How To Ride Scary Features in 5 Simple Steps
One of the best parts of mountain biking is challenging yourself. Whether you are a beginner looking to clean your first rockface or an expert staring down a 20-foot blind drop, progression as a rider is exhilarating. That being said, many riders struggle to push their limits. The consequences of failure on a mountain bike are crashing. And crashing sucks.
So how do we make sure we don't become the highlight of the next bike fails compilation on Youtube?
Follow these steps to help minimize risk, gather information on the unknowns, and give you the best chance at riding things that scare you.
1. Pre-Ride Beta
You don't have to be the guinea pig! Try and find videos or photos of people who have attempted the feature in the past. Talk to people who have done it. GoPro videos are great because the can give you a great idea of speed and line choice. If you search up the name of the trail or feature on the internet, you would be surprised what you can find.
A prime example is a video I watched over and over before hitting a road gap. Since it was a wet day, you can hear when he lets off his brakes, helping me judge speed.
2. Inspecting the Line
Once you reach the feature in person, take a little looksie. Gather as much physical information as you can. What are the hazards? What conditions are you riding in? Is the dirt loose? How is the run in/run out? Compare the conditions to when other people have attempted it.
3. Runups and Visualization
Runups help you dial in the line before the feature so you can drop in confidently. With jumps and drops especially, it is important to help you visualize if you have enough speed or too much speed for a jump. This is where all your decisions about line choice and speed need to be made. I generally limit myself to no more than 3 runups, because after that the second-guessing begins and it does nothing but stress me out.
BikeMagazine.com - Mike Thompson inspects the course at Rampage 2012
4. Decision Time
All of the uncertainty happens in runups and scouting. You must weigh all of the unknowns against the information you know, and decide if the risk is worth it to you. If you feel confident in your line, can imagine yourself rolling away, and accept the risk, go for it.
Decide at the top if you are committing or not. When riding scary lines, there has to be 100% confidence with no hesitation. People get hurt way too often by hesitating, panic braking, and trying to bail halfway down a feature. Once dropped in, your only focus has to be staying on your bike and the line you chose.
Hesitation is Devastation. Commit or eat shit.
After attempting the feature, evaluate how it went. What went well, what didn't go well, and what you would do differently next time. Re-riding the feature again right away can help you clean up potential errors from the first time around and really "dial it in". That being said if the risk becomes no longer worth it, or you fear you no longer are focused enough to hit it again, skip it.
Closing Tips to Help Your Confidence
-Having friends who have hit the feature before to "tow you in" (follow them off the feature) is one of the best ways to properly judge speed.
-Making sure there is a plan for when something goes wrong
-Checking over your bike and equipment to make sure everything is set properly and prepared
-Have a routine you do predrop to help you relax and focus