Here is a particularly relevant question that one of our website readers sent in. Who hasn’t felt the same way? Read on, and share your experiences overcoming fear in the comments section below!
Reader: Hi, I’m a slowly aging female rider. I find I sabotage my learning because I am terrified of falling. I’ve broken several bones and have other lasting injuries. It seems to me I’ll never really get anywhere until I learn how to fall and improve my mental outlook. I am looking to acquire the specific skill of falling without getting hurt or to minimize getting hurt.
An analogy in my life would be skiing. I’m a competent skier and I generally don’t shy away from learning skills on my skis by trial and error. This approach enabled me to quickly progress my skiing skills over far fewer hours than I’ve put into mountain biking. As I watched Danny MacAskill’s new video, and saw that he tried a trick 300 times before he got it right, I realized that he must be very, very good at falling.
In addition to the other skills do you offer lessons on how to physically fall off of my bike in a safer manner?
Ryan Leech: I totally agree, falling is a skill! And the catch 22 is that the more we fall the better we get at it
The mantra I use when creating my instructional courses is Bike-Body-Mind. My goal is to ride for as long as I can, with as much enjoyment as is possible. And of course continue to improve in a variety of ways. There are some great methods for falling that can certainly be practiced, and I haven’t yet made a video on that… yet!
A sport like mountain biking can be dangerous as you have discovered. So when you combine an aging (but still capable!) body, an often dangerous sport, and the extra mental challenge that comes with a few bad crashes, then yes I agree you have a lot to overcome. The benefits of what’s possible overcoming fears and if you work your way through these struggles is pretty awesome though.
Your inquiry is actually a very important one, and I addressed these concerns within the Mental Fitness category of my website. Additionally, the private Facebook page members are very mature, supportive, and always interested in sharing experiences. If you join, I encourage you to post a message to the group asking for their opinions.
Does this feature at Desert Trails Park in Mesa, Arizona look scary or fun to you?
Elaine Bothe (Coach & Ambassador for RLC): You’re not the only one with these concerns! We all experience fear. What one rider might be afraid of might be a lot bigger than what someone else fears, but the feeling is identical. I’ve worked with a lot of riders overcoming fear, injuries and other setbacks, and you’re doing the right thing by looking to improve your skills. Rebuilding confidence takes some time and a little bit of effort but can pay off hugely by boosting your confidence and safety, as well as rekindling your passion for the sport.
I didn’t start mountain biking seriously until I was age 43, and I’m 51 now. I guess that means I’m also slowly aging! We all are. I’m still facing fears, building skills and getting faster through the help of skills coaching. I’ve been fortunate to not have a lot of serious injuries, in part because I truly value seeking input when I’m feeling awkward off a jump, drop or through a technical section or corner.
By slowing down a little for now, you’ll take your skills back down to the foundation and rebuild them in new ways. You’ll create brand new good habits and technique, as well as overcoming fear. And, you’ll have more fun!
On the Ryan Leech website, I recommend working through the Baseline Balance Skills and the Mental Fitness classes. The Mental Fitness classes are only available as part of a membership. Visualization is a powerful tool I use all the time which is part of many of the lessons inside Ryan's courses. The Yoga for Mountain Bikers series is another great way to also build strength and balance. Read the comments and the Facebook group, as it’s likely someone else is dealing with the same thing. Good luck and let us know how it goes!