Over 300 thoughtful quotes were submitted in response to my question: 'What role does risk play for you while mountain biking?'
I've highlighted a few below, it's a potent dose of wisdom on the topic. Having read through each submission and taken notes, I've begun work on a more in depth blog post on this topic. So for now, I hope you appreciate this lovely range of perspectives.
If you decide to read through all of these, please share any patterns or themes you notice in the comments below. Ride ON!
Risk to sport is like spice to cooking. Without a little to flavor the stew the result is awfully bland. That said, the difference between “a little” and “too much” is very small and extremely worthy of our careful consideration. M.S.
...I ride today in a manner such that I know I will be able to ride tomorrow. K.G.
I'm 71 and love the rush, but always consider the recovery time that will take away future riding time. It's a balance. M.G.
...I'm more likely to try something new (ie, risky) on my bike if I'm with supportive people (like when sessioning a feature) or if I'm particularly upbeat about other things in my life (relationships, work, etc) because I feel more on-top-of-the-world with a can-do attitude. S.D.
Full send or no send. N.P.
At 62, risk management is big part of my daily ride. My objectives when I ride are:
1. Don't die!
2. Don't get hurt.
3. Have as much fun as I can without triggering 1 & 2.
This has served me well through 33 years and about 7000 rides. P.P.
...Some of my most memorable moments over the years have come after taking that deep breath and pulling off something I was pretty sure I could do, but where falling could/would result in injury (to body or even pride!). M.J.
When I pull my mountain bike out of the garage to go ride, it's because I want to ride some dirt and the enjoyment I get from being out in the woods. The little voice in my head doesn't ask: "where should I go find some risk today?" S.B.
...Honestly, after doing more drills and spending more time on the bike I've gained a greater appreciation for what I can and can't do, but more importantly I've realized the steps that you need to take to build the skills and confidence to progress towards more challenging trails... A.W
Risk is inherently about the unknown. What do we fear about the unknown? We fear not knowing if we’ll lose what we have, or maybe not get what we want to gain. Taking a risk is stepping through that fear and crossing from not knowing to knowing. It’s an awakening moment. And that...that is, for me, at the center of fun. Can I clear it? I dunno. Let’s risk it and find out! I CLEARED IT! And when I go in with that attitude, failure doesn’t matter because I still crossed over. M.T.B.
My risk taking is completely intuitive: I rely on my intuition to take - or not to take - a risk. It’s often a split second decision. Havoc normally happens when overruling that intuitive feeling. C.R.
For all the years I rode comps and demo's the most common question was what if you get it wrong? Whether it was a rail gap or a drop gap, the same reply came out my mouth: don't get it wrong. It's only as I got older and wiser watching and commentating on younger riders could I see the danger that other people see. R.J.
I am 44 years old...midlife crisis is striking me hard. On my bike, I take (stupid/unnecessary) risks... just to keep up with my younger, better-skilled, faster, ride buddies. Can't help myself, apparently I feel like I must prove myself. B.D.G.
I evaluate every line/trick/obstacle every day with two questions. Do I have a plan for this and understand the situation? Is my poise/confidence/ability up to it? If not, I walk... C.W.
I've had some back and shoulder injuries (some from crashes) and they have taken a long time to comeback from. For me, risk is about expanding limits so you do reasonable things on most trails at speed, but preserving your body so you can continue to do this amazing sport as long as you can. T.T.
In my head... I want to do flips and massive jumps, but I don’t want the consequence (crashing). The reward is small and failure could mean not being able to do all the other things I love in life. His is definitely not an enhancer for me... it's a throttle or regulator. J.P.
As a safety auditor and trials rider, I see risk much differently that most people. I make the distinction between risk and consequence. I apply a high level of focus, confidence and skill. As a result, I only take perceived risk, not an actual risk to my well being. F.L.
Risk at even low levels is where I learn and progress, but having the necessary skills to justify the risk is mandatory. More skills can lead to more risky choices, which needs to be balanced by good old common sense. T.W.
I learned from trials riders like yourself to systematically break down the dichotomy of risk/confidence and abilities. Trials is still a core set of skills that gets applied on other bikes. Study of terrain and also spending time to learn ones own riding threshold. Many people ride recklessly and put too much trust in risk. Thanks Ryan, I have learned from your riding. I have also learned how calm you are in person. That too factors in. G.O.
I see lots of riders who try stuff way over their heads and get injured. But those are the guys who sometimes move up to the next level. I also ride with riders who only ride in their comfort zone and never really advance. I guess it’s all in how much you want it! S.M.
Because of a series of crippling concussions, I tend to avoid risks while riding. Yet because of this I find it detracts from the joys of riding and reaping the rewards of conquering a challenge. G.H.
...In short I think risk is part of the game but everyone should look for what is acceptable for him in regards to what one looks for when riding, this is very personal and we should not get (too much) influenced by other. A.G.
Risk vs reward. Most of us are working to live, providing for oneself and potentially others. There has been a jump my friends and I have been eying for a few years, always talking ourselves out of it because it's more likely than not something would go wrong, seriously wrong. Finally, last year I met a fellow rider that was completely confident and comfortable hitting the jump. I followed him in and the rest is history. I now have my crew sending this once unimaginable jump like it’s a small five foot jump. Mind over matter. G.R.
Risk is something to be managed as it's present in every outdoor activity to some degree. Unlike backcountry skiing, where assessments and decisions are a group effort, I mostly mountain bike and bikepack solo. I have to weigh the fun factor versus the risk of injury or inability to self rescue. I take preventative measures where I can, but still, without risk there would be no adventure. B.K.
...And it reminds me to respect the mountain - because as soon as I start taking it for granted, it will bite me hard. S.B.
Of course I try to minimize the risk of injury, but I'm also aware that I get better at biking when I try things that are a bit scary. A perfect example would be daring to lean further and further back and trusting the rear brake when attempting wheelies. As you get better the risk/reward balance shifts towards being mainly reward. A.B.
Risk weighs heavily on my mind, but I believe it is just the type of person I am. There are multiple trails I ride that cause me anxiety just by driving to them. I think too much. I think about what features I'll hit that day. Will I hit "X"? Will I hit "Y"? This causes me hardcore anxiety, as I'm typically afraid of the possible consequence... N.H.
The moment I enjoy taking risks the most is in a group dynamic context. There is nothing better than you and your mates doing the same crazy line and feeling stoked for the rest of the day. O.F.
I do not consciously seek risk for its own sake. I see risk as a barrier that is overcome through skills development. In fact, I seek to mitigate risk through practice and acquiring new skills, which, in turn, gives me the satisfaction of being able to do something that requires some daring. F.C.
The worst feeling for me is to be in a situation where my ability level does not match the challenge of the trail. What I love is learning new skills and finding trails that will challenge those abilities. The former feels scary and risky, the latter gets me into flow. C.N.
As a long-term cancer survivor, I have dealt with issues of life and death for a very long time. Being alive is a risk. Being in the moment is a gift. Being on the mountain, I see all the signs of impermanence as the leaves die and the roots of long dead trees create interest on the path. The breath that sustains me sustains the mountain. The clock of the universe jeopardizes every form of existence. So... risk is Reaching Into Special Kinship with this solitary moment in the universe which moves at the speed of light. R.J.
Like any activity in which there is an edge to play, risk is a core and defining feature of mountain biking. Avoid your edge and you'll have plateaued, push too far past your edge and you'll pay the price. But learn to play your edge, naturally and without attachment, and you're likely to reap a paradoxical progress. Remain receptive to where your edge is on any given day - as you tire, as your responsibilities change, as you age - and integrate that level of risk into your riding, and you'll have the basis for a lifelong engagement with the process of mountain biking. J.F.
Having only been back on the bike for a month or so I am still riding like every turn has inherent risk, things that didn't phase me now scare the shit out of me. It gets better with each ride but I am no longer the guy who goes first all of the time. The risk is now purely in my head as a permanent demon making me take things slower and to send it less. I hope this changes, but pretty certain the cost of the sport I love will kill off my hobby long before the risk does. D.T.
Risk has always been my direct link to mindfulness. The process has been...risk triggers fear. Fear then reminds me to F-focus, E-enable myself through visualizing my line or movements needed, A-act on my visualization, and R-respond to any anomalies that I hadn't thought of. Risk engages us and allows us to meet our yearnings so that we may thrive fully. C.K.
... I've had too many hospital visits over the years and have a very hard time forgetting what the crash looked like in my head, the extreme pain felt afterwards and the long rehab before I could get back onto my bike. Those things flash through my mind every time before I line up a jump. Every time... N.H.
For me, the benefit of risk is that it brings adrenaline, and fear. And that's good - within reason. Practicing performing under pressure makes it easier when the situation is less controlled - on the road, at the office, and at home. When things go sideways and I can react positively instead of shutting down, a lot of the credit goes to my bike! And my skis, to be fair... T.D.
For ten intense years on a mountain bike, my motto was the higher the risk, the higher the reward. I was fearless, until I finally took myself out of the sport completely with a crash from a six foot platform drop, leading to a severe shoulder injury, six hours of reconstructive surgery, and a long and painful rehab. Now, I take lazy rides down laughably non-technical dirt and enjoy seeing a whole lot more nature than I used to. K.K
Impact is proportional to speed squared, so just slowing a bit significantly reduces the consequences of getting it wrong. Especially as at the age of 50 your body no longer heals as quickly as it did 30 years ago! I generally ride a hardtail because it wont allow you to get yourself into so much trouble - a dually will be more forgiving, but when it goes wrong you will most likely be going faster... P.C.
The paradox is that to make myself feel fully alive I have to risk life itself. D.F.
I was doing very well upgrading my skills and becoming much better and then I had a major crash where I knocked myself out and destroyed the frame on my bike. I think we hit a certain level where we are really safe and then if we explore new limits the risk increases exponentially. G.F.
...I was doing well and gaining confidence and crashed hard on a jump, fracturing and dislocating my shoulder. Now I seem to have fear of crashing again and won’t risk doing something I previously could ride! It is frustrating, but body preservation becomes necessary as we age! D.S.B.
...When I clear a hard section I get so much enjoyment and a huge sense of accomplishment... S.
... I think once you stop taking any risk, then mountain biking would become a little boring... S.K.
RIsk is a subjective line that we must cross to get a level of reward. If I avoid risk, then I avoid the reward... J.G.
I tried a few very simple features with friends and I couldn’t help smiling! I will definitely continue to be involved in calculated risk – it is an essential part of my riding. G.E.
My family asks me about this from time to time as they hear about the kind of trails I ride and the speeds that I ride them at. My answer is mostly consistent. I do ride aggressive trails and ride them as fast as I can, but I always am able to stay within my comfort zones. I have developed my mountain bike skills over a 22 year period and I rarely or never take on something I can't handle. It is going to be a surprise to me if I ever get hurt beyond the normal scrapes and bruises. D.G.
Nothing you can do is without risk (not even sitting on the couch all day). In my riding career I'm probably at greatest risk when I lose concentration or get complacent. The other day I cut my forehead open (just below the helmet line) on a flat bit of track I have literally ridden over 1000 times before without incident. J.C.
Risk is what reminds me that there is much more to life than mountain biking, and it's not worth risking those greater things for a momentary thrill. Sure, it slows me down, but if that allows me to keep enjoying my loved ones and God's creation longer, then that's alright with me. A.N.
Risk to me is different than when I was a kid. As a kid I skateboarded the ditches of El Paso with no pads or helmet. Now I am 58 years old, still skateboard and mountain bike geared up. But I have a 9 year old daughter and 11 year old son. I think about their future more than my pursuit of fun doing something risky. G.S.
Hope you benefited from this amazing selection of quotes - did it shift your perspective about risk? It certainly enlightened me when compared to my own opinions on the subject. High Fives!
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