Nerves are a funny thing. Everyone gets nervous from time to time, butterflies in the tummy and a sense of dread. But carrying on anyway can bring a rush of adrenaline that addicts some people to extreme sports and speed – the adrenaline junkies. The hobbit is not an adrenaline junky, the multi-tasker feels the fear and does it anyway.
When you ride a bike, or think about it, you might be nervous about multiple things: traffic, your ability to get up a hill, falling off, going downhill too fast and going over the handlebars, being able to keep up with a group, punctures, the chain falling off. You can probably think of more! How do you manage your nerves and get on your bike?
Knowledge is power
Uncertainty is the root of many fears and stops people embracing change or challenge. How do you “live with uncertainty” and go forwards anyway? You can minimise uncertainty with knowledge – you might be less afraid of a puncture of you’ve watched a you tube video and practice changing your inner tube before you set off. You might feel better prepared if you have watched this video about braking and know to use your back brake first to avoid jolting yourself over the handlebars, you might have read about bike helmets and feel reassured about riding out without one. You know that if something happens, you have the means to manage it.
Minimising or calculating risk
The other cause of a cowardly return to the couch is your approach to risk. There is risk inherent in sitting on the couch, by the way – worse than smoking! So one thing to do is reflect on the real size of the risk you take getting on your bike (or anything challenging) versus your perception of the risk. You can minimise your risk with planning and preparation as above but you can also take calculated risks. If you know your bike is in good repair and you are fit enough, zooming down a straight hill without using the brakes in good weather is minimal risk. If you add a corner and rain, your risk increases and your speed should inversely decrease. So far, so many eggs sucked. The other thing that might help is on the spot ability to know your real risk versus your perceived risk. As you fly down a hill on a bike you might feel as if you are going faster than you are due to the wind rushing past your face. A bike computer can tell you in fact you’re only doing 21.4 mph – less than the speed limit!
Push your limits
How do you become less fearful? Practice. The more you ride, the more you know how you and your bike respond and what will happen in any situations. Each time you go down the same hill you can go a bit faster, incrementally, until you are whooshing along in the drops, smiling all the way. Each time you take the same corner you can lean a bit more.
A lesson for life?