Back at the inaugural Arkansas Enduro race at Iron Mountain, I won not only the race, but also a raffled-off spot in the 2-day DirtsmartMTB clinic. I was way stoked (bro), because, though I’m pretty good at going downhill, I always had some glaring holes in my skillset… mostly loose corners (like many of the ones at Iron Mountain) and getting my bike off the ground without feeling like I’m totally out of control and about to die… along with plenty of other skills that lack some polish.
Friday, I left around noon so I’d get to Arkadelphia in time to eat a late lunch and ride the trails for a little while. On the recommendation from Kent, the curator of the Enduro series, I checked out Little Penguin Tacos… a taco stand right across from the hotel where I’d be staying. Not only was it freaking delicious (definitely stop there if you visit the trail), but I also caught Ken and Steven (one of the other clinic attendees) out there. Afterward, I drove up to the trail system and had a nice little ride (first one in a while with all this “offseason” running I’ve been getting in to). I ended up crossing the Lake DeGray dam just before the sun really started to set. Arkansas is pretty sweet scenery.
Once we’d all introduced ourselves, Saturday’s teaching covered the very basics- position on the bike, vision, braking, and wheelies/manuals. After lots of drills, we went out to ride the trail system and apply what we’d learned. The combination of braking lessons and body position made a huge difference in my comfort level in the loose turns.
Sunday was a little more out of my comfort zone. We started with turns (including some switchbacks and drifting, which I managed to pick up on more quickly than I’d expected). Then, it was on to my yet-to-be conquered crux… lifting the rear wheel. I knew going in to the clinic that, since I’d always ridden clipless pedals, that I was highly reliant on them to manipulate my rear wheel. In turn, my ability to jump off of or over anything is somewhat lacking. So, I was charged with going home and learning how to do everything on flat pedals.
Our post-drill ride was fun. I sat on the back of our train so that I could slow down a little and somewhat exaggerate the turn drills we’d done earlier in the parking lot. We did a lot of stopping and looking/riding on some turns in the trail, and, between the turn drills and previous day’s braking lesson, I gradually felt faster and more comfortable. Also something I’ll practice a lot once I’m back on my bike. Something that helped a bunch was having some instant feedback (this was in the parking lot, but he carried it out on the trails so we could do something then immediately circle back and watch)…
I feel like I got a lot of those two days- both in immediate success as well as potential success as I practice and learn more on my own. It also leaves me wanting to add something longer travel and smaller wheeled to my bike collection. I’m definitely excited about the 2015 Arkansas Enduro Series and will likely hunt down some more competitions in other parts of the country.
Did I mention that Arkansas is gorgeous?