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Mountain Biking 10 Ways To Calm Your Fear and Ride at Your Best

1.  Create a pre-ride routine to get you in the right mental space to ride your best! Nothing kills confidence liked a busy, cluttered mind. Don’t just a hop than bike after a stressful day, start with a routine that gets you focused on riding your best.  Learn to create your pre-ride routine here: https://wp.me/p49ApH-1g9

2. Go at your own pace and take “baby steps” when progressing. Taking a big leap over your comfort zone is not a good way to improve. This is a case of fear being a good thing! A big leap over your comfort zone likely means you don’t possess the skills to do it (or at least don’t believe you have those skills)!

Have you ever been goaded into doing something that you felt was way above your skill level? Even if you make it you often don’t feel like you have gotten better, you feel like you got lucky. Feeling, “Holy cow, I nearly died, that was sketchy!” does not improve your confidence! If you don’t make it,  the crash will often set you back, decreasing your confidence and raising your level of fear. So be gentle with yourself and progress at a pace that is comfortable for you.

3. Focus on what you want to do, not what you don’t want to do. This sounds simple but pays off big. Our brains don’t understand “not” and “don’t” very well. If you are focusing on not falling your brain has to focus on the concept of falling and then quickly try to refocus on “not” doing what you are thinking about. It is much easier to focus on “getting to that tree” or “ride this section smooth and light” than telling yourself “don’t fall”.

4. Live to ride another day! If you are more focused on “not falling” than you are on getting to where you are going, get off your bike and walk that section. Who knows you might go right through it the next time when you are more warmed up and/or focused.

After/while walking that section figure out what about that section is scaring you then “baby step” your way up to doing it.

Example: If a four-foot drop on an exposed trail is scaring you find a one foot drop with no exposure, get really good a hitting that, work your way up to a four-foot drop with no exposure, then ride an exposed trail with a one foot drop working all the way to a four-foot drop on an exposed trail. This builds on a series of successes, increasing your confidence!

5. Breathe, relax, breathe and smile it is just a bike ride. Breathing and smiling releases tension which improves our balance, coordination and confidence. I mean deep, belly breathes from your diaphragm which is very calming. Smiling releases endorphins which relax you. The simple act of lifting the corners of your mouth, even if it is a grimace it will release those endorphins and relax you!

I read that Navy Seals use “box breathing” for this, breathe in for a four count, hold for a four count, breathe out for a four count, hold for a four count and repeat.

6. As you improve make sure you update your self-concept to match. Remember that the past doesn’t equal the future. You may have wrecked or not made a section last week/month but if your skills have improved since then the section may be easier for you now.

Let’s say there is tough rock section that has troubled you for years, you have never made it (and probably think something like, “darn, here comes that rock that always messes me up” as you approach it. Then you learn the correct combination of skills to get over that rock and wham, you do it! This is when you need to stop, get off your bike, look at that rock and update your self-image. “Wow, that rock used to mess me up every ride, now it is easy, I simply look to victory, manual, shift my weight and off I go! That rock is so easy now, watch, I’ll do it again.” Then do it again and really cement the idea that that rock is now easy and you have the skill to do it consistently.

How to mtb, weight shift

7. Wear knee pads and elbow pads when practicing a tough section are learning a new skill. I have found that having padding on really increases your confidence when learning or trying to push your limits. As a matter of fact, I never ride without knee pads anymore, knees are too valuable and too easily damaged!

I don’t wear them because I expect to fall (I don’t expect to fall), I wear them so I can focus on what I want to do!

8. Write your fears down and then read them out loud! This often debunks your fear/s. Is your fear realistic? Often fear is not based in reality and when we realize this the fear goes away.

I was taking a meditation for sport class and the instructor had us do this exercise, some of the fears were hysterical. One of the students said he was afraid of upsetting his wife if he didn’t do well. Instructor, So your wife really cares how well you do in your bike race. Student, well, actually, while she wants to me to do well she really doesn’t care what place I get.

9. Learn from your mistakes. If you mess up or wreck do your best to figure out why it happened and correct that mistake or improve your technique so it will not happen again. Then update your self-image!

10. Power pose! You might want to add this powerful technique to your pre-ride routine! https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

Confidence is everything! Not overconfidence which can be dangerous, simply being confident in the skills you possess as a mountain biker will enable you to ride at your best!

Remember to have fun, after all, that is what mountain biking is all about.

I hope this has helped you. What are your mountain biking fears? Let me know in the comments.

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