Mountain Bike Pre-ride Routine to Help You Ride Your Best
Most of my crashes and injuries have occurred within five minutes of throwing a leg over my bike. Usually because I wasn’t mentally “on my bike”, I was still worried/thinking about something that happened before my ride (Did I leave the stove on? Who won last nights primary’s? Do these fat tires make my butt look big? 😉 , etc.) and have a silly crash on an easy trail. We need to be focused and in the moment to ride our best!
Being mentally somewhere else, not “in the moment” is the cause of so much pain (mentally and physically) as we stumble through the day (or ride) without a true focus. I use the following in my racing and riding and it really helps me ride my best.
To make themselves feel comfortable and confident, top competitors in all sports utilize a personalized pre-race (or pre-game) routine to help them perform at their best. Routines are not the same as rituals, a routine is a structured plan designed to help you reach your optimum performance while a ritual relies on superstition to control your performance (things like not washing your “lucky” socks or stepping on a crack). In other words a routine helps you take control of your performance while rituals assume fate (not you) will control your ride/race.
This was originally written for a downhill team I coached but works equally well for all riding and racing. A big goal is to eliminate thoughts that will distract you and instead, put yourself in the proper mind state to ride with confidence!
I have added a night before the ride/race routine to eliminate most causes of worry and allow you to get some sleep.
Your pre-race/ride routine should make you comfortable in strange/new surroundings, build your confidence, eliminate stress, and prepare you to do your best. I have listed many common practices to get you started but you must experiment and find out what works best for you. This is another aspect of riding and/or racing where keeping a journal can really help you find out what works..
Night Before Ride/Race (taking care of all these items really helps me sleep!)
a. inspect and tune bike completely with checklist and put on number plate (how many riders have gotten to the trail head without shoes, helmet, shorts, etc and/or how many racers have arrived at a race and realized that their number plate is back in the hotel?!)
b. prepare race clothes, shoes, pads, helmet, goggles, gloves. use a check list.
c. prepare bag to take to the trail head/start with you: spare goggles and gloves, mp3 player with charged batteries, food, drink etc. use check list
d. add your own topics
a. “Riders” Know what you are getting into! By reading/asking people/watching videos about the trail. You need to be prepared for your ride, knowing: how long, how rough, how much climbing, etc the trail is/has will help you prepare and feel more confident that you are ready for the ride (helping you feel comfortable, relaxed and making it easier to fall asleep).
a. “Racers” Know the course by heart, no missing sections, have a confident plan on how you will ride from top to bottom (worrying about how to handle that “big jump” will keep you up all night).
b. Image race run (at least twice) from standing in line at the start to your feelings of elation after crossing the finish line with a perfect run
c. Remember, only concern yourself with what you control (which basically is your equipment and your riding) worrying about how your competition will ride is a big waste of time because you have no control over their riding
c. add your own preparation (meditation, stretching, yoga, etc.)
Morning of Ride/Race
1. Physical prep
a. When to wake up (how long before ride/race do want to wake up? So you have time to shower, eat, do dynamic stretching, take care of any lose ends?
b. What to eat and when to eat it, etc. Experiment with what you eat and how long before your ride/race you want to finish eating. We are different in this department and it may be different for a 40 mile ride with 8,000 feet of climbing than it is for a 10 mile hammer fest at full speed. This what a riding/training journal is for
c. add your own
2. Mental prep
a. Use Imaging, stretching, meditation, etc. to get you in the right mental state to ride your best.
b. find out what works for you
At Trailhead/Race Site
a. Dressing routine, always dressing (changing from street clothes to your riding clothes) in a certain order can be almost like a meditation, putting you in the right mental state to ride and making you feel at home even when miles away.
b. warm up, get your body ready for the ride!
c. practice run (if offered)
d. simple routine, before every ride I tap my chest on my stem a few times and go over my acronym below
e. find out what works for you
a. find out what your riding/racing fears are and how to put them to rest (weeks before race)! Many people worry about their competition’s performance , remember only concern yourself with what you control
b. “Riders” image riding smooth and in control
b. “Racers” Image race run at least three times (good use of chair lift time)
c. Put yourself in optimum mental state for racing/riding (again find out by experimenting while training) many people make a short list or mantra of why they will perform well, (i.e.. I have trained hard all winter for this, I know the course, I’m fast, I will ride my best etc.) also music is a big help to many riders/racers, make a play list of songs that make you feel good!
d. Create an acronym for the things that you need to remember to have a good ride and tape it to your stem or bars. Mine is BRAILUM which stands for Breath, Relax, Attitude, Intensity, Look Up, and Moto (Moto was my old expression for elbows up and out). Saying B Railum and then thinking about each component of it really helps me focus.
e. find out what works for you
Use this as a rough outline adding what works and getting rid of what doesn’t through experimentation. A well thought out routine will make you confident at the start while your competition worries about their run and wonders why you are so confident.
Dan Millman calls these “transition routines” and uses an example in his married life. Often he would have a stressful day at work, then a stressful commute home and when his loving wife opened the door and asked him how his day was he would unload that frustration on her! He quickly realized that though he wasn’t upset with his wife in the least, he was yelling at her and this probably wasn’t to good for his marriage.
He decided to create a transition routine when he got home. After he pulled into his driveway he would shut the car off but not leave the car until he had gone from frustrated coach and frustrated commuter to loving husband. He would take a few deep breathes and think something to the affect of, “wow! what a long and frustrating day! My boss can be such a jerk! and what is it with these impatient and rude drivers, I must have been cut off six times on my drive home. Geez, what a day! Now, I’m home and my loving wife is waiting for me. How fortunate am I to have such a sweet, caring. loving wife!”
Then after a few more deep breathes he would walk to the door. When his wife asked him how is day was he would, calmly, without raising his voice say, “it was rough honey, but first give me a hug, then I will tell you about it …”. He says that this routine saved his marriage.
Can you see how a similar routine will help you get much more out of every ride?!