Overcoming fear - how do you guys do it?

Create New Tag

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?

|

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.





|

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.

|

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).

|

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!).

|

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.





|

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.

|

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 ;-)

|

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.


|

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.

|

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


|

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.



|

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.

|

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.

|

11/11/2019 11:51 AM
Edited Date/Time: 11/11/2019 11:52 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.

[img]https://www.leatt.com/shop/catalog/product/view/id/7092/s/body-tee-airflex-stealth/category/771/[/img]

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.

[img]https://www.leatt.com/shop/moto/impact-shorts-3df-5-0.html[/img]

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

|

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.

|

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.

|