How do you keep the edge and remain fearless after going over the bars?
I asked my DH guy friends what they do to remain fearless after a bad crash... they didn't understand the question. Of course, they have testosterone. They're designed for risk-taking, not self-preservation.
But I do like the simplicity of the John Wayne-esque, "Uh-course yer afraid. Everybody is. But ya just gotta git back on yer bike an' do it."
So, here is my "How to Remain Fearless" plan.
1. Figure out why you crash. Most of the time it's a mistake you can avoid by riding smarter.
The biggest reasons why I crash are:
Lack of technical skill.
Trying to ride at someone else's pace/ skill set.
Being tired and not stopping soon enough / not knowing when to say when.
Being half-hearted about difficult sections (like going down a steep 15-foot descent - you commit to it or you DON'T do it).
Going too fast for my skill set.
Going too slow for the terrain (like a rock garden).
Having sloppy form and not being in the right position when the unseen bump in the trail occurs.
Not looking far enough ahead.
Being too tense. Gotta relax.
Focusing on the obstacle instead of the desired line.
2. Concentrate on the things you did right.
Learn what you can from the things you did wrong, then leave those mistakes behind. Do not revisit them. Revisit all those accomplishments as often as you want.
3. Rewrite mental history to your benefit.
I go back in my mind to the sections I crash in, and mentally ride them clean, then ride them BIG. When my teammate suggested that I not just mentally go over the obstacle clean,but jump it and huck, I blinked and said flatly, "But I've never jumped anything." "Doesn't matter, "she said, "huck it in your mind anyway." I must admit, I like this technique.
4. Build your confidence by riding things you know you're comfortable with.
Work your way back up, do things you already know you can do with no trouble. You don't need to push your limits all the time.
5. Be proud of the small steps you take.
6. Practice and
enhance your bike handling skills.
Practice some technical skills while solo to gain confidence in bike handling. Trackstanding, manualing, riding slow tight turns, bunny hopping, riding the curb... all these things will improve your bike handling and confidence while taking your mind off other things.
7. Don't be angry
at yourself for being afraid.
If you've had some bad crashes and fear has overrun you, don't be angry or ashamed that you are dealing with fear. Take some comfort in the fact that, no matter what they might tell you, everyone who has pushed the edge has been afraid too. Learning how to deal with fear is a skill, and can be developed. Let yourself learn from the experience, and move forward.
8. Give it time.
Give it time. Give it time.
Don't overlook that you might need some time to mentally recover from the stress and trauma of a bad crash. Be aware that pushing again too hard too soon will likely prolong the healing process. Like trying to fight a head cold, it's harder to do if you don't let your body rest. Taking your medicine (suggestions 1 - 7) will help, but sometimes only time will heal you the most.
Finally, if all else fails,
9. Get a bigger fork / better bike...
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