FEAR: An Unpleasant Often Strong Emotion Caused By Anticipation or Awareness Of Danger
By Matt George
Fear. It's a big word, it means a lot of things. I'd like to think that it's not a word that alters my life but fear, in one of its forms or another, is ever present. Fear can be healthy, it can be embarrassing, logical, illogical and sometimes downright paralyzing. We mountain bikers are no strangers to this emotion, it's a part of the fabric of our hobby. A necessary ingredient. It's easy to see it as something to be avoided, something to address with bold indifference or with a brash welcoming attitude.
Sometimes it's a daunting trail feature, a brutal climb, a 20+ mile slog at elevation, speaking an unpopular opinion on social media or even the prospect of riding with a much faster group that you might hold back. The best riders I know likely wouldn't tell you that they're fearless, just the opposite actually, they control it. Aversion to the unknown, the dangerous and the embarrassing is a human trait that has helped and hindered humankind for millennia. Fear has helped us hide from predators, dictated political speeches and shaped our evolution. Even our modern world is shaped by this ancient emotion; from the thickness of our front door slabs, airbags in cars to concealed weapons permits. Fear is a feeling yet it applies physical force, a force of change, like few other intangibles can.
People talk a lot about flow. I've been trying to define "flow" on my rides and I've come to the conclusion that for me, flow could be more accurately defined as apathy, or an aversion to fear. "I should avoid that rock drop, I could get hurt." vs " I'm plowing that sh*t, I've got this!" see the difference? My attitude towards danger, risk or even embarrassment define how much "flow" my ride will have. Obviously confidence and the ability to overcome fear isn't enough. Talent, practice and skill play a huge role but, I do think the average rider likely hinders their own progress due to a lack of confidence (myself included). Most of us come well prepared with the tools necessary to tackle the most daunting trail features. Isn't this true about life in general? Be it a 5-6" travel bike, knee pads and tons of practice or years executing the skill set of your career, likely your prepared to step it up a bit.
I won't pretend to know how to deal with fear well. In fact, this whole article is an exercise in self reflection, in the hopes that I'll also learn something from you in the comments or on the trail. For me it's management of fear more so than ridding it from my life or my ride. I would propose that we talk about it more, among our peers on the trail, social media or in our daily lives. Admitting our fears, perceived inadequacies and doubts is at least part of our path to being better riders and better people in general. See my article The Case For Being Last. You're likely to find that the vast majority of people feel the same. Be safe out there. Be brave out there. Calculate your risks but don't underestimate yourself.
Let us know how you handle that daunting drop, how you overcame your fear of speed or what gets you into that flow-state. Maybe we can improve each other, if just a little. Be sure to check out all the amazing pics below from Front Range Mountain Biking members on FaceBook.
Here's a list of resources to help you overcome your fears, build more flow or tech into the trails or improve your already solid skills.
- COMBA, Beginner Rides and Trail Advocacy
- Golden Giddyup, shape what you shred with the best crew around.
- Enduro MTB Training, Dee Tidwell shows you how to up your game.
- Lee Likes Bikes, Skills courses from beginner to expert.