Mountain biking mental games

Two weeks ago I crashed my bike. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time. Nothing was broken, just grazing and bruising and another concussion. Today’s blog is not going to be about the dangers of head injuries, but I will be touching on that at some stage. Today I want to focus on the common issue of the loss of confidence. The struggle to ride the obstacles that were once conquered. It doesn’t even have to be a big crash to throw you off your groove.


A pretty awesome crash that a year on has left me with a dint in my leg and I’m still not able to ride that rocky section!

Why does that happen? Why, when we know it’s a mental barrier, that we once were capable and now are not, why do we struggle to push past and instead halt at that roll over, grabbing the brakes at totally the wrong time? It can be so frustrating, infuriating, defeating and even potentially dangerous. It can feed our self talk, something we are already trying to work on.

When I’ve tried to read up on these things, it all seems to come back to our natural instincts, you know, those ones that stop you from leaping off cliffs. When we mountain bike we are often throwing ourselves into dangerous situations, whether real or imagined, and our brains are playing the mental battle to try to keep us safe. When we have a crash, or a near miss, it only makes that survival instinct ramp itself up and steps us back in our progress. So how do we get past that? How do I get past that, now that simple obstacles are holding me back?


Taped up knees, a common sight among cyclists.

Firstly, acceptance. It’s natural that I’m going to find simply things difficult after a crash, so I can’t be too hard on myself or push myself into situations that are just going to hold me back in the long run. It’s going to take time to feel the flow again, and I need to give it that time and not get angry at myself. I need to get out on easy rides and just feel the groove again, let myself focus on the enjoyment of these easy rides and have fun without expectations. I need to give myself a break, increase the challenges in small steps whilst remaining relaxed.I need to be ok to take a step back if I try to push too quickly, and ask for help if I need it. The more nervous I feel, the more likely I am to have an accident just like the first one, so I need to focus on feeling relaxed again, and if that means a few weeks of easy rides, then that’s what it takes and that’s ok.

Other than that, focus on physical recovery, no point pushing the envelope with training if my body is still suffering, it’ll only put me back in the long run. With concussions, recovery can be a difficult process, but thankfully, 2 weeks on from my amazing crash, I am mostly healed up and ready to start going through the process of gaining my confidence back.

Oh, and get a new helmet.

How do you best deal with getting your confidence back after a crash or near miss?


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