Get ready to shred

Get ready to shred

Sara Haag has been mountain biking for about five years, starting shortly after she saw someone riding the trails at Kickapoo State Recreation Area while she was hiking there.

“It’s really nice to have that adrenaline and be out in nature and have that mental and physical challenge,” Haag said. “We’re lucky to have such great trails like Kickapoo so close.”

But biking downhill on curving trails, over rocks and roots, can be intimidating to a beginner.

Haag has organized a women’s mountain bike clinic at Kickapoo to help other women learn or improve mountain biking skills and encourage them to get out and enjoy the trails. The clinic is Saturday, May 13, and it is sponsored by the Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club, which Haag joined when she began mountain biking; DNK Presents, an Indianapolis company that provides guided adventure retreats, including mountain biking clinics; and Trek bicycles.

Blog PhotoHaag said some Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club members have traveled to attend bike clinics, and she wanted to bring one to the area. Kate Nolan and Danielle Wolter Nolan, the co-founders of DNK Presents, are both certified mountain bike instructors who will lead the clinic. Haag met them while mountain biking in the Indianapolis area.

“They are definitely full of energy and excitement. They’re great at making people feel comfortable and providing the spark to get people interested,” Haag said.

Kate Nolan said mountain biking is one of the fastest growing sports and she wants to help women riders “step outside their comfort zones and try new things in a fun, safe environment.”

Participants indicate when they register whether their skill level is beginner, intermediate or advanced. Haag said the morning session will take place at an open area near a trailhead, so participants can practice various skills. In the afternoon, they can test those skills on the trail.

Nolan said body position and balance are crucial skills for any level of rider.

“We teach them neutral position for looking ahead and recovery, a low ready position for stability, and a wider range of movement in all four planes,” she said.

Blog PhotoThe clinic also covers how to properly climb and descend hills, braking, speed control, gearing, cadence, and direction control for turning and cornering, she said.

“They'll learn trail awareness, to scan the trail to be prepared for what's next,” Nolan said.

Beginners will learn basic wheel lifts and riding roll offs, while more advanced riders will do jumps and drops, she said.

One of the benefits of the clinic, Nolan said, is riding with a group of people at a similar skill level so beginning riders aren’t stressed about trying to keep up with more advanced riders on technical terrain. It’s also a good way to meet other people to ride with, she said.

“I love listening to the laughter and seeing the smiles on the riders faces when it all comes together,” Nolan said.

Haag said she hopes the clinic will get more people riding on the trails at Kickapoo. She said the mountain bike club recently opened a new section of trail that is good for novice riders.

“It’s very beginner-friendly,” she said. “People who have ridden at Kickapoo know the trail system is technical in a number of areas. With this (new trail), you can get beautiful scenery and some winding trails through the woods.”


Jodi Heckel, a writer for the University of Illinois News Bureau, is a runner, swimmer and triathlete. You can email her at, or follow her at Her blog is at


Photos: Top, Kate Nolan works with a rider at one of her clinics on the correct body position for riding downhill. Bottom, Sara Haag, left, and women novice riders get ready for the start of the 2016 Kickapoo Mountain Bike Race.

If you go

What: Trek Women's Mountain Bike Clinic at Kickapoo State Recreation Area.

When: Saturday, May 13. It starts with an optional yoga class at 8 a.m., and the clinic runs from 9 a.m. to noon, with lunch provided by Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club. An afternoon session from 1 to 3 p.m. will include work on advanced skills and/or time on the trails.

Cost: $50 for Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club members and $75 for non-members. Participants must provide their own mountain bikes, helmets and appropriate shoes. No hybrid or road bikes.

Register: at

Swim Clinic for Triathletes

This swim clinic aims to help triathletes build skills for the swim portion of their races, whether in a pool or open water. It is open to triathletes new to the sport and experienced triathletes wanting to improve their skills.

The clinic is 7:30 to 11:30 a.m. May 20 at the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center. The cost is $75 for residents and $113 for non-residents through May 13. After that date, the prices increase to $94/$136. For more information or online registration, go to, or call 217-384-7665 or 217-367-1544 for registration.

The clinic will cover swimming efficiency, breathing dynamics, straight swimming, sighting, turns, in-water and beach starts, and swimming in a crowd. Instructors are masters swim coach and competitive masters swimmer Howie Schein, and competitive masters swimmer and open water swimmer Carol Hartman. Email questions to


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