Friday Five: How To Tackle The Big Obstacles

Tips to make the scary bits less so

I think I see kittens down there... PHOTO: Anthony Smith

I think I see kittens down there… PHOTO: Anthony Smith

Mountain biking will often present us each with a series of challenges. Literal obstacles in the trail will test our mind, body and capacity to problem solve. Riding singletrack as we do will put us face to face with challenging sections of trail, cruxes and burly moves. Here’s five ways to break down the gnar into kitten-shaped pieces.

Gnar is relative
Remember that the level of gnar or difficulty is relative. What one person finds a nightmare another will find a breeze, and vice versa. When approaching something tricky on the trail try putting other people’s subjective analysis out of your mind and looking at it with your own eyes. Once you’ve evaluated it yourself then ask for advice on how to successfully complete the obstacle. Do not ask a friend, “Is it scary?” Scary is for each person to decide.

Look at it, often from another angles helps
If something looks terrifying or difficult then walk around it and take a good look at it from all angles. If a rollover looks steep from the top then often it won’t from below it or the side.

Assess what the move entails bike skill wise
Look before you leap and work out exactly what you need to do to successfully complete the obstacle. It’s never as simple as “Go fast, pull up,” despite what some people might tell you. Figure out the run-in, the approach, the speed you might need, or when to brake and how much and where to do so. Look at the ‘move’ you’ll be doing and the techniques you’ve learned that now you’ll need to draw upon. Look at the rollout and where you want to be heading.

Visualize all of the process in your head. See yourself doing it. Watch a simulation in your mind of you doing every little step perfectly. Don’t run a crash reel through your head; if you do, you’re setting yourself up for failure. If you can’t see that mental videotape of yourself doing the whole thing right then you aren’t ready to do that particular obstacle. Go away, think it through, learn some more, gain some experience and come back another time. There’s always another time, but if you aren’t ready you could be facing a hell of a time dealing with the repercussions if it doesn’t go swimmingly.

Think back to what you done previous that might inform you
Look at an obstacle and run through similar things you might have ridden in the past. Draw on your past experiences to inform you of what you are capable of doing and how to successfully complete them.

Three strikes and you’re out
Be sure you want to do something. Many riders have a rule that they never do dummy run-ups more than three times, ever. If they can’t commit to the obstacle by the third time then they aren’t ready, mentally speaking, and will walk away. Usually by this point riders will be ‘psyched out,’ not a favorable state of mind for success. You should be calm (relatively speaking) and be thinking clearly. If you aren’t then figure out why and how to change that state of mind. Be ready to walk away from something, no rider will ever think less of you. If they do then they aren’t your riding buddy. Walk away and give yourself time to process it and do it another day.

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