Dirt Series, take 3.
It’s been 8 years since my last camp. After the 2011 camp, I gained a lot of skills, rode a ton, did some races, and proceeded to ride very little for a few years.
I upgraded to a fancy new bike this year, and decided to shake out the rust with a clinic.
The format of the camp is still the same: skill sessions in the mornings and practice on the trails in the afternoons. Even though most of my sessions were review, I still got something out of each of them.
Straight Line Riding – I’m way more comfortable adjusting my balance on a plank now than I was before. The one surprise was when our instructor asked us to modulate our rear brake while pedaling for control. I’d never considered this combo and was skeptical at first, but then I tried it on a plank and it felt great! Super fascinating.
Downhill Dismount – I still remember my first Dirt Series where I learned the magic of dismounting behind the bike on a downhill. I haven’t needed it recently, and hadn’t tried it on my new bike. Buzz!! Hello, 29″ tires.
Slow Speed Drops – Basically pushing the front of the bike off a small drop. While I can do this easily, I couldn’t quite assemble all the instructions into how exactly our coach Lindsay wanted us to look until she talked about how Aaron Gwin’s head and torso remain perfectly still as his bike does goes full rodeo under him. With this in mind, I executed the next go around to spec. What drop?
High Speed Cornering – Attack position! Body forward, chest down, elbows up. Turn the head, torso, hips, knees; moon the outside corner. And then something totally new to me: Pedals level, not outside pedal down. Then something else totally new to me: inside straight arm relaxed, outside bent arm pushing down on the handlebar. Putting this one on my practice list.
Jumps – We worked on breaking my habit of landing rear wheel first, which had developed as a way of avoiding the dreaded endo. Coach Lindsay explained that this didn’t give you control, and if you had a choice, put your front wheel down first. After a couple rounds on the alligator ramp, she put a target for me to land my front wheel on. I adjusted my entry speed, trajectory, and pitch in-air, and stomped it. Holy cow!! I’d never even considered that I could target a landing that precisely, much less execute it.
Pumping Rollers – This is a skill session I’ve never done before. Coach Laurie did a great job of breaking down the arms, the legs, then putting them together. Keys to this? Attack position! Body forward, chest down, elbows up. Push forward and down with your arms after cresting the roller. Push forward and down with your legs close to the BOTTOM of the roller. Waaait… what? My mind was blown. I’ve literally been timing the leg push wrong all these years. I was fortunate enough to ride Endor in the afternoon after learning this, and holy cow, the rollers feel amazing when timed correctly.
Stoppies – This was not an official skills session, but one of the camp assistants was doing them for fun during lunch the first day. I mentioned this the second morning, and she showed me how to do them during lunch the second day. Hanging out with high school kids FTW!!!
A couple huge takeaways:
(1) Attack position! I’m not forward enough when I ride. Getting into attack position will let me turn better, pump better, Aaron Gwin better. The nice thing is, I’ve started noticing when I’m not forward enough on trail, and fixing it. I’m piloting the bike, not riding as a passenger.
(2) Deliberately doing something slow so you can break it down and learn exactly what it feels like to do it right. Following a perfect pace set by coach Laurie down Endor with zero pedaling and minimal braking felt so much better than going too fast, messing up, scrubbing speed, and pedaling to get going again.
I learned a couple new skills on my own while waiting in line during the morning sessions:
(a) Turning rear wheel lifts. Because I thought turning on its own was boring.
(b) One handed track stands. Because I track standed so much I needed a bigger challenge.
Using my inability to stand still to my advantage!
Current status: Trying to convince my Dirt Series friends to go to the Angel Fire camp this September.