Thursday, September 18, 2014

REI's Introduction to Mountain Biking Class

REI course instructor, Justin briefs us on mountain biking basics.
We had absolutely gorgeous weather for the REI Introduction to Mountain Biking Class last Sunday, September 14th. Up in the mountains of Lewis Morris County Park the air was crisp and cool with very little humidity when the class started at 10 am. REI provided the mountain bikes and helmets for us, so we simply came dressed in our cycling jerseys, mountain biking shoes and hydration packs. I would also recommend bringing an energy bar, pair of cycling gloves and ChapStick Hydration Lock Sunscreen SPF 12. Apply sunblock before heading out. Here is the link to how I packed for REI's Outdoor School HERE

Kestrel Heat Index reading is a comfy 57.6 degrees.
Heat exhaustion didn't seem too likely at these cooler temperatures but as I've said before, September can be tricky especially at this elevation (500+ ft). Starting out very cool in the morning but by midday feeling like the middle of summer. So I kept checking throughout the day and the Thermal Work Limit continued to read above >220 (W.m -2) or "Unrestricted". This means no limits on self paced work or exercise for trained, hydrated athletes. Most everyone had a hydration pack so no problems there.

REI Instructor Ty (yellow jersey) demonstrates mountain bike maneuvers.
Field Maneuvers
First we road uphill to an open field to learn basic mountain bike handling and maneuvers we would need later for the trail ride. We learned proper shifting, braking, manual and pedal assisted wheel lifts which helps when clearing logs and exposed roots. Using real obstacles, we were able to practice these newly learned skills until we got them right. The instructors also road along side us to see if we were executing the moves correctly. Justin even showed how to gracefully take a fall on the bike! These guys are really dedicated.

Putting our skills into practice on the trail.
Trail Maneuvers
After training in the field, the next logical step is to test these skills on an actual bike trail. We took the Yellow Trail at Lewis Morris County Park which is known as one of the best mountain biking terrains in New Jersey. I have to admit that the field skills we practiced came in handy here, especially for clearing logs and large rocks. The trail itself is very scenic and reminds me those in Turkey Swamp Park in Central NJ. These Morris County hills are quite a bit steeper than those you'll find at lower elevations though.

Gina making her descent on the trail.

I enjoyed this class all the more as REI outfitted us with helmets and Novara Mountain Bikes for the day so there was less for us to pack and travel with. I'm primarily a road cyclist and use Polar Bottles in the frame cage. This doesn't work for Mountain Biking! Get yourself a good hydration pack like a Platypus or my Antidote 100 oz which allowed me to haul water for both my companion and myself for the day. I carried my reservoir in the REI Women's Flash Sport 15 which is the lightest pack I own. The back is well meshed and vented so I wasn't sweaty. The strap pouches kept my bite valve, snacks and camera remote within reach the whole day. 

REI's Flash Sport 15 accommodates most hydration packs

Camera Equipment
All of the on location photos and videos were taken with my little GoPro clone, the eXpo Mini Action Cam which Justin attached to my handlebars before we got going. This will be replacing my DSLR Camera for all outdoor events and expeditions as it offers a crisp 20 MP resolution as well as sharp video imagery in wet and rugged environments. Very easy to take pictures with the eXpo even while the camera was in video taping mode. I did this while riding on the road back to the park and just wanted to take a still to capture the moment. Here it is:

Road photo taken while filming video with the eXpo

Technical equipment for the day.
Technical Equipment
As you may know from reading this blog, I do a lot of outdoor expeditions especially in the fall and winter months. Having a camera in a protective waterproof case is going to be sweet! 
I also always bring along a way to keep tabs on changing weather conditions. You can not always rely on a phone app which only tells you the conditions at the nearest weather station, not necessarily where you are at the time. We all know the feeling of having a signal lost in the mountains. Then what do you do? My cellphone also does not have an impeller to measure wind speed which further shows its limitations.

If I'm going to be out for the day or overnight, you better believe that I will be bringing a pocket weather tracker! Conditions can change in a heartbeat and storms can come up out of nowhere. Kestrel Meters are practically bombproof, can be immersed in freezing cold water and still function. Very lightweight, they are quite easy to take along and perform multiple functions for such a small unit: temperature, heat index, humidity, wind speed, barometric readings, altitude, dew point, etc.

Last Challenge of the Day - Stream Crossing Video
I took the eXpo out of the handlebar bracket to film everyone crossing the little stream as our final challenge which everyone completed with flying colors. It was very rocky with a steep incline after the water so it is much more difficult than it looks here.

Special thanks to REI for hosting this class for us and providing such an enriching outdoor experience for fitness enthusiasts of all levels. Learn more about REI's Outdoor School Classes, Membership and Travel opportunities at or

See the NEW eXpo Mini HD Action Cam at

Visit Nielsen Kellerman online at to see all the Kestrel Pocket Weather Trackers available.

Special thanks also to Topricin who provided travel packets of all their first aid and pain cremes for the class. 

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