Overcoming Fear - How Do You Guys Do It?

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11/8/2019 2:31 PM

Okay - I love mountain biking. But I also have a fear of heights and in my old age I have become conservative too. I also recently got pretty hurt doing something simple, trying to learn to manual and threw myself off the bike and hit the ground hard on my back. I was on the ground for a while but okay now, albeit bruised, stiff neck etc. But I finally got back on the horse this week and noticed I was even more timid, almost avoiding trying to practice anything like a manual and the same trails I had made progress in (not braking in corners, etc), I seemed to regress and had my worse runs in a while.

Also in trying to do jumps, I just can't get myself to do more than roll them as the moment I seem to go in the air, I just feel out of control and not loose or confident. I also was doing okay practicing dropoffs and now feel a bit timid on those as well.

How have you all overcome this to be good riders or were all of you just born brave and fearless?

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11/8/2019 3:08 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/8/2019 6:04 PM

Great question! First off, your fear is healthy. Mountain bikes can throw you really hard, and it's important to maintain a healthy fear of them. People who are fearless eventually have to stop riding, either because they're tired of being hurt all the time, or they're so hurt they can't ride anymore. Fear is good, so fearless people don't last long.

You mentioned "old age," so I think it's worth mentioning something that most people won't tell you: If you're over the age of 30 and you haven't already mastered jumps, drops, manuals, and other tricks, you've missed the golden window. It's not impossible to learn those skills now, but you'll have to learn things waaaaaaay slower than a 15-year-old would because your consequences are way higher. Crashing is part of learning, but now it hurts more, it takes longer to heal, and in the meantime you have bills to pay and maybe have mouths to feed, so you can't afford to be hurt all the time. Give yourself some grace to learn a little slower and to take smaller risks.

That said, it sounds like you psyched yourself out after your crash, and now you're having trouble doing the things you were previously able to do. For mountain biking and especially for racing and jumping, this internal mental and emotional battle is the whole game. Everything else is sort of window dressing. I'll let some other people chime in on how they deal with fear.





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11/8/2019 3:48 PM

Thanks for the great response TEAMROBOT! And for the record I am 45 and I get it, the stakes are higher and the resiliency lower. I guess I need to calibrate my expectations and take it slow but first need to get over this "psyche out".

And not sure if there are methods/tricks to deal with fear of heights along with it. I probably need to look forward more and not down as much - that's a beginning place I am sure.

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11/8/2019 4:54 PM

WorksInTheory wrote:

Thanks for the great response TEAMROBOT! And for the record I am 45 and I get it, the stakes are higher and the resiliency lower. I guess I need to calibrate my expectations and take it slow but first need to get over this "psyche out".

And not sure if there are methods/tricks to deal with fear of heights along with it. I probably need to look forward more and not down as much - that's a beginning place I am sure.

TeamRobot said everything I would say.

That said, I wanted to ask, when did you start riding? Do you have any other experience in another sport that might translate?

I ask because a "virgin" mountain biker at 40 who has 15 years of B level moto under their belt is very different than a 30 year old D1 lacrosse player who just picked up mountain biking. (This is actually a real case study I've coached).

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11/8/2019 5:43 PM

Thanks jeff.brines - got into mountain biking in my mid to late 20's - was okay and where I was, was mostly XC vs anything today. I know live in the PNW and got back into MTB 13+ years later and everything is different (but more fun!).

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11/9/2019 6:29 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/9/2019 6:34 AM

WorksInTheory wrote:

Thanks jeff.brines - got into mountain biking in my mid to late 20's - was okay and where I was, was mostly XC vs anything today. I know live in the PNW and got back into MTB 13+ years later and everything is different (but more fun!).

Very cool. Thx for the reply.

As Team Robot alluded to, there is a "golden window" to really get good at this sport. I picked it up when I was 12, and by today's standards, I'd say that is still too late to be *really* good. Case in point, with exception of a handful of riders, pretty much every pro MX guy started around FIVE! The modern crop of mountain bike pros, too, started silly early. I realize you aren't looking to be a pro, but this does go to show there is a development window that is really important to do what the top rung guys make look easy.

Does this mean you should quit!? NO way. It just means you have to look at things a bit differently.

I've talked about this before around here but I had a concussion about 12 years ago that I still deal with every single day in one form or another. There was a period of time I didn't really ride bikes. Today, I know clappin' my dome isn't really an option. (not riding my bike, also not an option for me )

I write this to say I've had to become very (very) pragmatic in my risk taking. This is what I'd suggest for you. Develop a step by step plan to getting around your fears. Identify exactly what you want to build up to (within reason) and figure out a plan to getting there using a more controlled environment. Be calculated before you just Larry-the-Enticer it.

I am not sure of any coaches around you, but the right coach can help *immensely*. Especially if you are more analytical like me.

I also know it sounds goofy, but YouTube can be a hell of a tool to learning the right way to do something. Just pay attention to who the teacher is! For better or worse, this is how I taught myself to ride a dirt bike the last few years (using the same pragmatic, fear-is-good approach). I now feel pretty comfortable on the dirt scooter, but also have a TON of respect for the machine.

One final thing I find interesting. When I was younger and I got a rush of adrenaline from "getting away with something" or clearing that double I hadn't really looked at it was AWESOME. Now when I feel that feeling, I want to go sit down and think about what I did wrong. It doesn't elicit feelings of good but feelings of crossing a line I know I shouldn't be crossing. Funny how things change.

In the end, pay attention to that voice of fear, of anxiety AND add a structured way of getting around that all while managing expectations. This ought to take your anxiety and fear to a more manageable place.





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11/9/2019 7:30 AM

All the input here so far is really good. I would also add go for a few rides that are easy, really easy. Don’t do anything that would have felt even mildly hard precrash. Do that a few times and you will start feeling comfortable again.

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11/9/2019 9:48 AM

All of this makes sense and validating that it's the state of the state vs my ineptitude. That helps.

That being said - jeff.brines - on the Youtube point, I consume that content like crazy and I have to say may be the culprit in wrong expectations. For example everything looks easy, done in an afternoon and if you just follow the video you'll be manualing in no time. No one tells you that there really good riders that still can't manual or what slamming your back and the back of your head on the ground looks like - because you know, just feather your brakes and you'll be fine. But I guess I've fallen victim to the youtube effect before, as I have a woodworking hobby too. I am just too stubborn to not think, yeah me too hehehe ;-)

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11/9/2019 11:13 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/9/2019 11:14 AM

I started when i was between 28-30 I think. Very late. Had maybe 5 years of snowboarding experience at that time. I live in Whistler so rode a lot of bike park and technical trail riding from the start. I was always very timid (and probably am more so now). I think coaching and bike parks are the best way for you to overcome your fears if you can afford it. Just the repetition of being on the bike so much without having to work for the climbs and being exhausted etc. Living in the PNW you have plenty of opportunity for that. There isn't really too much overcoming your fears. Its about building your confidence and trusting your skillset and not doing things that you aren't sure you can do. especially at age.
edit. I got my girlfriend into the park this year and it did amazing things for her confidence outside of the park. It works for everyone.


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11/9/2019 11:26 AM

I'm early 30s and am coming off back to back major injuries on the bike. I know I'm not going to be in mid-season form when I return but I have the mentality that there is a "trail speed" you have to ride at to hit lines and features safely. Anything less and you also risk a crash. Knowing that I have to ride a certain way/speed gives me confidence in the moment. But all the time off the bike sure makes you second guess what you're doing on the bike in the first place which will subconsciously be in your mind when you ride. This time around, I decided it would be a solid idea to wear more protection when I ride. If i'm always going to ride "trail speed" at some point, a crash is inevitable. So, the best way to mitigate further injury and not lose confidence is to wear more pads. After taking a look a pads this time around I decided, instead of just now protecting my newly injured body parts I was going to be more proactive and try to protect things a bit more. I was surprised to find some new armor that would be very protective but offer good range of movement, ventilation and be lightweight. I didn't want a reason not to wear it.

Another point of discussion. I think when we look back a few years, riders were wearing more protection than they are now. It seemed like more riders were wearing neck braces and hard armor. I wonder if it's because of what is influenced from the pro level at the time. Or it's because bikes are now more capable than ever. Maybe it's the coming of Enduro- getting as much off the body and onto the bike.

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11/9/2019 1:48 PM
Edited Date/Time: 11/9/2019 11:48 PM

BIGGEST THING THAT HAS HELPED ME IS GETTING IN SHAPE ENOUGH TO WHERE I CAN MAINTAIN A GOOD RIDING STANCE/POSTURE EVEN WHEN TIRED. i crash when i get tired because i start riding at the end of my rope( knees and elbows locked straight). so i want to be a better jumper(dj/dh) but i eat like a sumo wrestler in training and get winded easily. aside from hitting every jump i might be able to handle, i ride around town all the time for endurance. i hop everything possible and pedal hard until i become tired. then the ride actually begins. from there i just try to maintain a good riding stance and do the occasional jump/manual/corner while keeping my heart rate up. my body has kinda learned when n where its supposed to be. MUSCLE MEMORY IS ESSENTIAL. BUILD IT UP. it will save your butt when you get tired and stop thinking. eventually you will learn to trust your body.

start small and slow. do small jumps til you are confidently pulling up or purposely landing in the flat. ride your local trail slow and learn it- keep riding it until you think there are too many turns on that trail to go fast enough. drops and steeps, start small and do them til they feel really small. it is ok to stop and session parts of a trail. CONFIDENCE GOES UP WITH SUCCESSFULL RIDES.

it is ok to bypass features. know your limits. be honest with yourself about what you can do, but push yourself to do all the features/lines that match the size of anything you've previously ridden. if you can follow someone in to match speed or just see how they hit a jump/line, that may help.

ride with people that are much better than you(and will be patient). TRY to ride their butt the whole way down. if they don't mind waiting for you at certain parts of a trail that will help a lot. follow their lines and speed. in my opinion, if your riding buddies constantly blow down the trail and you never see them you are likely to take it easy thinking you are at a fast pace, likely to avoid obstacles and features, and continue poor riding habits(bad corners, sitting down while descending, braking too much).

if you have anxiety like myself, MUSIC HELPS ME A LOT. friends make fun of me singing down my favorite trails, but my mind doesn't focus on the negatives or fears. Pot helps me a lot too. Does the opposite for my friends, but really eases my irrational fears.(good gosh does it help with endurance too)

if it gives you confidence, pad up! don't be embarrassed to be compared to a storm trooper. your not going to progress at all if you are broken all the time or scared of needing stitches.

learn to fall. still getting better myself but i feel like sometimes you need to be able to let go and rag doll yourself rather than try to catch yourself.

youtube how to vids from almost any the pros or gmbn.

look where you want to go. my biggest problem still is looking directly at the obstacle i'm trying to avoid, but then i steer right at it. get used to keeping your eye on your line. quit looking around. be a sightseer when you rest, not while you ride. and don't look at the ground right in front of your tire. think further ahead.

talk yourself up while you ride. don't get mad if you stop to look at a drop or rooty section. if you can, go back far enough to get on the pedals, tell yourself what you learned in a video or was told by a better rider, and do exactly that. (don't get mad at being slower than your buddies, tell your self something like "off the brakes, off the brakes... here comes the corner..... now brake! turn the hips!") i constantly tell myself "bend your arms and legs!" "preload!" it's much better than thinking "sh!t, theres a big drop coming up" and worrying about it for a a chunk of trail.

ride a bike that gives you confidence. maintain your bike. replace grips/pedals/whatever so that you have what feels good to you. there's not too much worse than wishing you had better pedals your feet actually stayed on, and you thinking that while you're mashing down a trail. need to be able to focus on your riding. not stupid distractions.

finally, GO TO WHISTLER EVERY CHANCE YOU GET. being from WA, i ride all over WA, OR, CA, and BC. i have never found trails like those in whistler. lift assist will get you 10x as many laps. the elevation will eventually help your endurance(but kick ur butt the first couple days). the other good riders there will show you the correct speeds and lines. you can stay on the same trail until you honestly feel the jumps getting smaller, and then there are more trails to gradually work up to. its not like going from a 3ft tabletop to a 5ft gap like a lot of the places in WA. 99% of their trails do not require you to clear a jump cleanly to continue the line. most are tables you can roll. because of this you can do the same trails over and over slowly building more speed and air each run. a lot of the jump trails are much wider than anything in WA so you don't have to worry about steering into a tree right after landing. jumps get progressively steeper so you can work from crank-it-up's lil jumps up to steep take-offs like the tombstone over on A-Line. besides jumps, there are rock rolls, drops, skills centers(wooden features), berms and techy lines all over that are 'easy' all the way up to 'pro only' sized lines. the entire community is sport driven. there are hundreds of trails outside the park that are free. i promise you will progress more in one day up there than you will a week on the same trail anywhere in WA. that alone will give you confidence for a while.

you can't get better if you are not out riding. and take chances where the dirt is soft/landings are wide.

don't get discouraged. it gets so much more fun from here. just takes time and effort til you trust yourself


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11/10/2019 5:55 AM

WorksInTheory wrote:

All of this makes sense and validating that it's the state of the state vs my ineptitude. That helps.

That being said - jeff.brines - on the Youtube point, I consume that content like crazy and I have to say may be the culprit in wrong expectations. For example everything looks easy, done in an afternoon and if you just follow the video you'll be manualing in no time. No one tells you that there really good riders that still can't manual or what slamming your back and the back of your head on the ground looks like - because you know, just feather your brakes and you'll be fine. But I guess I've fallen victim to the youtube effect before, as I have a woodworking hobby too. I am just too stubborn to not think, yeah me too hehehe ;-)

Bike riding of all kinds has always blown my mind in how many people dedicate ions of time to getting good with no payoff besides simply being good. I'm one of those guys, though I wouldn't say I'm really good (I sure have put piles of time into it though). Go to any race at any level and you'll see freaks (I say this in the best way) who would most certainly be candidates for some sort of bike rehab if it wasn't deemed "healthy".

I only mention this because there really isn't a substitute for time, and you can't ignore that every YouTube instructor worth their weight has put in this time.

Certain things are very difficult to learn (extended manuals would be a good example) though other things are teachable (short functional manuals).

Question I should have asked in my first post, who are you riding with? Better riders? Riders who are the same level? Nobody?

If there is one rule in life that I 100% believe in its that the best way to get good at something is by being around those who are better.



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11/10/2019 4:28 PM

Wow - I am blown away with the great responses and advice. I was a little nervous posting, partly because of confessing my skill level and fears in a forum that I thought maybe people would just not bother with it, but it's been validating that there are others that started late or have gone through this. Thanks all for your effort and investment in putting a reply

@jeff.brines - I am sort of riding by myself and sometimes with a friend who's also in the same boat as me though with less fear b/c in his childhood he did a lot of b,x and also spent a few summers in Colorado riding on the mountains. I did connect with a work friend that I knew mountain biked and did one ride with him and it was so helpful because he was all about - no substitute for time and saddle, don't overthink it and let's just ride. So he had the patience to just let me decide where and what trails to do and would wait for me to catch up etc. His skill and experience was much higher than mine and he also does motor bikes. He just got off a motor bike injury and so was more than glad that I got him back out on something less crazy to start getting back into shape. I haven't found good riders to go with probably mostly I feel I would just bring them down on the fun they would be having.

@rtclark and @Captain.Zach and anyone else - on the body armour - any good ones to recommend. Might look into that.

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11/11/2019 12:40 AM

Time is your friend also. Had a bad crash autumn 2018 with a broken collarbone and a rib and a also totally crushed my foot on a rock spring 2018.

Took me a good half year on the bike to feel confident on again. You just need to continue to push slowly.

And I'm past 40 years... can't really jump or manual but do drop up to 5-6' if the circumstances are good and love steep chunky descents.

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11/11/2019 11:51 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/3/2019 8:27 AM

The body tee airflex stealth is a new piece from Leatt that I went with for riding in the park. All pads are removable except the chest piece. Very well ventilated. Integrates with a neck brace as well.



Also the Leatt 3df 5.0 Shorts. Pads that cover the pelvis and tailbone in addition to the hip. No chamois, so just for the park.



It's hard to beat the G-form stuff for trail riding. Their elite padded shorts with good hip coverage do have a chamois.


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11/11/2019 2:18 PM

I'm a very experienced MX rider and a very novice MTBer. (48 years old.) I relish the thought that nobody expects me to be good on the bicycle, and instead of trying to go faster, I ride like I'm still learning everything. Try it with that mindset and you may surprise yourself.
If you want to start jumping, find a small jump and just session that all day (or as long as you can.) Next, find a bigger one. Then find an even bigger one. At some point, use your best judgement as to how big is within your abilities and stop there.
Don't let fear stop you; just let it inform your decisions.

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11/11/2019 10:20 PM

I couldn't afford a decent mtb until my mid 30's so that was the only time I could finally get serious with cycling.

I crashed pretty hard soon enough (fell about 20 feet down a ravine and landed on a tree) and absolutely lost confidence on even blue-level trails. I couldn't get up to speed compared to my riding buddies who were getting Top 10's on masters races. I got behind even further when they got good enough to jump/drop through the big features without having to use b-lines.

It took about three years of constant riding to finally be nearly on the same level as them. Fortunately, there are trails relatively near my home which I could session and progressively get my skills better until I could finally race full runs without using any of the chicken lines.

The key things for me were:

• Be comfortable riding fast and not braking too much.
• Nearby trails which allowed me to progress from smaller to bigger features.
• Riding buddies who were supportive and were better at riding than me; or better yet, get a good coach.
• As soon as I "unlocked" a feature (jumped/dropped and landed correctly) I would do it over and over until I could not only land safely but be confident lining up to do it while maintaining speed.
• Patience, a little bit of FOMO, but only riding within my means and not doing anything stupid.

Good luck! I hope you get where you want to be and have lots of fun getting there.

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11/14/2019 12:50 PM

Mastering the basics in a more controlled environment (ie - not the trail) would be a great place to start and ultimately make you a better rider.

As others have mentioned, a good skills coach can be invaluable. I attended a class with BetterRide years ago, despite being a half-decent rider already, and I learned a ton that has carried into my riding today.

Riding at bike parks (both lift-assisted and your local spot) is also great for working on skills. Start mellow, put in the hours, and ask to ride behind someone better than you often.

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11/14/2019 1:20 PM

bturman wrote:

Mastering the basics in a more controlled environment (ie - not the trail) would be a great place to start and ultimately make you a better rider.

As others have mentioned, a good skills coach can be invaluable. I attended a class with BetterRide years ago, despite being a half-decent rider already, and I learned a ton that has carried into my riding today.

Riding at bike parks (both lift-assisted and your local spot) is also great for working on skills. Start mellow, put in the hours, and ask to ride behind someone better than you often.

Something that was never added (or I don't see).

Nothing wrong with keeping speeds to a minimum. A number of skills do not require speed to work on. Keeping speed low while working on anything from cornering to weighting/unweighting the bike is a great way to minimize risk while still learning.

Another BIG vote for Gene (betterride) as well.I too did a coaching session with him 15 years ago. I still practice a lot of what he taught me to this day.

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11/16/2019 1:09 AM

Hi man,

Lots of great posts, really not much to add.

But as some one said above me, basics. I would suggest to get your bike to the lawn outside and just practice lowspeed controll i.e trackstands, counter steering , moving around on the bike while barley moving forward. conquering low speed control is essential for managing high speeds safely!

And its fun and safe way to build some confident back, easily accessible aswell!

Next take that to the trails, pick an easy trail that you know well so dont have to focus so much on the trail it self but more on youre riding position, practice the low speed bike controll on the trails, not going to fast. Getting to know the limits of your bike ( grip/lean angles etc) is super important, once you really know what youre bike can handle and where the edge of that is, you will be able to safetly ride with in those limits and keep a good margin to spare for when you get in to those sketchy situations!

And having fun while riding does improve confident.

And last, if possible, setup your bike perfectly. Try a wider bar for more control, more/less reach.

I might not be the best to give concrete tips on overcomming fear, being a speed freek that loves to challange my self and my skills haha, but i’ve paid the price for it countless times.. and paying for it for the rest of my life sadly.

Just get back out there and ride, have fun and dont let fear hinder you, if you ride with fear of crashing you WILL crash sooner then later, puting on good protection can help with fear but it can also give false confident in the way that you feel ”invincible” and that false confident can get one in to situations that one can not handle, perhaps crashing more badly then with out all that protection because you go much faster.


This went on to be a loong ramble about everything, hope you find somthing usefull from it tho!

Keep riding man! Crashing is part of it, you allways learn something from it, sure it hurts for a wile but for the most parts it goes away with time!

/Thomas

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11/18/2019 10:03 AM

Where in the PNW do you live? If Seattle area, a controlled spot like Duthie Hill is your ticket. Get really good at what you can do w/out freaking yourself out. It builds confidence. Then move to something one step harder and get confident on that. Gradual progression is your friend, and confidence is your goal.

And keep it fun. Who cares how good you are, as long as you're having a good time. If you're having fun, you'll do it more, and like others said, there's no substitute for time.

Coaching is always good (says me who never does it). Seattle area there's Simon Lawton, Bellingham there's Shaums March. I'm not sure about Portland, but there's gotta be someone equivalent.

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Abit Gear: great fitting Enduro MTB shorts in Slim Fit and Athletic Fit.

12/3/2019 3:51 PM

So I have been riding my whole life so am pretty balanced on a bike but really started “modern” mountain biking at 43. Im now 48 and do things on a bike I never imagined possible. I used to be afraid to roll over an 8 inch log or drop off something 12 inches high. The two things that helped me was getting in shape, learning some skills through something like Ryan Leech and progression. This has applied to wheelies, manuals, drops and jumps. For drops for example, its easier to practice form on something where if you mess up, nothing will happen but if you get it right its noticeable - a large curb for example. In time you get more and more comfortable doing things as you become more comfortable.

I started working on wheelies which really got me to learn to get the front wheel up. Once I learned balance, doing a manual became easier. After plenty of practice, launching of curbs and small drops became second nature and then jumps came naturally. Again, you need a plan and patience. But I don’t believe the you are too old thing if you are willing to put the work in.

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12/4/2019 4:59 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/4/2019 5:04 AM

Just keep after it. If you have a bad wreck, it’s going to take a few rides to feel the same. Ride easier stuff until Your confidence comes back. But don’t worry, it will.

I’m 47, and I’ve gone from competitive DH and Enduro a few years back to just riding for fun now. Concussions, a broken foot (that took over a year to heal), torn biceps, and a broken hand in the last ten years...it’s just not worth it to me to race or ride big features at a bike park anymore. I accepted that last year and am still having plenty of fun on every ride.

As you get older, you have to accept that your reactions, vision, and ability to recover from hitting the deck decrease. Be smart and keep having fun.

Also...pump track. It’s great fitness, it’s fun, and it’s a relatively safe way to keep your reactions sharp.

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12/4/2019 10:45 AM
Edited Date/Time: 12/4/2019 11:27 AM

+1 to Armor. Also don't forget about armor, armor, and armor. Seriously. Armor has the potential to turn broken bones into big bruises, and big bruises into little 'whoopsies'. Case in point = I was at Deer Valley this summer and was debating putting on my full getup (listed below). Luckily I concluded "just wear it all like always". First run I am pumping through the easiest lil' berms and WHAM! Mess up and get SLAMMED to the ground. Bars twisted, brake levers flipped under; took me 20 friggin' minutes to straighten out my cockpit. I tore my jersey and have scratches all over the side of my full face, my shoulder hurt like hell; thought I was done for the day. When I calmed down and reflected on the crash on the next lift ride up, I realized without my full face / neck brace / shoulder guard; I am CERTAIN I would have snapped my collarbone and/or broken my jaw. And again, this was in the lamest little berms that were typical of a trail ride, NOT getting nasty on the big jumps on Tsunami.

Additional context: I started riding when I was young in the 90's and 00's. I had Azonic full body hard upper armor and full plastic knee/shin guards. There weren't many options back then; I always thought Dainese moto gear looked awesome but it was unobtainable for me. So when people complain about 'comfort' or 'heat management' within the availability of D30-type armor choices today, they sound to me like a spoiled 19 year old complaining about their Avocado Toast not being organic & the WiFi being too slow to stream 4k video.

Everyone falls. I like to say that beginners fall more often but less severely; experienced riders fall very seldom but usually it will be a big, high speed crash. But very few people wear legit armor; it baffles me. There is an ego issue about it, and I just can't understand why? Seriously, it seems inane to refuse simple armor on exposed bodyparts because... it doesn't 'look' cool? Because it makes you feel like less of a badass? Childish. And the 'I need to go fast' argument holds no weight. Look deep down inside... Are you a pro where a few seconds / minutes is going to put you on the podium? Where you earn a factory ride and pay your salary for the year? No?! Then you are a recreational rider, so wear some damn armor.

Real life examples / conversations I have had over the years:
"Broke my elbow, can't ride the rest of year. Life sucks"... "were you wearing elbow pads?"... "No"... "Well you are a dumbass and I don't feel bad for you"... "Yah I know, you are right"...
Worked at a big bike brand for a short bit, and all my colleagues were road bike idiots and XC nerds. They would rib me every day about armor and wearing a full face... "LOL bro you wear a FULL FACE! That's weird!" Guess who had the last laugh when a couple of them showed up over the next month with their faces all f-ed up and multiple stitches after eating it on a trail ride... I will never forget the satisfaction I got: seeing the look on their face when I smirked listening to their story, as they rolled into work 4 hours late after spending all morning at the ER... They didn't have to say a word but it was obvious they were swallowing every word of smack talk they had fed to me about my full face helmet.

I pretty much wear full armor on every ride, even just a short ol' trail ride. Setups:
Trail ride:
Full face = TLD Stages
Mouthguard = NewAge 5DS
Upper body armor = Alpinestars Evolution Jacket (short sleeve)
Elbow = TLD Speed / Leatt Airflex
Undershorts = TLD 4600 shorts
Knee = TLD Raid

DH / riding lifts:
Full Face = TLD D3 Mips
Mouthguard = NewAge 5DS
Neck Brace = Leatt DBX 5.5
Upper armor = Leatt Body Tee 3DF
Elbow = TLD Raid
undershorts = TLD 7605 shorts
Knee / shin = Scott Grenade knee + shin
Ankle = 7iDP ankle

Summarized as, armor and protective equipment IMO are the single most important aspect to preventing significant injury and extending your riding lifetime & enjoyment. And that applies to EVERY skill level and age; but especially as you get older. You always wear a seatbelt in a motor vehicle, so armor up like a man on the bike. $1000 in protective gear that should last 3+ years is always a cheaper option than hospital / broken bones / life changing injury.

Oh, and how does that relate to fear? It balances it out for me because I can stomach slightly more risk subconsciously trusting that when I get tossed, I'm less likely to sustain serious injury and only come out of it with bruised ego. Sort of like a rollercoaster; the thrill is a combination of the potential for injury/death combined with coming out safe the other side. The context of original post by @WorksInTheory is in direct relation to avoiding injury, so this is extra pertinent.

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12/4/2019 5:03 PM
Edited Date/Time: 12/4/2019 5:07 PM

WorksInTheory wrote:

Okay - I love mountain biking. But I also have a fear of heights and in my old age I have become conservative too. I also recently got pretty hurt doing something simple, trying to learn to manual and threw myself off the bike and hit the ground hard on my back. I was on the ground for a while but okay now, albeit bruised, stiff neck etc. But I finally got back on the horse this week and noticed I was even more timid, almost avoiding trying to practice anything like a manual and the same trails I had made progress in (not braking in corners, etc), I seemed to regress and had my worse runs in a while.

Also in trying to do jumps, I just can't get myself to do more than roll them as the moment I seem to go in the air, I just feel out of control and not loose or confident. I also was doing okay practicing dropoffs and now feel a bit timid on those as well.

How have you all overcome this to be good riders or were all of you just born brave and fearless?

Lots of great advice... but i will nonetheless try to add something...

I am 46, and only started riding MTB seriously about 9 years ago, i rode road bikes, and raced XC as a jr, but it was so different back then that it doesnt count... 9 years old.. thats my current MTB age...

the only way I will differ at all is this: please don't lower your expectations for yourself... please please please... I am always improving and a friend i ride with at 53 years old learned to hit Crab Apple and cleared the huge triple at our local BMX track just this year... you can learn and your body can adapt, but it's like TEAM ROBOT said, you won't learn it all in the same way as a kid... you may not do everything you dream of, but dont dismiss your own potential at the outset of your journey as an athlete.

This is the core of my advice... GET HELP... if you are a professional, or senior level at your job you got to where you are most likely through experience, education, and the mentorship of others... and that is how you will improve on your MTB... you should focus on the basic underlying structures that enable riders to do what they do... starting out with manuals or doubles maybe is not the first thing...

What has made my improvements possible has been working on my proprioception and vestibular senses... basically, working with a trainer on POSITION and STABILITY... if you can find someone who can work with you 1 on 1 and who understands position/stability thats probably going to unlock a lot of potential... a kid on a BMX bike is gonna develop so readily by jibbing around building all kinds of neuromuscular pathways that they will have for a lifetime... you will need to work on it methodically with purpose and discipline... just like me... I would prioritize a trainer over skills clinics for myself any day... i figured that there was no point to skills clinics if my body could not even do the motions and my brain could not even perceive the sensations... the fear subsides when you have the basic physical abilities and confidence...

In Santa Barbara where I live i have to credit Jarret Kolich for helping me in this regard... He has worked with athletes in pro ball sports, supercross, and world cup DH... not sure they have dudes like him in seattle, but you might drop him a line to see if he can point you to somebody up there...

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Memory Pilot Sox, Mudguards, Custom Mudguards

12/9/2019 8:56 PM

Thought this article by BetterRide founder, Gene Hamilton on "Overcoming Fear When Mountain Biking (and using it to your advantage)" may be of use.
https://betterride.net/blog/2018/overcoming-fear-when-mountain-biking-2/

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12/11/2019 3:31 AM

Great responses from everyone here. I started mountainbiking in my early 20s and for decades I just couldn’t get myself to hit proper jumps. Took a break from riding around 2008 and somehow got back to it around 2014. At 42 years old that year, I figured, “If I don’t learn how to jump now, I may never be able to do it at all.” I now comfortably ride jumps and features at my “local” bike park and others areas I visit.

On top of what riders here have said, I would advise to focus on how it would feel if you’re successful on the jump or feature. A lot of times people focus way too much on the consequences of failure rather than the success. It would help you relax and ride with confidence. Always start small and try to get something accomplished each time you ride. It could be a small 2-foot drop or a 2-foot kicker on the trail. Just make the ride count.

Good luck, man!

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1/4/2020 7:18 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/4/2020 7:19 PM

Drink a beer before you ride. I did this once inadvertently and proceeded to set a KOM and a handful of top 10s and I'm pretty average, and 48 (and started at 43). I rode so loose and comfortably it was like an entirely different experience. Also seemed safer, just not being in my head but being in the moment instead. I weigh 180# and didn't even feel the beer otherwise.

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1/14/2020 9:23 AM

Some great responses here! Thank you and Happy New Year everyone. Will take some of this advice to the trail... in about 4 months - ugh, the weather is not cooperating...

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1/14/2020 12:09 PM
Edited Date/Time: 1/14/2020 12:10 PM

WorksInTheory wrote:

Some great responses here! Thank you and Happy New Year everyone. Will take some of this advice to the trail... in about 4 months - ugh, the weather is not cooperating...

There's merit in just getting out there in the sloppy cold. You can develop a lot of bike skills trying to stay upright and at a slower pace. Those tiny corrections to your balance that you learn to make are just the kind of micro adjustments that help in the air or at faster pace over loose trails. And who doesn't like splashing in puddles?

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