We all come across obstacles in our cycling lives which challenge us, scare us, and put a downer on our riding. So add another New Year's resolution to the never-ending list, and make sure you overcome that love-to-hate barrier this year.
There's nothing more disheartening than shredding down a trail, feeling great with the mud and wind in your face, then suddenly coming up to a feature you feel you just can't overcome. It could be a drop-off, a bridge or gap jump, but whatever it is, it disrupts your flow and drags you out of the zone.
If you ride the trail regularly and go too long without facing this obstacle, it can quickly develop into a fear complex and it'll stop you in your tracks every time, and leave you pushing your bike in defeat. This effect is worsened if the obstacle you face is the cause of a previous accident or injury, but it's important to keep a positive outlook and believe you can do it, or you'll soon find it affects your confidence.
So what can you do to overcome that obstacle this year?
What is it?
Understand what the obstacle is. Is it be a trail feature like a jump, drop or corner? What about the feature scares you - is there a certain point you always lose your nerve? Or is it simply that you're afraid of speed and find yourself pulling back on the levers the whole ride down? It's important to know what you're having difficulty with, and why.
Whatever it is can be broken down into segments and analysed bit-by-bit. There are many videos online which help with skills training, which will help you see from a different perspective.
Don't let the problem get in the way of your riding to the point where you actively avoid certain routes and trails. Believing in yourself and having a positive mental attitude makes the biggest of difference to your ability. Breathing exercises and meditation work to clear your head and regulate your breathing so you don't find yourself panicking on approach.
Step-by-Step and Repeat
Now you know what the obstacle is, and why it's a problem for you, the next thing is to overcome it. Simple, right?! Ok - no - but you can do it.
This is best done at your own pace, and no one else's. If you feel more confident wearing a full face helmet and additional body armour, then do it. If you feel better tackling it with your riding partner, then take them. Use whatever it is that will help you conquer that obstacle.
Start at the bottom and work your way up. If it's a feature like a jump or a drop, then find similar ones that are much smaller practise technique on, and then gradually move on to bigger features as you master the skill. Focus on each individual drop - but as they get bigger, remember all the success' you've had so far.
If it's a corner, take a riding buddy who's a little more confident than you, and watch how they attack the bend. You can even ask them to call out what they're doing - where do they brake? Where do they start to turn their body? Once you've watched it through once or twice, follow from a distance. You can learn a lot from mimicking successful riders, and once you've got the hang of it, you'll probably be able to transfer what you've learned to other similar bends.
Perhaps you're a brake-loving rider and you want to control your speed without gripping those levers. Find a section of trail which is flowy, and session it. Each time, challenge yourself to go just a little bit faster and to leave those brakes alone a tiny bit more.
Repetition will help you memorise the corners, the lumps and bumps until you know it like the back of your hand. Time yourself each run whilst trying to let go of the brakes a little more each time, and remember to always look ahead.
Once you're more confident with your speed control on that section, transfer your skills and confidence onto other routes and trails to practice on. Over time you'll get more and more comfortable with your speed limits.
There's no feeling quite like learning something new and conquering a fear. It's important to take it slow and at a pace, you're comfortable with, there is no right time-scale to master anything.
Once you've overcome that mental block, and smashed that stubborn obstacle, there'll be no stopping you from having a fun, uninterrupted day of shredding.
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