While it was foggy in the City and on the drive up from Hollister, it was nice to see this pocket of sunshine in Palo Alto, as a group of us met at Gunn High School on Arastradero (right off Foothill Expressway) for the Velo Girls Bike Skills 201: Climbing & Descending clinic. Stephanie, Nancy, Chris, Larry, Wly, Doug, Raymond and his friend Charles signed up. Each of us had different skills we hoped to improve on, and some hope to overcome our fears some, by learning better handling skills.
We started out in the parking lot with Bike Handling Skills. Did you know that you should not be “steering” with your handlebars? First we did a bike/body separation drill, where we rode around the parking lot and changed out positions out of the saddle; first out on the top tube, then way back off of the saddle, then off to the left and off to the right. We then focused on steering the bike with hips, first by standing at the bike and practicing hip swivels, left then right. Then we got on the bike to use this same motion to ride through a cone slalom.
Counter-steering was next, and when explained it does seem intuitive; that for a right turn you would stand on the outside leg, in this case the left, and then your inside hand is weighted and pushing on the bar (you should be in the drops). And then you lean your body in the opposite direction. Practicing this in the parking lot, I finally got it!
Then we learned about riding techniques, hands, feet and weight distribution for either seated or standing climbing and for either technical descents or fast descents. We then rode up to the Arastradero Preserve for a quick break, and then we headed up to Alpine Road, above Portola, where we turned off on to Indian Crossing Road to practice both the climbing and the descending, with Lorri and Kim watching and providing feedback. It got to be kind of fun, we were doing mini-hill repeats, climbing in the saddle, then out of the saddle where it got steeper, even shifting into a harder gear on the climb. And then we got to come back down, quickly gaining speed, many of us seeing 38 mph, before turning around to do it again!
And then the climb to the end of Alpine Road, it’s about a three mile climb, the road is nicely paved, with not a steep grade except here or there and until the last stretch. And then the payoff, the technical switchbacky descent down to our regroup at Willowbrook Road, near the Windy Hill Open Spaces. And then from there, the long straight descent down Alpine, and then returning to Gunn High School. Group consensus was the A+! We all got new skills to practice and added confidence in both climbing and descending.
Thanks again, Lorri and Kim!