Coming Back From a Big Crash

A buddy of mine recently sent me an email regarding coming back from nasty crash that he had recently. He was having some issues getting confidence back and getting back up to speed on the bike. The text below is an edited version of my response. 

I’d say probably 20% of my biz is from people that have a “crash hangover.” In other words, they had a big crash and are having a tough time getting their head back in the game. Their confidence is rattled and all they can seem to focus on when they get on the bike is what could go wrong…again!

Coming back from a big crash isn’t easy. Like most things difficult, curing that crash hangover takes some time and effort. Yet, it seems that everybody feels that they should to just be able to snap their fingers and make it go away. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.

But I do have some good news: there is a cure!

 

 

First, let’s  take into consideration, that the “crash hangover” is there for a reason. Your primal-emotional brain is telling you, Hey, last time we did this bike-thing we got WORKED! So maybe we shouldn’t be doing this.

That’s just common sense and good ol’ self preservation at work.

But, your smart human-brain knows that you still want to ride bikes and that you definitely can still do it at a high level. So you ague with yourself.. but, that primal brain is gonna win. And, it’s real tough to just over-ride that fear.

So, you have to re-boot the system.

First thing you have to do is just get some seat time, back on the bike… But do this on trails that offer you absolutely no challenge or threat, what-so-ever… Put in a few rides on trails that are easy and boring. If there is anything that freaks you out — even a little — get off and walk.

What you’ll be doing is convincing yourself that you’re not going to die every time you throw a leg over the bike (Post-crash, you”re your primal brain isn’t so sure of this). Even though you know this to be true, you gotta feel it a few times to authentically trust it.

Probably the worst thing you could do, immediately after a big wipe-out, would be to go out and try to ride nasty stuff, but since you’re scared, you’ll probably ride timid, scared, tight (shitty)… and then you goon it again and have another bad crash. Then you’ll really have your work cut out for you…

Eventually — on the easy rides — you’ll start to feel comfortable and want to push it again. Congrats! You’re coming back. But, it may take some time…

Another thing you need to do is take a look at things logically. Why did you crash and can it be remedied? What went wrong and can you fix it? (Hint, hint: get some professional MTB coaching! wink, wink…)

Also — more logic — is that you know that you still can ride at the level you were at, previously. That’s a fact. Can’t argue with the facts… And, riding — even with the occasional gnarly crash — is way better for you than not riding. Again, facts… so get out there and do it… Take it easy for a bit, and it’ll come back.

I think the worst part of this is that sometimes — if you ride hard and push it — you’re just going to crash hard. No way around this. But again, the benefits of going out on the bike and getting’ after it far outweigh not riding for fear of getting hurt.

 

Finally, we don’t multi-task. “Multi-task” may be the catch phrase of the day/year/millenium, but our conscious brains actually are unable to focus on more than one thing at a time (unconscious is different).

So, you need to focus on solutions and not obstacles. If you’re focusing on the solutions (Proper riding: body position, weight placement, vision, proper braking, breathing, etc), then you CAN NOT be focused on what may happen if things go wrong. If you’re focused on what could go wrong, then you CAN NOT be focused on proper riding…

The last one also goes for times when you’re doing something supper hairy and right on the edge of your skill level. It takes full commitment in these situations and fully focused on the solution is the only way to have full commitment.

 

But, don’t worry so much about the last one yet.

Right now, just get out and get that seat time in on the easy stuff. Get a few of those under your belt. Work your way up with baby steps to tougher trails. When you do start pushing a bit, practice focusing on the solutions; give your mind something useful to do and it won’t wander to the fear.

I guarantee if you take the time to do this stuff, you’ll get back to where you were, but again, it will take a little time.

MTB Chairlift Access Riding

Why should you clock some time with chairlift accessed MTB riding this summer?

Lot’s of reasons…

First, let me say that I’m just as guilty as anyone for not getting my butt up to the resorts these past couple years and getting some time in with good ol’ chairlift accessed downhill mountain bike riding.

Committing to making a living coaching MTB has, at best, severely limited my time at the races. This, combined with a borderline unhealthy addiction to motocross as my speed fix, has diminished my drive to get up to the hills and get on the lifts.

My excuses? Hey, I’m probably not going to get to race anyway, so who cares? And, I ride a ton of motocross these days, so my comfort level at speed, ability to process things at speed, and riding/control-fitness should be pretty dialed in when i need it on the MTB. Also, I ride trails a ton on my MTB; and, that, combined with the motocross should keep me sharp as a tack.

Right? Nope! Wrong…

Two awesome things that I RE-discoverred about lift access the other day:

It’s All About the Bike…

1) There’s no better way to dial in your ride for descending and/or control oriented technical riding than busting out huge amounts of vertical feet that only lift assisted riding can offer. Downhill bike, Trail-bike, XC bike…doesn’t matter…

After a whole day of riding and who-knows how many vertical feet of descending, I felt that finally — at the final run of the day — my new Yeti SB5.5 was about where I wanted it. I thought it was dialed coming into the day…

Wrong!…

Everything changed once I was able to get the bike up to speed and consistently ride there. No hikers. No riders coming up the trail in the other direction. Just endless terrain and gobs of time to play with settings. One after the other; tire pressures, sag adjustments, compression, rebound, bar height — and playing those off of one another — got tweaked and messed with until at the end of a long day, I was finally really close to where I wanted to be.

It would have taken weeks, if not months, if not ever, to get that amount of time, with that terrain, and with that consistency, to dial things in the way I was able to in one day.

It’s All About the Loose Nut Behind the Wheel…

Again, coming into my first Lift Day in quite sometime, I thought I felt pretty good on the bike. But I quickly discovered that though I had been riding a ton of MTB on normal trails, and riding lots of motocross, there’s no substitute for really riding mountain bikes fast if your goal is to ride mountain bikes fast.

First couple runs, I was waaaay off. I was sloppy. I was riding tight… At the end of the day?

Money!

I knew I was riding the best I have in probably in couple of years (since the last time I spent some decent time hitting the lifts).

And, again, there is no way I could have gotten that type of repetition, consistent speeds — while also on consistent and predictable terrain — from normal trail riding.

My comfort at higher speeds, ability to process, body position on bike, line choices… you name it, all jumped up a few notches by the end of the day. Huge gains in technical ability that just wouldn’t have happened without the stinkin’ chairlift…

Even ME? ChairLifts?… Yes, YOU!

Even if  you’re not into downhill, kinda freaked out about hairy terrain, whatever… I still can’t encourage you enough to give a day of lift access a shot.

Almost all resorts have very easy trails in addition to nastier ones. You can usually rent protective gear (I highly recommend a full-face helmet and knee protection at minimum — even if you are “taking in easy”). And, if you desire, you can usually rent bikes. Although any modern trail bike will be adequate for all but the real gnarly trails at resorts these days.

Obviously if you’re a gravity rider, lifts area no-brainer. But, even if you’re into XC, endurance… maybe just into having fun and being more competent and safe on the bike, there’s no better way to get the time and repetition to dial in your descending skills and techniques than lift access.

Get up there!