STORY: AIMEE DUNN
PHOTOS: DANIELLE BAKER PHOTOGRAPHY
BMXing and Bunnies, how do these worlds collide? Well let me tell you they did and I for one know that I walked away a better rider.
The â€œnow officialâ€ female riding club Muddbunnies is the brainchild of Ryan Petersen and Michelle Santos. In a short while it has evolved from an online blog site to an official Cycling BC womenâ€™s riding club. Michelle and Ryan rightfully tapped into a rapidly growing female riding community in need of unity and camaraderie! Featuring Bunnies of the Week, riding clinics, group rides and fabulous swag this club is going placesâ€¦fast and furious! www.muddbunnies.com
Thanks to the promotion of PINKBIKE and NSMB in addition to Abbotsford BMX, attendance was expected to reach 40 gals. Who knew you could get 40 chicks out for day of BMX riding? Well times have changed I tell ya and for the better if you ask me.
Who, do you ask, shows up for a womenâ€™s-only BMX clinic on a Sunday morning? Numbers were approximately 40 in total; ages ranging from 7 – 50 years, including moms with daughters, teens and us thirty somethingâ€™s. The experience range was seasoned rider to newbie with a range of riding styles from BMX, downhill, cross country and freeride. What was really impressive was the fact participants traveled from Seattle, Nanaimo, the Okanagan and Fraser Valley and all over the Lower Mainland to check out the BMX scene at Abby BMX indoor track. Hey, when you see a good thing; it is worth the trip.
Our riding venue with Abbotsford BMX is a non-profit society sanctioned by the Canadian Cycling Association (CCA). What will never cease to amaze me are the selfless efforts put forward in the sporting community and the sport of BMX is no exception. This venue is managed and maintained by dedicated volunteers and true fans of the sport and especially those of Steve Baxter and Michelle Landers.
Showing up I was as prepared as I could be; downhill bike, pads, helmet and hell of a lot of blind enthusiasm. As a rider who enjoys the technical flavour of the Shore I was looking forward to exploring an aspect of riding that strips away the elements and the precarious terrain; leaving you simply with a dirt track and humps.
Upon entering the indoor track I found it full of suited up gals, every type of bike you can imagine and laced with a great vibe. The one minor detail was all of this was unfolding as the group stood in the dark based on an unexpected power outage at the track the night prior. It took only moments for me to spot familiar faces; Ryan and Michelle the founders of Muddbunnies, Kelli Sherbinin from Endless Biking (a phenomenal instructor and rider), a few former Bunnies of the Week and Danielle Baker, our photographer extraordinaire who sacrificed her riding fun to shoot some fantastic photos of the day.
We had no problem killing time with some good olâ€™ chatter as the organizers resorted to plan B without skipping a beat. One of the gals was kind enough to hang out in the washroom with her flashlight to ensure thatâ€¦well our aim was accurate.
To me the great vibe was a good sign: gals just rolling with the punches, relaxed and seemingly happy to be in the company of like-minded ladies with a laid back attitude. But hey, donâ€™t get me wrong, we wanted to ride.
It is rare, (if not impossible) to keep 40 riders with such a variety of abilities together in one venue. The beauty of this teaching venue and format is the track is ride able by all, (as long as you can pedal a bike). The advancement is in the amount of speed, style, finesse and flow that you achieve as your skills progress.
After the short delay the group congregated on the generator-lit BMX track. To be honest I didnâ€™t know how a dirt track could compare to the lush landscape of a North Shore ride. In the past the sport of BMX would instantly bring to mind thoughts of 14 year old boys and childhood playtime. Playtime it was and this also served as a source of enlightenment. It was instantly evident how essential it is for you and your bike to be in complete harmony. You could say a new appreciation for the skills that those young fellahs had in the BMX park had emergedâ€¦
The team of instructors were touted as top notch; including Ken Cools and Samantha Cools – brother and sister team and highly acclaimed Pro BMX riders. Ken was the first to take center stage. To be a good athlete is one thing but to be a solid instructor is an entirely different craft. From what we experienced Ken is a double threat in the sport of BMX. Ken was relaxed and confident and so was his presentation; with appropriate interjections of humour that tied the steps together fittingly and naturally while emulating his obvious and infectious passion for the sport.
Ken broke down the what, why, when and how of it; succinctly and with flare. This was complimented by some impressive demonstrations by Nick Goertzen and Samantha Cools. It was truly inspiring to see these two world class riders on track. Samantha was smooth and based on her riding the difference between her and the â€˜himsâ€ were unrecognizable.
The first component was that art of Pumping. This fluid motion guides your bike up, down and around the track; propelling it with momentum and synchronicity. This craft was simplified by the instruction of Ken and demonstrations by Samantha and Nick. These two riders are world class on their bikes and to say watching them was inspiring.
As we took a stab at the art of pumping it was evident and somewhat surprising how physically taxing this activity is. My heart-rate skyrocketed as I pumped and pedaled trying to keep my full-suspension bike moving with some respectable degree of speed. With each lap the style and speed seemed to escalate with the lively chatter buzzing throughout the track. Chicks on bikes; together, enjoying the day.
The next step was the Gate Start. We set up our bikes with feet on the pedals, balancing with weight forward focused on the starting light that triggers the start of the race. Now this was fun race simulation. However, apparently from the look on my face this wasnâ€™t what I was expressing. Since the instruction style of Ken and Samantha Cools has a strong emphasis on maintaining the â€œfun factorâ€ Ken mentioned that â€œthe one on the Blue Coiler should do it next time with a smile on her faceâ€. That comment alone made me smile and relax on my bike. Good call Cools, good call.
The third component to our lesson was the Rhythm Section. This section is the straight away shaped with humps mid way through the track. This requires one to pump with their legs and arms with fluidity and efficiency to propel your bike, and with any luck, pick up speed if performed with the appropriate timing and pizzazz. Again demonstrated by Nick, who rode it with a manual stance; bike and rider in complete sync he generated speed and flew around the corner with flare.
Putting these skill components together it became evident why the sport of BMX is the launching pad for many successful riding careers. Your actions are transcended directly into the performance of your bike around the track; what you see is what you get. You canâ€™t fake it and you canâ€™t be half ass. It keeps you honest!
After we enjoyed a pizza lunch, the group was split up for those who wished to take advantage of the opportunity to master the skills of BMX and the other half focused on mountain biking related skills.
Denise Britton from Freeride Dawgs (2005/2006 UCI World Masters Champion and past coach of Sugoi Dirt Series) and Cheryl Beattie from the Kamloops Bicycle CafÃ© took the lead for this component of the clinic. To emulate mountain conditions in a BMX track can be tricky therefore the focus of our skill lesson was balance and forward focus; the small nuances in body positioning and style we often overlook or at least fail to break down and practice.
They had the group pedal as slow as possible with small half rotations; perfect for subtle movements on a skinny or structure. For someone who finds it difficult at times to slow down, breathe and concentrate on the small details of a sport, this was once again a great reminder of the importance of maintaining your ABCâ€™s.
The natural next step was first finding and then holding the perfect balance point on your bike with the goal of achieving a complete stand still; holding it and remaining relaxed. Thanks Denise and Cheryl, I now have a great exercise to pass the time with while waiting for riding partners at the trail head or hanging with my bike! More importantly I have already noticed an enhanced amount of stability on my bike based on experiencing these balancing points.
We took these skills into the next exercise that had us weave in and out of tight corners; forcing slow speeds and focused core balance. We took turns and supported each others attempts and celebrating the gains that were made in each riderâ€™s style.
The beauty of riding with my peers is the variety in individual strengths and weaknesses. This allows you to showcase your strengths to inspire others and witness others talents to be inspired by. Sure watching the pros is a thing of beauty but seeing your riding partners conquer challenges transcends directly into your riding belief: if they can do it then so can I!
As the day came to a close it was obvious that the ladies were excited about what they had learned and were taking away from them to try on the track, trail or city streets.
This experience for me is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hanging with the ladies and riding bikes; with always much to learn. Donâ€™t get me wrong: it is great to ride with guys and gals alike but there is definitely something unique about being with fellow female rippers.
The Muddbunnies Riding Club is greatly enhancing the opportunities for female riders to congregate, motivate and celebrate riding successes! The professional packaging of the club on both the website and forum represents the lively subculture that is blossoming in the biking community.
Have something to say about women in extreme biking? Love to write? Contact ryanATmuddbunniesDOTcom to join our team of writers.