Zen On Dirt

Managing Fear


I could say a lot about this ride we did earlier in the week, a 1:40 paved road climb up Mt. Lemmon, a 20 minute hike-a-bike for me, or a good, techy climb if you’re a motivated Scott or other freak-of-nature, and then a whole lot of downhill on Bugs, Prison Camp, Molino, and Miligrosa. In the interest on honesty, much of the downhill scared the crap out of me, even though I’ve worked up to a level of being able to ride most of it. It’s not non-stop technical riding, but it’s a constant barrage of moves that are right above my comfort level, interspersed with moves that are way far above my comfort level, and then a handful of things that are simply above my ability level.

I’ve been slowly improving every time we do a run down some section of these trails, making it my goal to ride one new section each time. I figure that at that rate, I’ll be able to ride the entire run, at least the downhill sections, by the spring.

But then there’s the sections that are right above my current confidence level…and those can cause me consternation when thinking about the ride.


I found myself at the top of the hike-a-bike earlier this week thinking about the gauntlet I was about to run myself through. The first real rock garden is one that took me several runs to build up the confidence to do. The first time I rode it, it was accidentally on Scott’s Behemoth. I thought I was going to die. I’d ridden it on the Monsterfish the last time, but definitely without confidence. It weighed heavily on my mind. And then there’s the awkward little dip where I dropped my chain once and nearly went tumbling in to the abyss, and the tree squeeze, and the rocks into the switchback, and then the rubbly rock section after the second hike-a-bike, and the rock garden that I’d hit with too much speed the last two times and nearly went over the bars once and off the side of the trail the second time, and then the slick rock section that ends in a big rock if you don’t make the turn…and that’s just Bugs.


But the thing is, between all these sections is beautiful, flowing, really fun, giggle-inducing trail that I’ve never really enjoyed to its fullest extent because I was too concerned about what was coming up next. So I stood at the top, putting my pads on, and decided that I wasn’t going to think about all the things that scared me miles down the trail, I was just going to think about what was 15 feet in front of me.


It was an interesting mind-control game. To think about not thinking about something. And to try to make it natural so that I didn’t have to think about it any more. It’s something I definitely need to work on if I want to keep doing runs down these trails because otherwise my stress-level stays elevated for far too long as the trail doesn’t let up until the final climb out to the pavement on Miligrosa.


I think it worked. Like most cases, most of the things I feared turned out a-okay and didn’t deserve the mental attention that I was giving them. They definitely didn’t deserve the worry that they were causing me on the pedal up the road. And they really didn’t deserve to detract from the sections of trail that were simply a low-stress, good time.


Well, except for the case where I was going too fast, took the wrong line, and ended up sprawled on the ground, giving thanks to pads and helmets to letting me get away with what was actually a pretty bad crash with only a few scrapes, a headache, and a bruised ego.


But what fun trails. What a perfect place to be at sunset. What a perfect place to be at moonrise. What a perfect place to be…especially after all the hard parts are over.


2 thoughts on “Managing Fear

  1. It’s nice (well, not so nice for you) to hear that someone at your level still struggles with fear. I love mountain biking, but fear (and its cousin lack of confidence) is a HUGE issue for me. So thanks for sharing.

  2. Try the back of a mountain tandem sometime. You have to just relax and go with whatever the guy steering decides to ride over. But at least you can close your eyes! You are forced to both face fear, but also to have confidence in someone else. It can be quite a thrill!

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