In an earlier blogpost I explained how impactful it has been for me to try something new each year, something that initially evokes fear or doubt. My most frequent exposure to this is riding new technical terrain. I can recall my first couple years riding at Moraine State Park mountain bike trail, and the anxiety that would accompany any ride as I wasn't a skilled technical rider yet. I had a love/hate relationship with the terrain. There were always little triumphs during a ride but my overall frustration and fear levels would often get the best of me.
Stork and I recently worked with two women on that same rocky/boulder filled mountain bike trail for skill development. It was invigorating and inspiring to be on the outside, watching others navigate new technical terrain and overcome fears. These were not beginner riders, rather experienced mountain bike racers. We discussed the concepts and skills that are often taught in beginner clinics on a grassy field. Beginner clinics often draw a larger group of people and skill practice is done in an open field to allow riders to practice bits and pieces of ride skills that are later put together while riding on singletrack trails. We challenged our participants to put into practice those intial ride skills. Within the first 500 feet of trail with these two we were stopped, dissecting line choices on a rock filled turn. Key skills necessary were ratcheting in a hard enough gear and unweighting the front end of the bike, even picking/lifting up on the bike to hop through several rocks. Stork and I were very pleased with our decision to keep this higher level skill building ride to just two people at a time. We were able to provide a learning environment that was solely catered to two women who ride together all the time. Neither felt rushed or intimidated by a group of people. They were able to be focused on one section at a time, taking as many runs through it as desired.
We were impressed by how calm and smooth the ride session went and I believe it was a combination of taking our time, instilling confidence with key points of focus for each section, and working with two people who truly had a desire to push outside their comfort zone, try new terrain and overcome fear or doubt. The trail went from a quarter mile of rock gardens to techincal boulder riding. These women brought their "A" game, watching us, listening, and making attempts at each section. Many times they were able to surprise themselves, riding something the first time that if alone may have been a "walk through".
I want to share the following feedback because it's more powerful than anything I could write:
"I cannot stress how nervous and anxious I was at the start, I literally felt myself shaking. Both of you really put me at ease. You were very calm and patient with the right balance to push us through but not make us do anything we didn't want to."
"We rode into the trail and shortly after I stumbled over a log over. Julie immediately had my number and came back, reassured me and got me over it. She really put me at ease. "