For more tips on choosing a sports camp, visit Sports Camps 101.
It is that time of year when many cyclists begin to think about signing up for an off-road training camp or tour this upcoming spring or summer.
When you decide that you want to hit the trail and sign up for a cycling camp or trip, the last thing you want is to return home disappointed.
You sign up for the camp for the experience of a lifetime, but some things should be predictable: a comfortable place to sleep, good food, and a way to get back from the trail if something goes wrong.
"The number of camps and off-road adventure trips are growing. But it's not regulated business," Connie Carpenter, director of Carpenter-Phinney Camps said. "When you sign up for a camp, you put out a lot of money to people you do not know. It's up to the purchaser to investigate before taking off to the mountains."
Here are some points to consider before signing up for an off-road camp:
- Is it established?
Ask how long the company has been in business and how familiar the company is with the area where the camp will be located. Stick with companies that have been in business for at least five years--longer is better.
- Where's my bed?
Will you be comfortable in a lodge, hotel or a rustic cabin? What kinds of food are served at mealtimes? How many people to a room? Are single accommodations available? These are extremely important questions, especially after you have been riding all day.
- The insurance issue
Make sure the company has adequate liability insurance. One million dollars would be the minimum coverage you should accept. Consider purchasing personal trip-cancellation insurance in the event you get ill or miss your flight.
- How bad will it hurt my wallet?
How much will it cost? Check out the company's cancellation policy, both if you have to cancel and if the company cancels. Most companies give a full refund or offer another camp date if they cancel, but the industry is not regulated, so make sure you check.
- Can I hack it?
What is the level of the camp? Is the camp for competitive off-road cyclists, beginners, and fitness enthusiasts? Will there be instruction for your level of riding and for what you hope to learn during your stay at camp? What is the instructor-to-student ratio? How large is the camp? Is it all riding or does it offer lectures? Many camps can accommodate riders of various abilities, but ask.
- Who's in charge here?
Find out who is actually running the camp or tour. Many camp directors hire staff to lead the rides and give the lectures.
You may give your money to someone who makes a lot of promises and then hires staff with no coaching or teaching experience. Do you recognize the names and credentials of the staff? Find out if they have the expertise you would like for your level of riding.
- The little things...
Are they trained in CPR and first aid? Do they have a pre-trip plan? Will they send you a list of needed items and will they have equipment there to ride or loan you? Do they give explicit directions to the camp?
Also, ask about the phone number of the initial meeting place or hotel, in case you miss your plane flight.
Do they have a program for traveling companions or your family? Are there alternative activities for significant others, such as rafting, hiking, road riding? Do you get any "alone time" during the camp?
- Make sure you are ready.
Get in shape. Do not show up without sufficient miles in your legs. Be wary of camps or trips that show no concern for your level of fitness; they should not want to accept you if you are not up to the rigors of the camp. Some camps even offer a training schedule to help prepare for the trail sessions.
Make sure your bike is in good working condition before you get on the plane. It is not the responsibility of the camp to make major repairs to your bike upon your arrival. Make sure you have adequate clothing for the environmental conditions of the camp and the season it is held.