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How to Out Ride Your Fears on the Trails

Fear is a feeling that all riders will experience at some point on the trails.


A mountain biker stopped on a bridge contemplating if they want to proceed.
How to out ride your MTB fears.

Historically, we used fear to protect and defend ourselves from dangers, such as wildlife or external and unpredictable circumstances. These days, the world is much more civilized, and we don't need to be watching our backs all that much anymore. But that doesn't mean our 'fear alarm' has been switched off, and that's why so many people have something they're fearful of on their bikes and the trails - Our brains see it as a danger!


Fear is a response emotion when there is a lack of confidence. Fear can show up when there is a specific object or situation, future events, imagined events, and the unknown. Due to a lack of information, being complacent, and lack of resources, fear can reflect on our actions, such as fear of looking bad to our friends or family, not making the jump, or falling on the rocks. Fear can paralyze our ability to perform. While we recognize that fear is a highly complex feeling and emotion, and everyone experiences it differently, below are our three quick tips to help you focus on uncovering, understanding and beginning to overcome those fears and learn how to be the driver rather than the passenger of fear.

Uncover

To start tackling your mountain biking fears, you must first highlight what that fear is and be as specific about it as possible.

For example, don't just say, "I'm scared of falling or getting hurt." To be more specific, rephrase that to something along the lines of: "I'm scared of falling on _________" (i.e. technical descents or falling off of elevated bridges/skinnies).

The more specific the fear, the easier it will be to create actionable steps to overcome it.

Understand

To begin processing your specific fear, let's dive deeper and understand why that fear exists.

  • Can you describe why that fear exists?

  • Have you had it happen before? Have you witnessed someone fail or do it before?

  • Can you identify why your brain is shifting to visualizing failure instead of success?

  • Is it a fear of the unknown?

Overcome

To begin overcoming your fear, start by listing out a few options or actionable steps specific to that fear based on the pillars below:

  • Mechanical:

    • Did you do your pre-ride bike and equipment checks? Is your bike in top working order for the terrain ahead? Are you on the right bike? Are you wearing adequate armour/protection? Etc.

  • Physical:

    • Have you learned the proper skills, techniques and steps to execute the task? Do you understand how to do the task?

    • Have you physically warmed up?

    • Have you warmed up your skills? Have you completed the proper progressive steps to get to this point (i.e. working on smaller drops, progressing by 1' at a time to get to your height?).

  • Mental:

    • Have you mentally warmed up by riding similar features that are easier so you can build confidence around the task ahead and get the feeling of success?

    • Do you have the proper attitude to visualizing success? Are you excited to do the task ahead?

    • Are you with people who motivate and excite you to complete the task? Ideally, it would be best if you were with other riders that meet challenges with a positive and excited attitude instead of negativity and immediately highlight the consequences of failure.

    • What is your risk vs reward? How can we mitigate the consequences if the chances of failure are higher?


Putting It Into Action

Once you're on the trail, ready to tackle your fear, if you suddenly begin to feel a flux of emotions on the rise, take a moment to pause and complete the "5 Step Exercise" to help prevent yourself from getting overwhelmed and re-ground yourself:

  1. What are five things that I see?

  2. What are four things that I hear?

  3. What are three things that I can touch?

  4. What are two things that I can smell?

  5. What is one thing that I can taste?


Take a few moments on your next ride and try to work through the steps above to get more specific about your fear, better understand it, and then create mechanical, physical, and mental steps to start overcoming it.

Fear will come and go, and how you handle your fears while mountain biking will allow you to explore and experience new attributes of your riding progression. Booking a private lesson with a professional certified mountain bike instructor can help accelerate your success!


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