Since its inception in 2001, the Dirt Series by Rocky Mountain Bicycles has grown to become one of the most successful instructional programmes in North America, with camps in British Columbia, Alberta, Utah, Oregon, Idaho, and California.
The 2009 Dirt Series programme will see Rocky Mountain athletes Wade Simmons, Geoff Gulevich, Alison Sydor, and Andreas Hestler sharing their knowledge and experience with participants as guest coaches.
Former professional cross country racer Joe Parkin helped out at the recent Santa Cruz, California camp, where about 50 women participated in the weekend Dirt Series Camp, and 37 in the one-day camp the following Tuesday.
"Skill levels were sort of all over the map," Parkin told BikeRadar. "It seemed to me that the participants were either new to cycling, road riders interested in mountain biking, or simply interested in honing their skills further.
"The best part of it for me was when I'd see someone "get" something - I'd see the light bulb turn on, followed by a big smile and obvious boost of confidence."
"I think more women are involved because of programs like the Dirt Series," he added. "Think about it: without programmes like this, 20-, 30-, 40- and 50-something women -- who didn't necessarily grow up riding BMX bikes -- are getting their "fundamentals" training from a boyfriend or husband. They've also probably never broken the steps down and therefore, can't teach anything to anyone. These camps are so well done; I've helped with three of them now and I feel like I learn something every time."
According to Dirt Series founder Candace Shadley, it really adds to the experience to have world-class team riders at the camps.
"To say that Alison Sydor taught you how to do a technical climb, or that Wade Simmons showed you how to do a drop is a very special thing,” she said.
Rocky Mountain Bicycles has seen the fruits of this labour as well.
“Our partnership with the Dirt Series has given us a perfect venue to listen to the needs of a broad variety of mountain bikers," said Rocky Mountain spokesperson Peter Vallance. "In particular, through the women’s camps we’ve been able take what we’ve learned from the camp coaches and participants and we’ve used that knowledge to really push our women’s specific bike line forward.”
To learn more about the Dirt Series, visit www.dirtseries.com.