The mental game we play

The other day we came home from a ride in Hafjell bike park, both more or less injured. After someone else crashed into me, I found myself going out riding in a bad head space for some time, distracted and not truly committed to the experience. As my confidence levels stooped automatically, I was lucky to ride with my best friend, who helped me get through it and back on it.

Getting your friends to watch and give you feedback can be a real help to gain back your confidence. If it’s someone you trust, as well as providing encouragement they can also give you feedback on your body position and technique. It’s hard to know what you’re actually doing when you ride your bike. Having an objective observer or just joining in on a MTB clinic can help you work out what you’re doing right, wrong, and how to improve.

There is definitely no magic fix to gain confidence or push past a mental block, but positive thinking, practice, focusing on technique and getting feedback is part of the way forward. 

Think positive and just have fun

The way we talk to ourselves can effect so much in our life. In regards to sport and mountain biking in particular, you can win the mental game by entering the situation with a positive approach. If you just don’t feel positive, go for an easy spin to clear your head before you try to tackle challenging terrain.  Nothing helps move negative emotions more then actual physical movement. I know that I ride a lot better when I am feeling good about myself, or when I tell myself that I can and will make it through that tricky section. On the other hand, when I’m not feeling confident or when I tell myself that I won’t make it, I often don’t. The mental game is a big aspect of mountain biking, and it makes a huge difference. It´s about trying to stay positive, and to not get discouraged by setbacks. Remember that riding is about having fun, and riding in whatever way that makes you happy. Even the best of riders have “off” days.  Push through it and next time you ride, you might be better than ever.

Practice, practice; keep riding

As we have heard over and over again, the simple truth is: the only way to be a better rider is to ride. As you improve, you’ll gain confidence in your abilities. Can’t make it up that hill? This year I was taught to cut the trail as it were into sections and try ride them up individually. It does work! Bit by bit we can practice and gain confidence. Using the pump-track at work has helped me as well as just riding as much as I can. In the space of a summer we´ve been riding what a weekend-warrior would ride in 3 years time and my riding has definitely evolved massively because of it cause there´s no substitute for time spent on the bike. Set realistic goals for yourself, and work on achieving them. When you do, you’ll gain a confidence boost.

Focus on your technique, not on the feature

One particular element that can really help is working on the technique or skills you’ll need to get through it, rather than just thinking about the feature. In skiing we usually find that if you tell someone to think about one particular thing they start to focus on how they feel physically and their technique, rather than focussing on the thing they are scared of. This method can as well be used whilst biking.

Foot position is a good example as it’s something relatively simple that can make such a big difference when you’re riding through rock sections, over drops and jumping. When you’re focussed on getting your foot position right, you aren’t quite so focussed on the feature.

No matter the size or type of feature, it’s important to build up confidence by knowing you have the right technique before hitting something. The best way to do this is by building up through smaller versions of the feature you want to hit, whether that’s a root section, drops, jumps, whatever! The more you practice, the more evidence you have that you can succeed, and the more natural the movements will feel as you work your way through bigger or trickier features.

Get feedback – join a MTB clinic

Sometimes, you can get stuck in a world of ‘I don’t know whether I can do this!’ or ‘I can’t do that!’, but if you’ve got someone there watching you saying ‘well, what really is the difference between this and that’ it can show you a different perspective on the feature. This is exactly what we are about on our clinics and camps; Our program will teach you the specific skills you need to become a better rider. In clinics, there is a progression of difficulty that you don’t necessarily get out on the trail, which allows you to easily work up to more and more difficult moves in a controlled environment.

Our next MTB clinic is in Stryn and still have some empty spots, so just join in!

As my thinking send me off into several directions in order to deal with my experiences, I was as well reminded of the fact that we do not learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. Reflect on what you´ve been facing out there, take in the risk and see consequences, get back up – and have fun. 

The mind game is on.