(or, eat your heart out, Joel Metz:)
This afternoon I loaded up my bike and my practice barrier and headed five blocks away to my local park for some cyclocross practice.
I'd invited a few women to join me, and Maria and Crystal showed up to play. Krystal was new; she and I had connected when I was trying to lobby for a womens' SS category at Cross Crusade and had prior cross experience. Maria was a novice road racer and ex-messenger who had almost no off-road experience, but she was game and showed up on a mountain bike, ready to learn.
Crystal came with two lightweight, collapsible barriers made of PVC pipe. They stacked in small sections and rested on her handlebars, tied in place with a bungee cord. We set up our three practice barriers and proceeded to work on mounting and dismounting skills. I taught Maria what I knew, Crystal taught what she knew, and in less than 30 minutes Maria was dismounting with ease. Learning to re-mount, of course, is another thing entirely, and we admitted we could all use some practice on that.
Then we tried putting it all together with some runs through the barriers.
Maria definitely was brought up a little short by the addition of barriers into the mix. But she handled it with aplomb. I predict that if we can get her onto a traditional cross bike -- with skinnier tires and drop bars -- she'll not only love cross, she'll get really good at it.
We also showed Maria a little bit about off-camber riding -- one of the reasons I like practicing here is that there are two berms that offer excellent off-camber opportunities.
After an hour I had to stop. I went back to the house to drop off the race bike and barrier and change out of my shorts while Maria and Crystal took another 15 minutes or so of practice runs at the barriers. I reterned on an empty cargo bike and we all headed over to Breakside Brewery for a bite to eat, and a chance to chat about bikes, food and gentrification (among other subjects). Great fun, and another opportunity for me to work on cross skills -- everything I showed to Maria I ended up simultaneously working on for myself. I'm looking forward to another practice session next weekend after I get back from Interbike.