Money Well Spent

Words: Moniera Vania Khan

Last weekend, I spent $350 on two days of splashing around in a  mudbath.  I chewed mud, drank it trying to drink from my hydration pack, blinked it out of my eyes and wiped it off my glasses and my face 100 times.  At  the end of each day, I struggled to wash it out of places you don’t even want to know about.

This was my fourth time going back to Dirt Series. Dirt Series is a essentially a women’s mountain biking camp.  They run a few co-ed sessions, but I love the camaraderie of riding with other women, so I’ve always attended the women’s only camps. It was my fourth time at camp, but my first time with less than ideal weather at camp.  It rained most of the weekend, turning the Whistler Bike Park into a soggy mess.  The trails are well built to withstand the assault, but the mud launched it’s own assault as we thundered down the trails. OK – maybe not thundered, but it sure felt like it on some of those runs.

No amount of mud or rain could dampen the enthusiasm of more than 60 participants.  Our host shop, Skiis and Bikes at Marketplace very generously had us take over their shop for two mornings and also did some quick last minutes adjustments on our bikes as required.  The shop is busy each morning of camp with demo bikes and demo gear being signed out.  You have an opportunity to demo everything from a range of downhill and cross-country bikes to helmets, shoes and armour.   We also get to stock up on mini Luna Bars to carry us through until lunch time.

We started our day with coffee and home-made baking and introductions of coaches and the team behind the Dirt Series. The Dirt Series camps are coached by a venerable who’s who of the elite mountain biking community.   A number of the coaches have raced at the international level, many continue to race and most of them are sponsored riders  – and here they are spending a weekend coaching a women’s mountain biking camp.   You gotta love these women!  After getting all the information about what to expect over the next two days, we broke out into our groups and it was time to ride.  Each morning we had skills sessions based on what we were looking to learn.  We provided this information upon registration, and the organizers assigned us to groups according to skill level and what we were looking for.   My morning session focused on riding berms correctly and then a lot of work on drops.  I had good success on the berms, but less so on the drops.  I was happy when lunch time rolled around.

After a satisfying lunch – and a little rest – we headed out on the trails to use our new skills!  This was a great chance for me to explore some new trails that I hadn’t seen before, and ride some of the trails I was familiar with a little less tentatively.  Every time I came down a trail I worked on staying off my brakes a little more and adding a little bit of speed.

One of the highlights of the afternoon was spotting a mother bear with two cubs.  They stood quietly grazing alongside a trail – close enough to be amazing but not close enough to be scary.  Seeing bears in their natural habitat never ceases to thrill me!

At the end of the first day we were fed a delicious dinner and then had the opportunity to sign up for a bike fit or sit in on a clinic focusing on suspension, brakes and gears, or the one I chose, regular bike maintenance.  We also had a chance to socialize, and choose our skills sessions for the next day.  The organizers go out of their way to accommodate each participant – they really do everything they can to ensure a great camp experience for each participant.
I tumbled into bed by 8:30 that first night, completely exhausted and blissfully happy from the long day on my bike.

Day 2 started with coffee and home-made muffins, and some more bike adjustments that anyone needed.  Demo gear was tried on and signed out.  We were all a little more sluggish this morning, and made multiple stops at the coffee station.  After some raffle prizes and a pep talk, we connected with our new groups and we headed off to the trails for more skills training.  For most of us, this meant an opportunity to ride with a different group of women and a different coach from the day before.  It’s a great way to meet more people and see the different coaching styles.  With some very patient coaching I finally, finally managed to get some air time – getting my bike about 2 inches off the ground on a jump.  I was ecstatic and my gleeful hollering was probably heard across the mountain.

On one of our rides up the chair lift we had another sighting of the bear family on the mountain below us as we soared overhead. Between the airtime and the bear sightings I was giddy with delight despite the incessant rain and ongoing mud-bath.

dirt series
Just like the day before, we stopped for lunch and a chance to dry off and warm up a smidge.  Then, just as we dried off, we put our wet gear back on and headed back out for the afternoon ride.  Each ride is customized to be exactly what the participants want – so we asked for some time in the drop zone.  I was happy to get some more practice at drops, where success had eluded me the day before.  After a great number of attempts, I finally landed my wheels evenly coming off a little drop.  Once again my squeals of delight echoed across the mountains.  Most of the other women in my group had enjoyed much earlier success and were far more laid back about their success.  There was nothing laid back about it when I finally succeeded.

After a couple more laps we were covered from head to toe in mud and getting very tired and cold in the relentless rain.  By 4.30 I knew I had reached my limit and it was time to call it a day.  The rest of my group agreed that we didn’t want to squeeze one more lap in before we were due back at the bike shop to wrap up the weekend.  The last run of the day is always a little sad because it means another camp has come to an end.

Every time I go to camp I think it can’t possibly be as good as the year before.  And it never is.  It’s always better.  Candace and her crew does such an amazing job at such great value.  Two full days of development with elite coaches, lunches, snacks, coffee and home baking to start each day, plus a can of amazing Kicking Horse coffee and a t-shirt from sponsors – it’s excellent value.  I always say, “Dirt Series is the best $350 I spend on mountain biking every year”. Every year I have my calendar marked for February 1st when registration opens.  These clinics sell out fast in most locations – but check if there’s still some availability close to where you are!

More pictures of our weekend at Whistler can be seen on the Dirt Series Photo Gallery.

Originally Posted on
Photo used with permission from Dirt Series