I was attracted to the camp because it appeared to offer everything that I was looking for (skills clinic, basic mechanics workshop, guided rides featuring mainly single track, and hopefully the chance to meet other like-minded riders) in one package.
Having never attended any skills training, I was hoping to cover the basics in order to ensure that my riding is on the right track, and catch any bad habits that may have crept in, as well as work on some more advanced skills to improve my technical riding. The ultimate aim being to get up and down the trails faster and smoother, while having even more fun.
The camp ticked all these boxes and more. The campsite at the Paul Cluver Amphitheatre, meant that we were based in a bike park, and surrounded by some of the most beautiful trails in the Western Cape. To be able to roll out of your tent and onto a bike in these surroundings is a priceless experience.
The guided rides were split into three groups adjusted according to rider skill level, distance, and difficulty of the routes. For the race snakes, or super enthusiastic, time was available in the afternoon to ride as you wished, allowing riders to ride as much or as little as they chose. In this way, all levels of rider were easily accommodated. I was able to enjoy the mornings learning new trails, and skills from our guides in the group rides, and happily ride to exhaustion in the afternoon by practising in the bike park, riding the nearby trails again and participating in the planned activities.
The guided rides featured plenty of single track including Paul Cluver, Oak Valley, and the fantastic A to Z trails at the Elgin Country Club - all part of the Wines to Whales route. Riding these trails with a group provided great opportunities to try new and sometimes scary obstacles in a relaxed, supportive environment. As a result, I found myself able to easily ride sections of trail and obstacles that I might not have tried otherwise.
The skills clinics, hosted by Joanna Dobinson and Ariane Kleinhans were eye-opening for me, as I realised how much you can learn simply by riding your bike in a field (with some experienced guidance of course). I noticed an improvement in my confidence and bike handling immediately after a session practising high-speed cornering. It was amazing to watch the confidence of total beginners growing exponentially in the space of a couple of hours. I wish I had done a skills clinic, when I first started out, since it might have saved me a couple of bruises, and possibly a few months of learning by trial and error.
Finally, off the bike, I could not have asked for a better experience. Great company around the campfire, ample and tasty food (this is extremely important after a long day in the saddle), and lastly, lovely hot showers to soothe tired muscles at the end of every day.
If you are looking for a way to ease yourself or your partner into mountain biking in a safe environment, meet some extra riding buddies, escape from your job for a couple of days, work on your fitness, or just improve your riding and have some fun on the trails, a camp like this is a great way to do it. Having seen the value to be gained from working on basic skills, I will certainly be making an effort to attend a skills clinic more regularly in future.