Meagen Dennis Interview: Everything You Need To Know About Downhill Bike Park Riding

Have you ever wanted to try downhill bike park riding? Or, maybe you’ve tried it but are ready to level up your skills?

In either case, this interview with Meagen Dennis, the owner of the Dirt Series mountain bike camps is for you. Meagen shares pretty much everything you need to know about downhill riding, including what gear you need, how to mentally prepare, and what you can do to improve your skills.

And maybe, just maybe, you’ll listen and decide to give downhill mountain biking a try even if you’ve never considered it before.

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About The Host

kristen bonkoski

Kristen Bonkoski is the founder and owner of Femme Cyclist.

An avid cyclist for a few decades now, she took to cycling during her late teen years — a time when she needed something to help boost her self-esteem and confidence.

Mission accomplished, the sport has become an important part of her life.  Kristen’s favorite disciplines are mountain biking and bike commuting, although you can also find her cranking out a century on her road bike and touring with her husband and son.  If it has to do with two wheels, she enjoys doing it.

Kristen is a certified USA Cycling coach, and she runs Rascal Rides, a website about biking with kids.

IG: @kristenlbonkoski

Full Transcript

Kristen
Meagen, can you – to get started – just tell us all a little bit about yourself? Who is Meagen Dennis?

Meagen
Well, I am the new owner of Dirt Series Mountain Bike Camps and a funny little backstory to myself, I actually was a participant in a dirt series camp in Canmore, Alberta about 12 years ago now, and had such an amazing time that I went down what I like to call the longest rabbit hole ever of doing multiple camps. I think at one point, I’d done as many as nine total camps. And then I started volunteering, got my coaching certification, started coaching started working full time and full circle here I am now as the new owner, and honestly, very proud owner of Dirt Series, I absolutely love this program from every experience and opportunity.

Kristen
As the new owner, do you have any plans for changing things? Is it going to continue being the old Dirt Series?

Meagen
You know? It’s a really good question. So the long and the short is no, we’re not changing the program. Because the way the program was designed and built by my predecessor was a phenomenal foundation. And we’ve really stuck with the structure, we’ve stuck with the goals, which is to have it available for all women who want to get into mountain biking all the way to who want to take it to the next level of their riding. What we’ve done is we’ve improved upon it though we’ve offered more locations, we’ve offered more opportunities and range in styles of camps, we’ve expanded into a youth female program. And we’ve offered more all gender locations, we’ve just continued to grow, you know what was already an amazing foundation.

Kristen
So one of the things that I think sets Dirt Series, apart from maybe some of the other offerings out there is that you do offer some of these more like bikepark downhill specific camps. And that’s where I’d really like to focus on today. Because I think that’s an area that is very intimidating for a lot of women. So I guess to get started with that, just what advice do you have for ladies who have never before gone to a downhill bike park?

Meagen
I mean, it’s the most fun part of mountain biking. I personally think you know, there’s so many different disciplines. But bike park riding or downhill riding as it’s sometimes referred to is just such an exhilarating way to ride your bike. I think it’s a lot like downhill skiing. So anybody who comes from a skiing or winter sports background, will really find a lot of similarities in that. And I think it’s a really great way to start your mindset when you get into bike park riding is okay, this is going to be kind of like skiing, but there’s no snow, we’ve got dirt. And I’m going to look at it from that approach. And I think that takes a little bit of the fear out of the mindset because a lot of us are quite comfortable with skiing. Yeah, the biggest thing and the transition side of it is I truly believe that downhill riding makes you a better all around mountain biker. The reason for this is because you approach so many different obstacles in such a short period of time, and you get so much more practice where it’s typically you go out for a ride, you climb to the top where you go for a distance, and then you turn around, you come back, but you could get anywhere from three to 12 laps in in a day in a bike park, which is like three to 12 rides. So it’s just such a great way to hone in on specific skills and continue to refine things that would typically take hours to get to on a trail or just hours of riding to achieve. So I really think everyone needs to give it a try. But there’s lots of things that come with downhill riding that are intimidating, and we understand that and I’d love to help kind of break down some of those fears to get more ladies on bikes because truly, it’s the best type of mountain biking.

Kristen
I agree. It’s a lot. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun. I think it’s interesting that you mentioned skiing, because so many of my friends, so many women I know ski and when you go to the ski resorts, it seems very equitable between male and females, right. It’s like even 50/50 split, I would say, going to a bike park is not the same experience, there is very obvious gender disparity there and you don’t see, at least at the bike parks, I go to a lot of women. Why do you think there is that difference? Why do you think that we just don’t see as many women doing downhill mountain biking?

Meagen
I mean, I think first and foremost, it very much has been presented to women as something that’s really scary and really challenging. And that’s something that with Dirt Series, we do a really great job of breaking down the barriers to. I think there is a lot of disparity in downhill mountain biking purely from the mindset. But it was like that with regular mountain biking for a long time too. And we’re seeing more and more women approaching mountain biking and getting really excited about it. And I think this is the next step is to open up those barriers and, and have women feel like this is something I can do. And this is something that I can be really great at and bring my friends to and my family members to and even my kids to do, because it is approachable and resorts have done such an exceptional job of making sure that there are varying terrain types for everyone. There’s green trails, just like skiing, there’s blue trails, just like skiing, there’s black, there’s double black, and the rated technical and flow. So you can choose where you want to start, no green flow trail is going to be a great way to get comfortable with downhill riding. And that’s where we all have to start to feel confident and to feel ready to challenge ourselves a little more, just like when you got into skiing. It truly is that same mindset. And we’re just going to work hard to break those barriers and get more women excited about downhill biking.

Kristen
For anybody who doesn’t know, what is a flow trail?

Meagen
So a flow trail is typically but in some cases, not a machine-groomed trail. So they take a machine, they smooth it out, they pick out all the rocks, they pick out all the routes to a certain point. And they build these beautiful corners that they refer to as berms which are basically like a banked wall corner that’s nice and smooth. You’ll typically see some small undulations in the trail that you could call things like whoops, or there might be smaller jumps. But ultimately, depending on the level, the trail green, blue black, there’ll be graded appropriate to the speed they expect on that trail. And on a green trail, they expect a slow speed and so it’s built for someone who’s new to the sport, with berms at the right height and the right angle and a beautiful flowy green trail for you to enjoy.

Kristen
If you’ve never been to a bike park before, how should you get started? Does it make sense to just jump into a clinic on day one?

Meagen
I mean, a clinic Yes, always start with a clinic, I think it’s the best way to approach something with confidence. You know, you go into these environments where you’re doing something intimidating, and you’re doing something scary and you take a lesson, you learn how to do it properly, so that you don’t just throw yourself down the trail that your friend or family member says you should try it because they love it. So my first advice is to take a lesson, whether it’s at the resort, whether it’s with us at Dirt Series, or any other great mountain biking program, start there. The next thing is you should always look at the trail maps to see what options there are on the trail or talk to the resort stuff because they do a great job of explaining where to go and what to expect on the trails. You can also look at things like Trail Forks, which give you good descriptions of the trails. It’s an app that you can download for your phone that tells you about every trail everywhere. And there’s other similar mapping programs out there. But start at the trail map, start with the resort staff and do a green trail to warm up to get comfortable and to know what you’re up against. I really believe that it’s important to sit with the mindset of start small and work your way up because it builds confidence. It builds comfort, it builds skills, and it’s always great to have a strong foundation before you challenge yourself to something new and hard.

Kristen
Yeah, I like that. You mentioned the maps too, because a lot of bike parks on that map. They’ll also have like a list of progressions, right like this is the very first trail you should try when you get here and then this is the next harder and once you’ve mastered that, here’s the next harder. That’s a really nice way to go.

Meagen
And it’s great to look at it because it’ll tell you you know start with a green flow trail then try green tech trail then try a blue flow trail then try blue tech trail. Ultimately that graduation of ability level is there to help keep you safe and to make you feel comfortable in that resort and every resort is different. And that’s something that I cannot stress enough. Know what I ride at home in Calgary, Alberta, and what I get at the bike parks near me, are not the same as what you’re gonna get in your hometown. And so just because you’re comfortable on a blue tech trail in Bogus Basin in Boise, Idaho, doesn’t mean it’s going to be the same as a blue tech trail in Trestle Resort in Colorado or Whistler Bike Park in British Columbia. So start lower than you think you need to because you need to understand the terrain type that you’re up against everywhere is just so different.
Yeah, I think that’s a good point, too, because a lot of times, you’ll be like, cross country riding, I’m a very solid blue rider. I’m a very solid black rider. But that’s not necessarily the case, when you get to a bike park like you might suddenly be a green rider.
Absolutely. And you should never take that as a as a diminishment on your ability level. At the end of the day, those trails are rated relative to the other trails in the area, they’re not rated relative to you. So you use that as a foundation to go okay, everywhere that I’ve ridden, I’ve always been comfortable on a blue trail. So that is a good indication. If you’ve had a lot of range of experience on blue trails that blue should probably be okay. But sometimes it won’t be you know, I think about a resort close by to me, it’s in a place called Golden British Columbia, it’s still Kicking Horse Mountain Resort. Their blue trails are hard, because their terrain is loose shale, it’s rocky, it’s high alpine. And so you know, if you were comfortable and blue, everywhere you go, this might actually feel more like a black. And so it really is important to set yourself up for success start a little easier than you think you need to especially when you’re pushing yourself into downhill riding which is a speed sport, it does move you faster, it is intimidating. But this is a great way to feel confident about it from the get-go is start easier, just get a good day.

Kristen
I think it’s a good idea to to start with the mindset that you’re learning this whole new sport or like a whole new skill because you it is a different discipline if you’re used to cross country riding, and it’s okay to just start over and be a beginner at it and not feel like you have to be amazing is amazing at it in the beginning as you are already at cross country riding.

Meagen
I totally agree with you. It is a different sport than traditional cross country or even trail riding. So I couldn’t agree more, you really do need to look at it like a new sport. But it’s a new sport that you’re kind of already comfortable with. Now we’re just adding another layer to it.

Kristen
So if somebody signs up for a dart series clinic, what should they expect coming to that?

Meagen
So if you’re coming for a bike park clinic, depending on the location, we will make sure that your morning is filled with skills. So no matter what you do it at or today’s camp, we like to set the foundation with skills that are relevant to the trails that you’re going to be riding at your camp experience. So in some bike parks, we have skill zones that we can incorporate into our morning activities. And so we’ll work on things like braking and descending so that control you need to feel really confident going down flow or tech trails. We’ll work on rolling over obstacles. We’ll work on different things like dynamic riding, and how to move with your bike and control where your bike is going so that we’re not getting bucked around. And in other locations where we don’t have those skills zones in the actual bike park, we will set it up with our mobile skill zones, which is one of our special dirt series treats that we offer to every camp that we have a truckload of stunts that we bring, we will teach you all the skills we need on those stunts, and then we’ll go to the trail and we will practice them in real life on the trail. And something really important with our program is that our rides are not just rides, when we go out onto a trail, the intention is to turn that into an instructional opportunity. So we’re going to look at all the different obstacles that we approach on the trail, we’re going to stop and session it, we’re going to master it so that we feel really confident the next time we come there. Or at least we have some new skills that we can continue to grow and work on for coming at another time and pushing ourselves a little more. So yeah, your day will be filled with just learning how to tackle every little thing you come across the trail on.

Kristen
For the downhill days for the bike park days, what level of skill do you need coming in? Do you already need to be a certain level in your riding?

Meagen
Ultimately with downhill, you need to have a certain amount of comfort coasting on your bike completely off your saddle. So whenever we ride in a bike park, we are not sitting. So you’ve got to have some stability and comfort off your bike in that sense. You also need to be comfortable but I don’t want to say fully confident with your braking because that’s something that we’re going to work on throughout the weekend. So if I was to put a rating to it, even though we said the ratings are different every where we go, I’d say you need to be a higher level beginner rider to a lower level intermediate rider. So there’s got to be a little bit of comfort with the equipment you’re on. But from there, we can help everybody, whether you’re a newer rider to the bike park, or you’re a seasoned rider, or coaches have the capacity and you know, the experience to teach a whole range of individuals. So, yeah, even those who come from a beginner background, we’re ready to help you, we just might spend a bit more time on skills in the morning to make sure that you’ve really got those foundations to make the rest of your day successful.

Kristen
So you mentioned your equipment, what kind of bike you recommend having?

Meagen
Yeah, so this has changed a lot over the years. I’m sure everybody remembers the big downhill bikes, they’re called Triple Crown. So they’ve got just two big stanchions in the front that go all the way up to the handlebars. That’s obviously the gold standard for bike park riding. And that’s what we’ve seen for a long time. But over the years, bikes have changed a lot. And now you see a lot more people riding their all-mountain or trail bikes in the bike park, and it really comes down to your comfort. But at the end of the day, I think your most success is going to come from riding something that does have more suspension, full suspension is a requirement. Hardtails in the bike park are going to make everything more challenging for you and they are not recommended you will beat your bike up quite a bit more and yourself, ultimately. But yeah, I’d say if I was to put a number on it five to six inches of suspension, travel, and your front fork would kind of be the minimum. So if you have a bigger all-mountain bike, that’s enough to get going in the bike park. If it turns out, it’s something you love, it might be worthwhile investing in a bigger bike getting into, you know, a free ride style bike, which is closer to that seven to nine inches or going right into a triple crown downhill, which would be that nine inches plus dual, big stanchion option bike. So there’s ranges but you don’t have to have a downhill bike to start. Just you need to have a bigger bike to feel comfortable and confident.

Kristen
Got it. What about pedals? Do you recommend flat pedals?

Meagen
So at Dirt Series, we highly recommend flat pedals I know a lot of people come to camp with experience on clipless pedals. But at the end of the day, a flat pedal is going to give you a lot of platform. And that platform is what we need to really have control over what’s happening to our bike and we use our pedals a lot in the bike park, specifically not for pedaling, but really to help control where our bike is going. So we suggest a flat pedal. Some people do like more of a mallet-style pedal, so it’s a smaller flat pedal with a clip in it. If you were inordinately comfortable on a clipless pedal, that would be the style I recommend. But at the end of the day, it is arguably safer and easier to learn on a flat pedal on the bike park, especially when we’re challenging ourselves to go downhill at faster speeds. So I do suggest you start there.

Kristen
Is there a specific pedal or shoe that you like?

Meagen
I mean, I definitely have some favorites. And we have been proudly supported by Adidas 510, and Crankbrothers for a number of years. So my personal favorite pairing is the Freerider Pro Adidas 510 shoe with the Crankbrothers flat pedal of your choice. And there’s a bunch of different ones. I like the stamp sevens, they happen to just be, you know, the one I’ve been riding for a number of years, but they have a whole bunch of different ranges. But you do need to make sure that your flat pedal does have pins on it. So those are those pokey little screws that stick out of it. Because that is what adheres to the surface of your shoe so that you’ve got a nice grip and that you’re stable. So if you happen to have a pair of kind of more basic pedals that have maybe built-in ridges, or they’re fully plastic, this is an upgrade to your bike that you’re going to need to look at doing before you get into bike park riding. Without that grip, you’re you’re going to fall off your pedals.

Kristen
What about protective gear? What do you recommend there?

Meagen
I recommend it all. You know, when we’re pushing ourselves to do something out of our typical comfort zone, I’m a strong proponent of you know, over patting myself and I say that because I don’t want to have to worry about what happens if I fall off my bike. I want to know that I have given myself all of those resources, all of those tools to make myself feel safe. So at a bare minimum, you need a pair of knee pads that have some substantial impact protection on them a knee and shin is a definite gold standard there, and then an elbow pad. So a lot of people don’t like elbow pads, but in the bike park, I will not ride without them. And I have written once with them. And it was a grave mistake prior to a coaching weekend and my elbows will prove to you why you do that. And you make sure that you’re covered. Other things that you can look at our back protectors or chest protectors, there’s lots of different brands out there that make that I’m not gonna say they’re not necessary, but they are a bigger piece of protection. And that really is something that you have to choose for yourself and the comfort that you have. But I will say that if you get into bigger flow trails and jump lines and higher speeds, it is something to consider because that is a very sacred part of your body and protecting your spine and protecting your back is, is a very important thing to do. So that said, I’d say you know, whatever you feel most comfortable with knees and elbows must do. But the last and most important thing is your helmet. You absolutely cannot go into a bike park without at minimum an Enduro full-face helmet or a Rated downhill helmet. And the difference between those is an Enduro full-face helmet tends to have more air holes in it, they’re lighter weight. They’re made of the same material that you’ll see your regular trail helmet made of. But they’ll have a chin bar either affixed to the helmet or in some cases, they’re removable, it kind of depends on the brand. That is your bare minimum. And I don’t recommend using an Enduro full-face helmet. Again, when you get into that higher speed riding more jump lines, and you’re pushing your skill level. At that point, you really need to look at a Rated full-face helmet. And that’s a heavier duty almost looks like a motorcycle helmet, but it is made for downhill mountain biking. And that’s the protection that you’re going to need in case something goes wrong. I can’t say it enough your head is the most important part of your body. You can break an arm and you can move on but you do not want to hurt your face your brain. So don’t mess around with your helmet. If it’s more than two or three years old. Look at the expiry date in it. Don’t wear an old helmet, you’re putting yourself at risk. And don’t go to a bike park without a full-face helmet. Please save your teeth, save your face. And you know, at the end of the day, you’re going to have more fun with that extra confidence that layer of protection that it may feel like overkill, it may feel hot, but you know, save your body.

Kristen
Yeah, going back to when you said you know looking for a downhill certified helmet. I think so many people get kind of fooled into just thinking all full-face helmets are equivalent. And a lot of the brands themselves market this is like oh, this is a downhill helmet. But it really lacks that ASTM I can’t remember the number but that certification. So that is something I would recommend women look for when they’re looking at a helmet to like actually see does that have that ASTM certification?

Meagen
Yeah, and honestly, the biggest difference is those air holes in the ventilation and typically the weight of the helmet, although there’s many brands that have reduced the way they have carbon fiber options, they’re getting more and more light and comfortable to wear a full true rated ASTM – I also can’t remember their helmet is going to look more like a motorcycle helmet. It’s not going to have a lot of air holes in it. It might have vents, but those are quite different. And so yes, there are Enduro full-face helmets and there are downhill full-face helmets. And that rating is really, really important when you’re getting into higher-speed activities and higher consequence activities. That being said, if it’s your first time in the bike park, your bare minimum is that Enduro style helmet.

Kristen
Something you see in a lot of bike parks like Whistler, for instance, are the signs everywhere that say “Pre-ride, re-ride, free ride.” What does that mean?

Meagen
Oh, that is the golden rule, the cardinal rule of downhill mountain biking. So what “Pre-ride, re-ride, free ride” means is your first lap, you pre-ride it. Pre-riding a trail is at 50% of your regular speed. It’s going slow. It’s looking around, it’s understanding what is under and around you. Your next one is to go back to that trail and re-ride it. Here you can increase your speed a little bit maybe add 10 or 20% because you know the trail a little bit better. You know what’s in front of you. And then free ride is your, “let’s go let’s have some fun, and let’s pick up the speed.” And let’s really ride this one with confidence. Ultimately in the bike park, and for any obstacle you approach on a downhill trail at home even, we don’t just send it off of something the first time. We stop, we look at it, we assess the risk, we assess our ability and our ability to, you know, ride over or hop over or through an obstacle. And then we approach it with confidence and skill, we don’t just go through it. So this pre-ride, re-ride, freeride mentality helps you to assess that trail and what’s in front of you so that you keep yourself safe and in control of what’s coming next.

Kristen
What are some of the biggest mental hurdles you see women dealing with?

Meagen
Everything. Mountain biking is scary, I’m not gonna lie. You know, at the end of the day, downhill is a speed-oriented sport, we are going downhill, we are moving faster than we would if we’re on pedal power. And we’re riding cross country. And so first and foremost, you need to you know, set yourself up with the right equipment, as we talked about the right protection. And that will set the foundation for your confidence. But the mental game is really, you know, feeling okay, with what’s in front of you, making sure that you start small you try and easier trail like we talked about before you’re set up for success. You’re not chasing someone down a trail that you don’t feel confident with yet. And you take your time and you build it up. Because for all of us confidence comes with experience, no one is confident, although they might feel a bit of a sense of false confidence the first time they try something, it is an adrenaline sport, that will be scary, you are moving fast. And so you really need to start with setting all those baselines up first. And then the next one is the skill side and practicing and knowing that you are not going to hit everything perfectly the first time, you’re not going to ride over every obstacle on that challenging trail perfectly the first time and I like to set myself up for what I call small wins, and I set goals on the trail. So when I pre-ride my trail and look at what’s in front of me, and I kind of assess everything and go, Okay, there’s three major obstacles on this trail I need to work on. The next time I go through it, I go, maybe I can get one of these, and I focus on one of them. And when I get that one, I have successfully completed a goal and I feel great, I’m gonna go yes, I rolled over that root ball or Yay, I made it down that rock. And then I add the next one. And then the next one. But don’t expect that the first time you do anything, you’re gonna get it perfect, it takes time. And that’s okay. Every time I ride my bike, I have a new goal, whether it’s to ride a corner a little bit better, or to go through a technical section a little bit smoother. Or maybe it’s just to look up and like, have fun today, because today isn’t a good day for me. And having those little goals for yourself is a lot more fun than going out and having your mindset that you’re going to clear everything or feel perfect the first time you ride the park and disappointing. So small goals for the win, you can do it. It’s scary, but it’s so much fun. And it’s so rewarding to do something that’s scary and come out of it with a smile and safe and all your limbs and bits attached.

Kristen
That is the goal.

Meagen
Ultimately, the goal is to keep my clothing in one piece to like shredding that new jersey that I got. Yeah, those are expensive. Yeah, I prefer to you to wear it again.

Kristen
One of the things that’s most intimidating to me and I think maybe to some other women also has nothing to do with the actual riding and a lot to do with like the “dude bros” at the bike park and feeling like very nervous that you’re gonna get run over by some, like aggressive writers. What advice would you have for dealing with that?

Meagen
Yeah, so this is a hard one that, you know, we don’t have the control over the situation. So couple things that I like to suggest to our participants and even to myself is I like to go with a group of people that I trust and that I appreciate. So if you have someone who maybe as a more experienced downhill rider, ask them to ride behind you. The reason I asked them to ride behind me is because they can help to kind of play gatekeeper to those people coming up and give you the space that you need to feel confident going down the trail at the pace you’re ready for. Starting on a green or a blue trail is important as well, because that trail is meant for a slower speed. And if there is somebody who’s racing through that trail, their responsibility is to ensure that they give the slower riders the right of way. And that’s not always going to happen. And I understand that that’s why having that gatekeeper is really helpful. Or at the end of the day. I hate to say this but tell bike patrol. If someone is constant really blowing by you on the trail, and they’re treating it like their own personal racetrack, and you’re there to learn, you know, this park is open to everyone, they can go ride a trail that’s more suited to their speed and their ability. And sometimes you need to say something because at the end of the day breaking that kind of bro culture on the trail comes down to us speaking up and saying, We don’t feel safe or confident in this environment, because somebody is, you know, pushing the boundaries on what’s appropriate for this area. And I’m the first to say to someone, and I know it takes a lot to do this, but I will yell at someone on the tail, and I will tell them to slow down or get out of the way. Or, worst case scenario, stop when it’s safe. So this is actually a really important comment. Because a lot of people when they feel like they’re being chased by somebody down a trail, they’ll just pull over anywhere. And that puts you at more risk. So if someone’s behind you yell back to them, just give me a minute to stop and find somewhere that you can stop safely and carefully where there’s plenty of room for you to get off your bike or pull to the side and not put yourself at risk. They can wait that extra two seconds, you know, if they’re Strava-ing this, they can do a new lap, it’s not your problem. Your problem is to take care of you. Be safe, be confident on the trail, and you know, have a voice for yourself if someone’s pushing you out of your comfort zone. And that’s really something that we want to help build at our camps is build that confidence to feel good. And that comes down to trail management too. And it’s, it’s sometimes out of control. But I really do recommend saying something if you feel comfortable or have your friend or have your partner say something if someone is really pushing the boundaries around you and you feel unsafe, the bike parks there to get everyone there, they want you to have fun, they want you to come back and your experiences ruined because of a couple people, say something.

Kristen
Aside from pulling over in a safe spot for faster riders are there any other etiquette rules in a bike park you should be aware of?

Meagen
At the end of the day, Bike Park is one-way traffic. So that is important to know, if you’re going to go walk back up to an obstacle to try it again, look up the trail, make sure that no one is coming before you do that. But pulling over to the side is the most important thing. Stopping in safe spaces being that pulling over to this side, you’ll see in bike parks, they design these pull-outs for people with the intention that that’s where you’re going to stop. So don’t stop at the bottom of the trail, make sure that you’re not you know, blocking a space or you’re in a blind spot because remember, when we are going downhill, it is harder to see what’s coming in front of us we’re moving a little faster. So if somebody falls, for example, we want to make sure that we put a bike up. So the kind of etiquette for that is to flip your bike upside down, put it on its handlebars and seats in the most obvious space possible. And that lets people know that there has been an accident. And they’ll slow down when they see that. Instead of you being in the space. It’s the same as on skis where we would actually cross our skis over the person or in front of the person. But do make sure you do it well in advance in case some hooligans coming through and not paying attention. But flip your bike upside down if something goes wrong or your your individuals bike upside down, pulling over to the side using those pull outs and making sure you look up the trail before you cross or you walk up a trail to try something again or just to get to a different entrance. But that would be the standard etiquette I would suggest for a bike park.

Kristen
I think another thing that might be intimidating to women who have never been to a bike park before is loading your bike on the lift. Do you have any tips for that?

Meagen
Oh, yeah, this one is scary. And every location you go to seems to have a different system or way to get your bikes up there. So there’s a couple things. In some locations, you’ll see they have a practice zone for that. So I can you know, Whistler I know is the gold standard for so many bike parks, but they have an actual chairlift mounted to the side where you can practice loading and unloading your bikes. There’s three or four different types I’ve seen. There’s the ones that hold your wheels, which is the kind of Whistler and I think Trestle and a couple other places have this, where you load your bike forward and you just push it on. Practice that a few times before you do it. It is a little intimidating, but people are watching you and you have time. And don’t be afraid to just say hey, I don’t feel comfortable. Can you help me and the lift attendants will help you. You don’t feel bad about it. You know, one of the styles of bikes that you see is just a hook off the back of the chairlift and sometimes on older chairs, they’re mounted very high, and I may be five foot 10 And I’m quite a tall woman but not all of us is tall. That’s me and bikes are heavy. And so if you need help getting your bike up there, just ask for help. Yeah, those lift tenants are great, they will do it for you, they’ll show you. And if they snark at you, snark right back. So don’t feel bad about it. They’re there to make sure that bikes get on, they’re safe. And it’s, it’s just gonna take a few moments of practice. So don’t don’t worry, you can do it. And if you miss it, just laugh at yourself, laugh at the chair, blame the chair, it’s always the chair’s fault. And try again, it’s definitely okay.

Kristen
I do a lot of usually when I go to the bike park, I’m with my son. And so I’m always like, very vocal, as soon as I can get up there, I’m like, we’re gonna need help, you know, yell that out, they help.

Meagen
And there might even be someone in line right behind you who’s willing to help you know, or someone who’s already put their bikes on there waiting for their chair. At the end of the day, it makes it more approachable. If we all help. I love nothing more than helping somebody get their equipment on their work, telling someone about a feature coming up on the trail and how to approach it. And that might be my coach mindset that comes out. But I want to see more women in the bike park, having fun, and trying this new thing. It’s a little self-serving and that I want more people to ride with, which is always a great problem. But there are great people out there who will help you too. And those lift attendants are a big group of them.

Kristen
Um, for your coaches, what kind of training do your coaches have are they all PMBIA certified?

Meagen
So we have a range, although we’re going in the direction of standardizing all of our coaches to one certification body, but our coaches are a mixture of PMBIA, which is more Canadian, but they are international designation for coaches and instructors. And then we also have BICP, which is Bicycle Instructor Certification Program, which is more US-based. Our coaches come with a combination of that we also do a 16-hour in-house training program. So we have some standardization that is very specific to Dirt Series programs. So our coaches come to do a training weekend, we actually have one coming up in a week and a half in Hood River where we bring together 25-30 of our coaches and we work on, you know, sharing advice experiences, different techniques, but also just refining terminology to make sure that no matter where you take a dirt series camp, it sounds like a dirt series camp. And the coaches give you that standard experience but also their own flavor on top of it, because that’s kind of the best part about getting coached in a group is you get a few different ways of looking at something. So our coaches come with three certification styles. Some have all three, some just have, you know, one of the governing bodies and our own internal training, but all of our coaches are well experienced. And a lot of times, even like myself, they’re kind of homegrown. So they’ve come up through the program. They’ve learned so much over the years, they’ve gotten their own certifications, and then we continue to grow them and refine them. And then at our camps, you’ll also see coaches in training and coaches who have experience. So those who are in training are coaches who have recently gotten their certification through one of the bodies, and they’ve done a training program with us. And now they’re getting that like on-the-job mentoring experience. So they go through another three weeks of mentoring or three camps of mentoring with another experienced coach. So before they even solo coach a participant, they’ve had well over 60 hours of instruction training. So all I can say is we’ve got a really well-trained group of coaches who are so excited and come from so many different backgrounds. They’re not all professional riders. A lot of them are like you and I who have come from a regular life and gotten into mountain biking and loved it and now want to give back and then added the 60 plus hours to their experience to then share that with all of us.

Kristen
What, in 2022, which of your camps are bike parks, like what are some of the locations you’re going to be at this year?

Meagen
So this is our biggest bike park year ever. And it’s partially because we have doubled our operations this year. And we’re now running more camps than we’ve ever had. We have two trucks and trailers on the road and a whole bunch more coaches we’ve just we’ve blown up. But we have close to 10 different bike park locations ranging from Idaho, Montana, Colorado, British Columbia, we’ve got a number of them, and even in Ontario, Canada, so we’re starting to add more and more of these locations in. And it is important to note that downhill riding isn’t just bike park riding so we do have a number of locations that we can teach downhill riding on a more trail or Enduro style course. So that would be where we paddle up to trail. And then we have a downhill specific descent. And so we have a number of locations that that is also an option. So that includes things like Calgary, Alberta, we can do shuttle drops, where it will drive you to the top, which is kind of amazing. Things like going to Sedona or St. George Utah, which we’re so excited for where it’s infamous for its downhill style riding, but with a bit of pedaling. But at the end of the day, about 50% of our camps offer some form of downhill riding experience, or in some locations or bike parks also have cross country so you could do a day of park and a day of cross country. If you just want to dip your toes you’re not quite ready for a full weekend of bike park.

Kristen
Is there anything that we haven’t talked about yet that or advice you might still have for women who are interested in downhill or bike park riding?

Meagen
I think the biggest thing is just that you can do it. At the end of the day. I know it’s intimidating, but you can do it, you can totally achieve downhill riding and don’t be afraid to try something different and new. It it’s such a fun sport. I just can’t get behind it. You know a funny little anecdote for myself is that first Dirt Series camp I took I did one day of more Cross Country style riding and one day where we did do a downhill style track. And I came home after just buying a new cross country bike and I told my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband that I actually want to buy a downhill bike and I want a downhill ride. Because I found it to be way more like my skiing background and experience that I just felt more comfortable there and full circle. I’ve come back to pedaling and I’ve come back to cross country riding but having that downhill foundation has made me an all-around better rider. Because no matter what I see on the trail now I’ve done it on a downhill bike, I can learn how to do it on a trail bike, and now I can do it all.

Kristen
Yeah, I think one of the misconceptions too, I hear from so many people is that like, well, taking a lift or a shuttle that’s just lazy. No, you can. That’s right. You just ride the same number of miles. But yeah, totally.

Meagen
And yeah. Okay, so maybe you didn’t get the cardio burn from climbing to the top. But you still burn, you know, 1000s of calories riding downhill, it’s so much work on your muscles. And you really need to have both to be a good well rounded rider. And so I can’t stress enough how important downhill experience is to make you an even stronger, better mountain biker. Whether you drive in park or not, it will help you.

Kristen
Absolutely I totally agree. Three final questions for you. But before that, if somebody wants to come take one of your camps, where did they go? How did they find out more information?

Meagen
The first place is dirtseries.com, our website and on April 15 we’re launching our summer schedule. And so that opens up all of our Bikepark camps, which obviously operate when the snow has melted in a lot of these resorts. But we’re really excited, I like to joke about it as the summer of Bikepark because there’s just so much coming. So you can go to our website, you can also follow us at Dirt Series on Instagram and Facebook. And that will give you more updates too. And then we also have a newsletter so you can sign up for the newsletter on our website. And that just keeps everyone up to date with you know different specials we might have for locations or new things that are going on.

Kristen
Very good. Final three questions. First, is what bike or bikes do you ride?

Meagen
So I ride a Norco Optic, and this is the first time that I’ve been on a trail specific bike, and I can’t tell you how in love I am with this bike. I use the ride align system, which is Narcos way to set bikes specifically for you. And it was like I took it out of a notebook written directly for me like it feels perfect in every semblance of a of bike setup, but I am a trail bike and a downhill bike person. So I’ve been riding an Enduro style bike for the last couple of years. And now that I’m back on a trail bike, and I’m in love with it, I now need to go buy a new downhill bike because I don’t want that do everything bike. I want more specific machines, but that’s from my experience. And so I will be looking at getting myself an Orem soon, so that I can ride bike park with our participants and coaches on a big Triple Crown bike and have some fun.

Kristen
Super fun. You can never have too many bikes either.

Meagen
No, I don’t want to look in our garage or in our warehouse. It’s almost embarrassing.

Kristen
No, not at all. Second question is, what is your favorite place you’ve ever biked?

Meagen
So I am very lucky, I obviously travel around a lot and get to test out all these great locations. It’s kind of I have two answers for this, if that’s okay, but my first one is favorite due to just, I haven’t been there yet. But the vibe I’m getting and the support locally I’m getting is exceptional. So I’m really excited to go to Kansas City, Kansas has never been to the Midwest, but the individuals helping us prepare this camp, and I just can’t tell you how excited I am. And their trails seem like a ton of fun and something very different from my rocky mountain riding, which is, you know, steep and loose and very traditional Canadian mountain biking. But my all time favorite. Whenever I get a chance is Fernie British Columbia. It’s just this beautiful combination of loam and high alpine. And there’s Bikepark if you’re interested in that, and the valley is gorgeous, and the hospitality is incredible, and the summers are warm. So I just Fernie is where I want to spend my time.

Kristen
Oh, I love Fernie. Do you have a camp in Fernie?

Meagen
We do. And it’s coming up in August this year. I’m like, making sure my schedule is clear. So I can spend a week and just get some extra riding in. Fernie will never be removed from our schedule. The community there is so big and the riding is so good. That’s all I can say.

Kristen
And there are tons of huckleberries to those. My one of my favorite things about Fernie was the huckleberries on the side of the trail. Yeah. Final question is what is your favorite thing about riding your bike?

Meagen
My favorite thing about riding my bike is that for you know, I like to joke once in my life, I turn my head off. You know, when I’m on a mountain bike, that is just my time, I’m not thinking about what I have to do next for work, or what’s happening at home or what I have to make for dinner or when I have to walk the dog. I’m just thinking about what’s coming up next on the trail, and I just can’t stop smiling. I absolutely love riding my bike, and it’s my release, and it’s my time outside. And it’s just become my happy place.

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