Turning a fear into a mission: Ray’s Indoor MTB Park

So, you’ve heard of Ray’s Indoor Mountain Bike Park, right? If not, it’s a warehouse that has been turned into an indoor skills park, cross country course, and BMX park. Basically, that place where the “kids” go ride, jump and do crazy tricks on their bike! Ok, that’s not entirely true. Sure, it’s a place where you can jump and hop around and do some crazy tricks on a bike, but there are also plenty of other places that you can ride, keep all the rubber fully in contact with the floor, and explore. Ray’s is a lot different than riding outside. You won’t find dirt trails, roots, and trees in the park. What you will find is a lot of wooden ramps, various “skinnies”- think 2 inches wide to as wide as a sidewalk or wider, some an inch off the ground and some a few feet from the ground, and yeah there are places to jump, some that are nice and small that you can roll over (keeping the rubber in contact at all times) and some you can catch some air. There really is something for every level rider!

You’re now probably saying, sure that’s coming from someone who rides there frequently, is a skills coach, and knows what they are doing. Let’s rewind a bit… In my first three-ish years of riding, I heard a lot of “go check out Ray’s”, “Let’s go up to Ray’s”, “c’mon and join me at Ray’s”. I would ALWAYS say no and come up with some random excuse as to why I couldn’t go. The reality… I WAS AFRAID and INTIMIDATED. There’d be a ton of people, I’d get hurt, I wouldn’t be able to ride anything. Yep, that’s right I was totally freaked out about riding there, so I never went.

Ok, now let’s fast forward to November 2016…I was a newly certified mountain bike skills instructor and was asked to help out with ladies nights at Rays. Initially I thought I’ll be the “behind the scenes person”- you know, figure out logistics, plan games…but not really actively teach there, because I was terrified to go. There was this tiny part of me that was curious, but most of me was all about the nope, nope, nope…danger, danger, danger. One day, I went up on sort of a whim and met up with someone who knew the park. We started VERY slow and I remember having a plethora of thoughts as I first rode off to check out the place: OMG I’m gonna end up broken; WTF is up with this SUPER low saddle; I feel really awkward; I’m in way over my head; Can everyone see how scared I am?; My whole body is shaking; I’m going to get run into….the list went on. I saw people fully airborne, flipping in to a foam pit. I was overwhelmed to say the least. We rode back to the beginner room so I could get some of my bearings and then looked at a few of the beginner/novice areas. The whole time I kept thinking: I can’t stand, balance on this bike, and ride like this – I can’t ride any of the stuff here. Eventually, we rode around so I could see (not ride) what all was there and my “tour” finished with a slow lap of the cross country loop- talk about once of the most terrifying experiences I’ve had on a bike! I actually had to stop at the end and regroup. My “tour guide” needed to get back to work, so I was left to my own devices…GULP. I spent quite a bit of time just getting comfy, standing and riding in the beginner rooms where everything was low consequence and I could just explore this new riding style. I finished my first time there with one more lap of the XC loop- because why not? I returned my rental and headed home – the entire time thinking that was really scary, but actually really kinda fun. Would it have been fun if i went up on my own, without someone who knew the park? NOPE! What about if I hadn’t learned a bit about the fundamentals skills for riding at Rays? (and then learned to teach those and more) NOPE.

So, yes, I was totally in those “I’m totally not coordinated enough”, “I’m too afraid”, “There’s nothing at Ray’s for me” shoes. When Ray Petro, the man himself, asked us to create an environment to show female riders they don’t have to be intimidated, where they can build friendships and confidence, the phenomenal event called Ladies Nights at Rays was brought to life! We are here to introduce you to this place alongside other women (who are SUPER supportive and encouraging btw) that love to help out new, and new to Ray’s riders. If you’re now saying “I’m only a road rider” or “I only ride the multipurpose trail and there’s nothing there for me,” I can assure you all disciplines of riding (road, hybrids, mountain bikes etc…) have skills that cross over. Mountain bike handling skills that I learned at Ray’s, have made me a more confident road rider (and have also helped me avoid a few crashes).

Still unsure about Ray’s? We have coached women (and girls) of all levels – ranging from some that have never ridden a mountain bike, some that haven’t ridden a bike in 10+ years, and even some experienced outdoor riders. We have helped take the fear out of Rays. We show you some basic skills for riding indoors and then show you some places that are less intimidating to ride. You are always accompanied by 1 or 2 coaches during your first visit, sometimes multiple visits (unless you tell us to get lost so you can shred) and typically other women who are there to learn! Each time you come back you begin to explore more and more of what Ray’s has to offer and then before you know it, you’re riding things that you looked at the first time you walked in and said OMG I’ll never do that!

Ray Petro, THANK YOU! You have created a place where every rider regardless of skill can come ride, build confidence and strength, make friendships, and have an outlet in the winter. Riding at the park you created has given me confidence to ride things I never dreamed I’d ride and to actually get both wheels off the ground!