When fear gets in the way

A couple of days ago I asked on a FB post: what are people’s main biking fears. Here is a summary of some common fears.

Some days are great: we are in flow: mind body and trail are in harmony. But sometimes fear gets in the way. A rocky descent, a very exposed trail, or a jump can trigger fear.

Fear of not being able to cope with the passage, but above all, a fear of falling.

Fear is an escape route from a threatening situation, which could occur or already has occurred (e.g. a fall). If you want to do something about your fear, it is important to recognize your anxiety triggers and share them with someone you trust.

I (Sara) fear cows, I have had a couple of not-so-pleasant encounters and get nervous when they are around...

I sometimes freeze on steep switchback descents.

Exposed technical single tracks especially slightly uphill can be problematic too.

What triggers your fear depends on your level.

I particularly liked this comment from Steph:

“I picked up mountain biking a couple years ago, in my 40s. I was never one of those rambunctious daredevil kids so at first, all of it was fear suppression. I'd ride up to a tiny root and freeze with fear, just out of inexperience. It took me awhile to understand that my full suspension bike would roll right over that stuff and I'd barely notice half of it. It's funny what scares me now. My wheels leaving the ground on a jump is ok but riding over even really low skinnies and bridges still freak me out.”

It shows that we have all been beginners at some point, and we can progress. Actually, it can be extremely rewarding coaching beginners who can’t even stand up on a bike and facilitate their progression.

But what triggers your fears also depends on your confidence on a specific day.

Sometimes you feel like you can conquer any obstacle, but on other days… in the same corner, looking at the same jump, it just looks impossible.

I also liked Julie’s comment about what triggers her fears on a gravel bike:

“Corners and steep downhills. I know I occasionally reach similar speeds on flat stretches without a second thought, but somehow it is always scarier on a hill”.

It is also important to realize that many fears are within us.

We avoid risky sections based on our assessment of our own skills. Of course, sometimes, we misjudge our skills or overinflate the difficulty of the technical section we have ahead. It is the fear of failing that makes us escape based on our perception of that jump, or corner and the way we believe we cannot handle it. This type of fear can be managed – this will be the topic of my next post.

But there are some situations we cannot manage or control.

Laura puts it clearly on her comment about what she fears when riding a bike:

“Speeding drivers and close passes on narrow lanes with little visibility. Getting abuse yelled at us on the road, and online abuse of cyclists that is very violent and inappropriate - I often feel like we are one small step away from someone getting out of his van (it's always the white van drivers?) and dragging us off our bikes simply for existing on the road on two wheels”.

External factors like how other people behave on roads, cycle paths, or other shared paths are out of our hands… But other factors we can control, we can aim to improve our skills, or join a coaching session and focus on our fear triggers.

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