I will be the first to admit that of the various sports I do, I am least competent at technical mountain biking.
Unlike running, road riding, or even riding on packed trails, mountain biking demands mental effort as much as physical. While riding a twisty, rocky, trail — especially one with lots of steep drops — you have to constantly think of the best way to ride through. A mistake and you could very quickly be embracing the ground. (That’s about the time I say “I’m really getting too old for this sh*t..”)
When I come across a particularly terrifying obstacle, I will often believe that it can’t be ridden. I will slow to a crawl or get off the bike and walk around. But ironically, this is the worst thing you can do. Because riding slow through this stuff is an invitation to disaster and getting off destroys your confidence and makes tackling the next obstacle that much harder.
No, the key is to follow four simple words. The best I have ever ridden have been the times I have been behind Lawrence and he yells them out to me. The four words? “Ride Right Over It.”
You see, today’s mountain bikes are more advanced that today’s mountain bikers. They can handle all sorts of terrain that one might assume cannot be ridden. If you just convince yourself not to panic you will find that you can “ride right over” almost anything. But if you do panic and start to worry about what could happen, you are setting yourself up for a world of hurt.
Sometimes Stella and I face a “rocky patch.” She would be an excellent mountain biker. She just tells me “Don’t worry. It will pass.” Sort of the same as “ride right over it.” And time and time again, she has been 100 percent correct. Perhaps by not dwelling on the difficult times, she gets through them that much quicker.
I, on the other hand, worry a lot. In the same way that I will look at a segment of trail and panic, I can over-think when she is having a rough time and not “ride right over it.” But that makes it so much harder to get through.
I really need to learn to take my own advice more often.
And there is one other key to mountain biking. When you ride off-road, you will fall. It’s part of the sport. There is no way if you ride mountain bike trails, you can guarantee you will not fall.
But what you have to do is just get back up, dust yourself off and get back on the bike. You can show your bruises to your buddies and tell the stories later. But the first thing is to get back in the saddle and continue on your journey.
And that’s what Stella and I are doing. And it’s why I am always in awe of her. Because she does not let a fall here of there get her down for long. If she has a bad day, she is 100 percent confident that the next day will be better.
And you know something? She has always been right.
Don’t sweat what you see coming down the trail. Just ride right over it and get ready for the next obstacle.