You glance down at the mud-covered tires on your mountain bike, wiping the sweat from your face. You take a drink and think to yourself, “Forget it. I can’t do this.” But then you do. Just like you knew you could. You don’t want to be a quitter. The women we know certainly don’t either! Day in and day out, we constantly feel the need to prove to ourselves that we can get things done, even when the odds — or mountains — are looming in front of us.
How to Overcome Your Fear of Mountain Biking
There’s no doubt that mountain biking is rising in popularity. The elite, top athletes, CEOs, and the wealthy are sharing the trails of hikers and equestrian groups or taking special trips across America just to find and experience “that” trail. Mountain biking can make for an amazing, any-age, all genders, family experience when everyone feels comfortable and, dare we say excited, about it. If you think a woman can’t be a fearless mountain biker… think again! Here are some tips to help climb over that mountain of fear that is standing in your way.
1. Take small trail treks.
While it’s certainly tempting to hit the several-miles-long trails with your friends, if you’re just beginning your journey, it’s important not to bite off more than you can chew. Riding harder technical routes right away such as those with rocks, sharp curves, and steep hills will only lead to crashes, injuries, frustration, and probably a few blows to your confidence. If you’ve found a route that you feel fairly comfortable with, that’s great. Each time you go out, try a section you’ve walked, not ridden. If you need to, look at the route before you begin, evaluate it, and talk yourself up. More often than not, your fears will be unwarranted, you will nail the route, and that little bit of confidence you gain will make all the difference when you set out for your next ride.
2. Ride more.
As you’re taking those small trail treks, consider riding more often. It’s pretty much common sense, isn’t it? After all, whenever someone is struggling with any new sport or exercise — be it that you are new to tennis, running marathon, or trying to burn tons of calories at the gym — the best advice is to keep at it, just a little bit at a time. Practice makes perfect, after all. It doesn’t matter if you only have time to hit one bike trail per week. Something is better than nothing, so try to be as consistent as possible. The bottom line is: You’ll never overcome your fear or improve if you don’t ride.
3. Take a biking skills course.
Find a local bike shop that offers a techniques or skills course for mountain biking. If no store in your area provides these classes, ask if they can start, especially if you’ve found friends or family members who are also interested in learning. The more people, the better. The worst the store can do is decline. When you’re on a trail, you’ll find many obstacles that are fairly easy to get over if you have some basic knowledge and skills. Trying to hurdle these obstacles in a safe, instructed environment can only serve to further build your confidence. Once you find yourself nailing new techniques and skills, you may start to trust yourself and let the bike do its job.
4. Find a local cycling group.
If a bike store doesn’t offer a course or you can’t find one that will start one for you, ask if they offer weekly rides for women instead. Most of the women who lead and participate in these bike rides are good about leaving their egos at the door. They are (hopefully) there to build a healthy, positive environment by helping each other learn and succeed. Even if you’re worried about keeping up with the pros or falling on your face in front of them, at the very least, you might find others who are at your level. After the ride, arrange for you and your other beginner-friends to go and try new routes together using the skills and techniques you learned. Remember: women can be the best source of support as well as your biggest cheerleaders.
5. Wear the right sports clothes.
What you wear is just as important as the bike you ride. You’ll want to invest in high-quality mountain biking clothing designed specifically for women such as sportswear that is comfortable and stylish yet safe and protective. Most people start out by looking for bike shorts, but a well-fitted top, along with the entire head-to-toe outfit should be considered. Choose clothing that is light to wear but heavy and durable in construction. Stretchy, non-chafing, breathable fabrics are best. Look for products that offer UV protection, sport compression for muscle control, and pockets to effectively hold and safely stash your phone, keys, or essentials. What you wear and how you feel about it — and in it — can only help your confidence about your skills and the way you ride.
Fear is a powerful if not misunderstood emotion that has some effect on every mountain bike ride you do. The fear that every one of us experiences while on the trail varies greatly in intensity from trail to trail and from rider to rider. While your doubt won’t disappear overnight and you won’t be the most fearless mountain biker on the trail right away, with some practice and patience, you might be surprised to find the fear slipping away with every trail you conquer.