Summer Sunday: Lessons From Bike Camp

Summer Sunday: Lessons From Bike Camp

IMG_2089 This spring, when the winter snow melted off the trails and I got back on my bike, I felt happy. It wasn’t contentment or fulfillment —or some hard earned new age happiness that one can only achieve though practicing mindfulness or gratitude. Instead, it was good old-fashioned, instamatic happiness. The kind that makes you smile in your belly. The kind where the world feels right and you like it.

On this day, I thought to myself, “Why can’t I just figure out a way for someone to pay me to ride my bike?” Admittedly, the question is preposterous, yet as I’ve found, not entirely ridiculous.

Because as spring abruptly turned to summer (as it does the second week of June in a high alpine mountain town like Telluride) I put my head together with who I’ll call Telluride’s biking Buddha, Max Cooper, and thought aloud, “What if we put together youth mountain bike camps, maybe tried to build a team?”

“Yup,” he agreed. We needed to do it.

Cooper is passionate about all things cycling, is a bike mechanic at Paragon/Boot Doctors (actually a Bike Whisperer), is driving the San Miguel Bike Alliance in getting a trail plan to build more single track in Telluride, and rides and guest coaches with the Durango DEVO Team (arguably the best youth mountain bike program in the nation) whenever he can.

It seemed he too would be psyched to find a way for someone to pay him to ride his bike. Hell, he’d probably do it for free.

This summer Telluride Mountain Bike Camp was born. We’re not just riding with kids, but teaching them how to ride so they can use cycling as a method of exploration, fitness, and most of all fun. Maybe a few of them will even want to compete. But most importantly, we’re hoping to share a little of that good old-fashioned happiness that cycling has brought to us (and, as they get older, some of the suffering too).

Here are a few lessons from our first summer of camp. Use this with your kids or yourself to become a better rider.

photo 2Lesson #1: Level pedals, chicken elbows: Technical isn’t it? This is the first lesson at Mountain Bike Camp and we use it to get kids in a strong and safe position on their bike. Have you ever seen someone go over a bump or terrain change sitting upright with their pedals at 12 and 6? They look stiff and unstable. We want kids to get their pedals at 9 and 3 and bend their elbows and knees so they can absorb the terrain under them.

Get in the Pump Track: The pump track behind the skateboard ramp in Town Park is a great place to practice level pedals, chicken elbows (basic body position) and line. The idea is to get around it without pedaling. Pump your bike over the bumps and ride high on the turns to gain momentum – just like you need to on the berms of the trails. If Cooper gets his way, you’ll see a lot more pump tracks around town.

photo 1Explore, Get Dirty, Get Wet: Kids love biking because you can go further and faster than on foot, and get to places you can’t get in a car. They find islands on the Valley Floor and alternate routes and jumps where you won’t see them. They love trying to cross the river on their bikes, and they don ‘t care if their feet get wet. They also don’t care if they get muddy, as long as you don’t.

Bruises are Part of the Learning Process: Yup, your kids will fall off their bikes. They may come home with a bruise and a skinned knee. It’s part of the learning process and each brings with it its own story and bit of grit. Each bruise will be accompanied with a smile at the end of the day.

Play Games and Learn Balance: Kids don’t need to “go on a ride” to become a better rider. Watch how they play on their bikes. They’re learning invaluable bike handling skills and balance. Go join them!

wileyairMake Sure Their Bikes Work: If kids are riding and improving, they’re naturally going to progress. Then they’ll want to ride more difficult trails. It’s imperative that their brakes and gearing work and that their seats are at the appropriate height. We often see kids with their seats too low. They should be able to put their feet down in a pinch, and have their knees slightly bent when their pedal is extended all the way down. Have your child practice getting on and off his bike safely. As the trails get harder, they’ll use this skill.

Start Small: Don’t push the miles when you ride with your kids. Wait until they’re asking for more. Start in the Town Park and on the River Trail. Make your way out on the Valley Floor. You don’t have to do the whole trail in a day. Cross the Boomerang Bridge and ride the right side heading out of town; it’s a little more user-friendly. No shame in shuttling back. Stop for ice cream at the Conoco or Texaco. Before you know it, they’ll be asking to do more. Once they’re comfortable on the Valley Floor, try the Galloping Goose from Lawson Hill Neighborhood to Illium (shuttle back and make sure they walk their bikes on washed out areas). Next try the Galloping Goose railroad bed from Ames to Sunshine Mesa Road. Before you know it, you’ll be chasing them on Prospect.

And oh yeah, make sure to have fun!

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