let her put it in her own words, so without further ado:

What were your feelings leading up to the Dirt Series? Nervous? Excited? What things were you worried about?

I signed up to attend the Sugoi Dirt Series in Canmore (2008) and I am so glad I did. It truly was the most fun I’ve ever had on my mountain bike!

I was super excited leading up to the camp. There was nothing really to be nervous about, as the website makes it sound like such a positive and supportive environment. The little bit of nervousness I had quickly disappeared as soon as I arrived the morning of registration and was greeted by a positive group of girls who were so friendly to everyone. The complimentary coffee and snacks were nice too ;-)

What did you think about the format of the camp? Can you tell us a little bit about the set up?

The mornings consisted of skills sessions – we were placed into groups based on ability, based on your answers to the pre-camp questionnaire. The skills sessions were awesome! We headed to a large park for the skills sessions, which was nice, so that we had soft grass to land on (there were a few falls, but they were minor). The coaches were able to teach each skill by breaking it down into smaller components and then progressing things step by step. We learned and practiced things like: high speed cornering, effectively going downhills, braking appropriately in various situations, slow speed drop-offs, high speed drop-offs or “manuals”, lifting your front tire and popping wheelies, bunny hops, riding in a straight line, going over obstacles, and more! Then we had a break for lunch which was provided (and was super yummy!).

In the afternoon we got to go out for a group ride – we rode on the various trails around Canmore on trails that catered to each group’s ability level. The rides were led by the coaches. The ride was pretty easy paced, which allowed us to stop and practice the skills we had learned in the morning sessions. We even stopped at a few places along the trail to go over some obstacles that the coaches had set up for us ahead of time.

The first day was exhausting, to the point that I didn’t know if I would be able to ride again the next day… But as soon as I got there the morning of Day 2, I was super pumped to ride again, just by the electric atmosphere and positive attitude of everyone there!

How did the camp help you improve your skills? What did the camp do that your loving husband couldn’t?

Just being in an environment of women only, with tons of different skills levels and abilities, was awesome. It made me feel totally comfortable from start to finish. Even though we were in the presence of a true mountain biking goddess (Alison Sydor), I never felt intimidated or nervous at any time – she was amazing to learn from. The coaches told us that they used to be in the same place as us – we all had to start somewhere, slowly learning new skills and practicing things over and over until you get them right.

The biggest thing was having the skills broken down into smaller (more manageable) parts. I never thought I could go down steps, but when it starts by going down a 4-5 inch step down, it’s a lot less intimidating/scary than going down a whole bunch of steps at a time. Plus, they taught us clever little catch-phrases like “Pause, peek, and push” to help us learn and remember the steps involved in the skill. It was great! You tried for years to teach me skills on the trails, but usually it was on a super challenging trail that was probably a little out of my comfort zone, so I was trying to just get to the end of the trail without any major falls. Then I’d be in the process of getting off my bike to walk around what seemed like a HUGE log in the middle of the trail and he’d be up ahead waiting for me and say “You could have gone over that-you just lift up your front tire and do it”. But those things didn’t come naturally to me, so I couldn’t “Just go over it” or “just lift up my front tire” because I didn’t know how.

What were the highlights of the camp?

  • Definitely, meeting Alison Sydor was a highlight. She was awesome… Just being in the presence of such a talented rider got me super stoked and gave me a boost of self-confidence to want to improve.
  • The positive attitude of the coaches was inspiring. Overall, it was a great environment for learning.
  • The food was great and the unlimited stock of free Luna Bars was a definite plus.
  • The awesome prizes-everyone went home with something so no one was left out.
  • Meeting other girls that like to ride and that ride at the same level as me was so much fun! I had never really met any girls that liked mountain biking at all, so it was really cool to meet other people that were into this awesome sport!

What did you come away with after the camp?

  • Confidence, friends, a renewed love for riding, an amazing improvement of my skills, and an excitement to get out on the trails and practice my new skills.

What advice would you give anybody thinking of signing up? Especially those just getting into mountain biking.

  • Definitely sign up! It was an amazing experience and it will make you a stronger, more confident rider no matter what your skill level.
  • Be honest when filling out the questionnaire… You want to be placed in a group with other people who are at the same level as you, so be honest when answering the questions. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never even been off the pavement on our bike, but you will get much more out of the camp if you are placed in the right group for your ability.
  • Get ready for an AWESOME time!
  • I have only done the Canmore camp, but would definitely love to try one of the many other ones that are offered throughout the summer.
  • Overall, this camp was an amazing experience and I will do it again every year as long as I can!!!
Snack time at the side of the trail

Snack time at the side of the trail

So what did I learn in hindsight? Well, for starters I always seem to take my skill level for granted – I thought that Kerstin and I could just head out for a few rides and I could teach her the necessary skills ‘en route’. Unfortunately, if anything all that did was make her uncomfortable and undermine her confidence. What I probably should have done is set up our own “skills camp” in a park or on an easy trail, though admittedly – I’m fairly certain I would be unable to replicate the excitement she got out of the DIrt Series. I guess it’s all about building a foundation and going from there… I’m just a little to trigger happy on trying to get my wife’s skill level up to mine so we can ride!