In cycling, crashes and injuries are always going to play a part in what we do, and even the best in the world can make mistakes. Crashes, whether they’re big or small, can have a knock-on effect to when you swing your leg back over the saddle and get those wheels moving again. Some crashes will leave more of an effect on you than others but all of them will get you thinking and some will even get you doubting.
As a mountain bike skills coach the biggest problem I come across is riders who have had a crash in the past and since then have lost their confidence in how they ride.
After experiencing a massive crash myself which took me out of the sport for over six months, I, for the first time, was left scared of my ability on the bike, doubting myself and fearful as to what would happen if I made a mistake on track again, so I find it easy to relate to most riders when I’m coaching them.
Our minds work in a way to keep us safe, and this is where we start to doubt ourselves, whether on the road or the trail. To overcome these negative thoughts we have to convince our minds with small steps that with the correct skills we can tackle the problem we fear or trail we are riding.
Everyone is different in the way that they work but, for me, the easiest way to bring back my confidence is to try and start back at the basics.
It’s so easy for our minds to wander into the thought process of ‘what if’ that sometimes it’s hard to get ourselves thinking about what it is we need to do to actually deal with the situation in front of us.
I try to really break things down and focus on what it is I need to do with positioning, speed, line and technique rather than focus on the problem itself. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not easy to pull your mind away from the doubt that fills our heads, but it’s something we all can learn to put aside and almost drown those thoughts by focusing on the skills needed.
Building up in small steps helps build confidence in what we’re doing to help keep those negative thoughts away. For example if going off road not trying to launch yourself over something you’re not ready for but making sure you know in your head you have the ability and control to tackle the feature in front of you, whether a steep decent with corners or a drop-off. If it is riding in a pack that unnerves you work on your bike handling skills and confidence in smaller groups, and again build up in small steps.
Practising quickly builds up confidence, but you need to keep challenging yourself in small steps to help build your confidence levels and help to keep pushing those boundaries.
Remember practice makes perfect, but more importantly builds confidence, so try not to get caught up in thinking what could go wrong but get thinking about what it is you’re doing so you can take those skills and put them to use on any ride.