Photos by Emily Walley and Justin Steiner.
The VIDA MTB Series is a multi-city women’s clinic tour spearheaded by Sarah Rawley and Elena Forchielli that evolved out of the Beti Bike Clinics of 2013 and 2014. The Sedona MTB Festival was the debut of the VIDA MTB Series and the first of five stops for 2015. Participants had the option to sign up for a one- or two-day clinic for $180 and $310 respectively. Clinic registration also included entry to the Sedona MTB Fest’s bike demos, shuttles, bands, and beer tickets.
In addition to professional mountain bike skills instruction, VIDA clinics promote cycling as an holistic lifestyle activity. Each of the coaches and ambassadors shared their successes within the sport and they were unified in their passion and excitement about expanding women’s mountain biking. Listening to the tales of coaches, ambassadors and participants, one quickly realizes cycling can have a ton of positive influence in women’s lives in terms of community, relationships, environment, emotional and physical fitness and fun.
The VIDA clinics are supported by Yeti, and VIDA aims to reflect the signature Yeti “tribe” mentality at its events. One way that they’re achieving this goal is by building a network of ambassadors throughout the country. VIDA ambassadors connect with the women in their area, growing the mountain bike community.
“These are the women getting people stoked and motivated to get after it, organizing trail days, advocating for bikers, and volunteering in their communities.” according to the VIDA website. Ambassadors also play supporting roles at VIDA Clinics by demonstrating skills, sweeping rides, and more. Think you’d make a great VIDA ambassador? Apply here.
A total of 6 coaches, 14 ambassadors, and 35 participants from Maine to California gathered at the Sedona Posse Grounds Park. In pre-clinic surveys each individual detailed her riding history, perceived skill level and what she hoped to learn. We then split into groups of six that varied from novice to advanced. The small group size allowed time for the coaches to critique each individual rider and hone in on areas to improve, while still large enough to provide some necessary peer pressure. VIDA VP and Marketing Director Elena Forchielli emphasized that the groups would remain small even as the clinic scaled up; it would simply mean employing more coaches.
Basic bike/body separation, body position, cornering, looking ahead, lifting the front and rear wheel independently, and drops were all on the agenda. The coaches demonstrated each skill and then we practiced several times while critiqued. For me, skills out of context will forever feel awkward, but I think that’s what makes it so important; when it’s the only thing I have to think about it I’m aware of what I’m doing wrong.
After the morning skills session, lunch was provided at the Posse Grounds Park and then we set out for on-trail instruction. My coach was downhill-slalom-enduro-extraordinaire Wendy Palmer of Moab. Wendy has coached me in the past and I admire her expert instruction and welcoming personality. She has the unique ability to connect with each rider on a personal level, evaluate her skills and push her in a constructive manner. We spent much of the afternoon on Sedona’s Jordan and Anthill Trails, stopping at locations en route to work on line selection, steep descents and drops. After the on-trail instruction ride, there was an optional yoga session in the Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, the MTB festival’s home base.
Saturday closed with tech talk from FOX. Even the guys gathered ’round for this informative information session where Jeff Menown, of Outside Technical Services, disassembled a fork, explained the inner workings, and detailed proper suspension setup.
On Sunday we grabbed prepared lunches at the VIDA tent and went straight to the Mystic trailhead to ride Pigtail, Hogwash, and Broken Arrow up to the view at Chicken Point for more on-trail instruction. All of these trails were challenging, offering excellent opportunities to challenge the skills we had practiced the day prior. We rode Pigtail a few times which offered technical descents into switchbacks, drops, and a jump.
Personally, our discussions about downhill brake modulation on technical descents and proper body position in switchbacks were invaluable lessons for me; from Friday to Monday my confidence descending increased dramatically and I think this speaks volumes about the instruction.
I wasn’t the only one that pedaled away with a success story, here’s what some other participants had to say.
“I rode things that I would instinctually avoid if I were riding by myself. I learned to be confident and smart in my riding. I learned how to do a jump. I learned that riding with a group of girls is super fun and inspiring. Having already ridden back on my home trails, I feel like they are brand new and I tried a couple new lines today that I’ve never done before.” – Taylor of Tucson, Arizona.
“I found out with the clinic that I have a lot of bad habits but now I know the correct way to do things and also that I am very capable of doing things that I didn’t think I could previously do. I cannot wait to practice more and get rid of the bad habits. I really wish that I had taken this clinic years ago and I will definitely go next year to continue learning new things.” – Becky of Guaymas, Mexico.
“The day after I got home, I met up with a girl I met at the clinic and we rode one of my favorite trails in Phoenix. When we came up to my usual “I’ll just walk this” section, I felt equipped to try it, analyze my approach and conquer the former obstacle. Overall I left the experience empowered and more confident in riding a bike. A success story for me!” – Heather of Phoenix, Arizona.
Prior to the clinic I’d found myself idling as an intermediate rider; feeling like I’d hit a physical and mental plateau. But after a couple days out of my element with VIDA instruction I experienced noticeable growth as a rider, and I realized that I hadn’t been pushing myself to improve. After the clinic I had visions of conquering specific sections on my home trails that I’ve never ridden in the past.
The VIDA MTB Series really is for ALL skill levels; even the most skilled rider has a place with VIDA. The advanced group tackled one of Sedona’s most challenging trails, Hangover. This steep and exposed trail lives up to its name and is not for the faint of heart.
There are five VIDA Clinics on the roster for 2015! Next up is the Core one-day Clinic in Boulder, CO. Start planning your weekend to better riding and new friends!
Read a full report of the Sedona MTB Festival here.