Words and photos by Kona Ambassador Shae James.
Nothing says bike privilege like living in the PNW, and winter is the greatest example. We get really snowed out from riding for only about a month out of the year. The other couple of months of winter? It’s miserable, but not impossible. It can be wet, it can be cold, but nothing that could fully get in the way of cracking at least one smile during a ride. Because that’s all it takes to mark a ride worth it.
That being said, have you ever had an epic pow day on your bike? Can you see it? Six inches of cold, fresh snow for you to shralp and slip and grip. A trail you’ve ridden before, becomes full of endless possibilities. The smooth, white finish on the trail lets you forget the obstacles lurking underneath. A confidence gets built up with every move, until a slide of your wheel reminds you just how ridiculous this is. Whose idea was this, anyway? You’re a genius.
The high of my snow day lasts a couple weeks. As I slowly come down from it, I try to maintain the boost with a temporary hit of ski days and sledding on our homemade trike sled. As the trails become unrideable, I start to think if only there was a place that was impervious to weather. A place you could ride all year long, unaffected, and progress in the bike world’s slowest months. Turns out, that place exists in Cleveland, Ohio. And thanks to Ray’s Women’s Weekend and Radical Roots MTB, I had an invite. So, I headed to Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park.
It’s hard to put Ray’s MTB into words, other than it’s really frickin cool. They somehow have encapsulated the skate rink vibe, the skate park vibe, and the mountain bike vibe into one cohesive package. It’s old school, but it’s new school. It’s sketchy, but it’s dialed.
Coming out of the woods, and into the woodwork, it took me some time to adjust. But once I got acclimated, I had so much fun riding this place. I learned more than I thought possible in one weekend event, about bikes, myself, and my riding. Part of this is credited to the actual park, but the other part is definitely because of Ray’s Women’s Weekend. I had the unique first timer experience of attending Ray’s W.W. as both a student, and an assistant coach. I was quickly adopted by the amazing coaches into their tight knit circle of hilarity and professionalism. These women are an inspiration. They are decorated athletes that really love teaching their discipline. I was amazed at how well organized the event was, and also how much there was to learn. I wish I had been able to attend more classes, but with a full work load of assisting, I was so grateful to have the opportunity to jump in on any classes at all. Covering all my bases, I took a jumping class, a foam pit class, a cornering lesson, and had a very humbling intro to BMX. By the end, I was impressed. This event is definitely geared towards learning, and it shows in the progression of its disciples.
Heading back to the upper left, life gets busy and the sun comes out. Unfortunately, the leftover snow is relentless. It lingers well past any form of welcome. Before you worry, I’ve got another trick up my sleeve. Eager to apply what I’ve learned to dirt, I head to a friend’s front yard. Known to many as The Bike Ranch, my friend Steve lets me cruise around his hard work. Between the comfort of a fire pit, and the effort of riding laps, the cold can’t catch you in here. Even though the remnants of snow is lurking just a few feet outside the invisible walls of the Ranch. As long as you keep riding, you’ll beat it. So, keep riding.