Cycling is a beautiful thing. You can do it on your own, with friends or with groups; for meditation, camaraderie, health, fitness or to satiate your competitive hunger; to tackle crazy goals or adventures or bucket list items. We ride for so many different reasons… but we could all benefit from a bit of practice and learning to become better cyclists. How? Try out a road cycling camp!
All photos by Wil Matthews Photography @photowil
1. Know your objectives. You’ve invested in camp, so you should know what you’re looking to get out of your investment. Having a good idea of your goals or what you want to learn will also help you pick the camp that is right for you. I coach a number of camps each year and they are not one-size-fits-all. Our Liv Women’s Camp in Ventura, CA was a road riding camp for women with a wide range of ability levels (some had been riding for 20 years and others had just started clipping into their pedals), but everyone there wanted to learn skills to become better riders. Each winter I coach #BorregoCamp for men & women where everyone rides 60-100 miles per day up and down mountains to work on base fitness. Not the same camp! Knowing your objectives will help you pick the right camp and help you achieve your goals.
2. Repeat after me: I belong at camp. Cast aside your doubts, fears, and worries. You, yes you, belong at camp. However long you’ve been riding, no matter what gear you have or what injury or complication has knocked you off your fitness or cycling journey, you belong at camp. Going to a cycling camp could very well be the most fun you’ve had since summer camp when you were fourteen. So, find the camp that aligns with your goals and then jump in!
3. Come prepared. Make sure you know what to pack, what support will be offered at camp, and what equipment you need. Not sure? See tip #4. Always bring working equipment: get a tune-up at your local bike shop or do it yourself, put new tires on your bike and ride them a few times before camp, and make sure electrical components are charged. Fine-tune your fitness, too. Once you sign up, follow a training plan that will get you to where you need to be for camp. Before you go, rest up. Camp takes a lot of physical and mental energy, even if it’s not a camp with big miles or high-intensity. A little rest beforehand will get your mind and body primed for a great experience.
4. Talk with the coaches. Cycling camps should be all about the riders, so be sure to communicate with the coach(es) before the camp as needed and while you’re at the camp. Why? You have goals and objectives. Tell the coach(es) so you have a good chance of moving closer to your targets. If you’re having fun, talk about it! If the day's training ride or meals aren’t meeting your expectations, communicate that too. Coaches can’t read minds, but they sure do want to help you have an incredible experience.
5. Do the social things. The days are full and you may find yourself going from pre-dawn to way after your normal bedtime. But don’t miss out on the social opportunities! Bike riding is an incredibly social sport and you can quickly evolve from strangers to great friends over the course of a bike ride. Every camp I’ve ever done has been enhanced when I do all the social activities: breakfasts, post-ride meals, dinners, talks, bike wash demos, star gazing, etc. The more you engage with the coaches and other riders, the more the entire camp experience will fill your heart and soul. And, happy riders go faster.
6. Step out of your comfort zone. We learn and grow from experiences that stretch us, challenge us and make us a little uncomfortable. Be prepared to work on skills that look impossible, practice or relearn riding techniques, ride a little closer in a paceline, ride a little higher/further/faster than you’ve done before, and even ride in conditions you thought were ridiculous. We’re not talking about taking unnecessary risk, rather pushing yourself a little bit with each skill, activity, and ride. Stepping out of your comfort zone in the safety net of a camp with coaches and mentors around you will lead to gains that you may have never thought possible.
It can be intimidating to register for a cycling camp, but if you can muster the courage, it will most likely be the most rewarding experience of your cycling life.