Editor Nicki Miller finds that you can cover a lot more ground on a mountain bike.

Nicki Miller

Mountain bikers and trail runners often have a love/hate relationship. When you’re on foot and a pair of wheels comes tearing past, their speed can be startling. And bikers can get frustrated when groups of runners go shoulder-to-shoulder on the trails. But the shared thrill of exploring nature’s hideaways bonds these two sports. And there’s no reason you can’t do both!

I started riding last year, and I love the varied landscapes that I’ve been able to check out—many that are just too far to run. My husband, an experienced mountain biker, was able to give me some basic pointers on the bike, but I learned so much more by attending a Dirt Series two-day weekend workshop.

Most of the camps (in the U.S. and Canada) are for women, and the coaches are both amazing teachers and riders. Each day started with some drills in the safety of a schoolyard, and afternoons were on a trail based on your skill level. There were also clinics at a bike shop to learn more about the gear and sport, plus food, drinks and some serious girl-power camaraderie.

The camps cater to all skill levels, so the atmosphere is completely supportive. At a camp this spring in Santa Cruz, Calif., a beginner was able to learn on a trail by her house—she’d been too afraid to ride there with a group before. Many women were from the area and by the end of the first day were already planning to ride together in the future.

I learned so much, but a few lessons have really stood out as I’ve hit the trails back home in San Diego: the right mix of front and rear brakes to not skid; riding uphill and over small obstacles; cornering; and how to shift my weight on downhills. I feel like a pretty solid beginner now.

The most fun at the camp was learning how to do jumps. The first day the other beginners and I looked on in awe, but by day two, we were there, grabbing air. I’m not ready to do them on a trail, so I’ll just have to add some more hops into my trail running.

For more info, visit dirtseries.com.

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