Jenni Hodzig at the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic

Jenni Hodzic at the Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic Photo courtesy of 2Pedal Photography

My experience at the Midwest Women’s Mountain Bike Clinic may be difficult to transform into words but, I shall try. Without sounding too cliché, this weekend really changed my life. I feel like people say that all the time that certain events or things in their life were “life changing” but they never really mean it. I can assure you, I really mean it. This weekend changed my life in three major ways. First, it has forever changed my riding.  Second, my relationships, meaning my relationships with friends, pro riders, and my relationship with how I relate to myself in my head and even my relationship with my bike, a 2009 Kona Five-O. And lastly, this weekend completely inspired me to keep giving my all to the magnificent sport of mountain biking!

The first way this weekend has changed my life was teaching me the basics of mountain biking and changing the way I will forever ride my bike. After only trail riding for six months I can see some bad habits that were already forming.  This clinic immediately corrected them for me.  I was doing things such as not keeping my elbows out far enough in the “ready position”, not always having one finger on the break while riding, and really finding my balance, just to name a few. All of which are essential for making a great rider.

This weekend also changed many of my relationships in my life. I made lifelong friends with the ladies that I rode with this weekend, especially my biggest competitor in the girlbikelove writing contest Sharon Strickland. Another amazing friend was made in Tania Juillerat of Sub-9 Productions and I am extremely grateful that she and her husband, Jonathan had this contest and I was able to participate in all of these wonderful experiences. My relationship with professional riders Tammy Donahugh, Shaums March, Angi Weston, Rae Gandolf, Todd Boucher and others has also undergone a unique transition. I started off being in complete awe of them and their skill level and being too nervous to talk to them.

At some point that feeling transformed into feeling like I had known them forever and as old friends. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am still in awe of them, but they are just great, down to earth people and we share a passion for riding and that is what connects us on a much deeper level.

Jenni and her bike "Danno" - photo courtesy of 2Pedal Photography

Lastly, my relationship with my bike and within myself has also changed. I can be extremely hard on myself internally about my riding and my skill level. I always feel that I should push harder and be better and this really interferes with having a good time and being confident to try new things on the trail. After riding with Tammy and Shaums and having them pick up on how hard I am on myself, I was kind of able to get out of my head a bit, relax and just enjoy riding. This is something that I would not have been able to do without them. I am so grateful.

After leaving the Brown County Mountain Bike Trail systems I was so inspired to get home and test out all of my newly acquired skills and see how much I really took with me. I was so eager that on the way home, after driving six and a half hours back to Pittsburgh, my boyfriend, Ed and I drove straight to our local trails and went for a bike ride! Remembering my body position made climbing hills easier and keeping my fingers on the breaks let me enjoy the fast downhill even more. I even noticed that during the ride my attitude was slightly different. We encountered a log crossing on the trail that I did not successfully cross over my first try, but I did not beat myself up over it. I thought through what I did wrong; I backed up and tried it again. I was able to ride over it on my third try and felt so happy about it! I did not beat myself up for not making it on the first or second try; instead I celebrated the victory of crossing it. My inner harsh voice is hopefully slowly dying a slow death and being replaced with this new fresh feeling of confidence. Even my relationship with my Kona Five-O, appropriately named Danno, has undergone a huge transformation. I fell more in love with him, trust him and am really starting to know him and feel more comfortable with him. I really love my bike, and nothing will ever replace it.

Also, I have to say that I feel like I underestimated the trails at Brown County State Park in Nashville, Indiana. Living in mountainous Western Pennsylvania I felt that Indiana might be pretty flat and not have many technical features on their mountain bike trails. I was so wrong! I was pleasantly surprised, and immediately challenged by how difficulty and gnarly the Walnut Trail was. Walnut is one of their Black Diamond trails that we were riding. The trail system has amazing builders, is quite complex and is continuing to grow. (A new trail just opened days before the clinic!) I was unable to ride all of the trails at the park, but I am looking forward to coming back to continue to explore all the amazing trails Brown County State Park has to offer!

Overall winning this contest and this weekend was really just an incredible experience! I am so thankful to everyone who made it possible for me to attend! And another HUGE thanks again to Tania Juillerat for taking the time to organize and create such an amazing event that continues to bring women riders together and gives them the confidence they need to progress and keep riding!

Midwest Women's Mountain Bike Clinic - photo courtesy of 2Pedal Photaography