Is fear a good or bad feeling to have while racing? The answer is yes... and no. You should have just a little bit of fear but not too much. There’s that balance thing again, for everything in life and especially racing. When you do something like race motocross/supercross/off-road, etc, where a little fear is involved, all your senses are heightened. That little bit of fear turns on all your primordial energies. Your adrenal glands are activated, you have better concentration more blood is pumped into the muscles, your pupils dilate for better vision, and in short, your strength, endurance and reaction time are increased. You are ready for action. On the other hand, if you have too much fear you tighten up, your mind begins to race and you loose concentration.
Think about this simple test for a moment. If we have two people, Harry and Chester, Harry is normal regarding heights but Chester is afraid of heights. We have a strong board that is twelve feet long and eight inches wide. We extend this board 3 feet off the ground and have Harry and Chester walk across it for $10.00. No problem, one at a time they both stand at the end of the board with relaxed muscles, steady concentration, looking out in front of them at the board and walk across it easily for the $10.00.
Then we extend the board 50 feet in the air between two buildings and ask Harry and Chester to walk across it for $100.00. Harry is first; he stands at the edge of the board ready to walk across it. Harry has just enough fear to turn on all his senses, and he is 100% concentrating on his goal, walking across that board. He makes it no problem and collects an easy $100.00. Chester is next as he stands at the end of the board. His breathing is short and shallow, his muscles begin to tighten, the palms of his hands become wet and clammy, he feels a lump in his throat and Chester’s concentration is interrupted with thoughts of falling to his death or serious injury. Chester’s fear makes his goal of walking across the board much more difficult. Objects are those frightful things you see when you take your mind off your goals. It’s the same kind of thing when it comes to racing; too much fear makes you perform much worst.
If anyone tells you that they don’t have any fear when they race, they are not being honest with themselves or you. Everyone has at least just a little bit of fear when they race. And besides, if they didn’t have any fear at all, they wouldn’t be able to perform as well. Remember, just a little bit of fear is enough to make it important enough to kick in the primordial juices without getting too much fear to tighten you up. So how does one produce just the right amount of fear without red lining the fear factor? Well, I don’t think anyone has a problem with not having enough fear. The question is how does one not have too much fear while racing? In short, the answer is confidence. The dictionary definition of confidence is: trust, reliance, self-assurance.
If you have too much fear while racing or even riding a motorcycle, then you don’t have enough confidence in your abilities to do the job and the fear should be there. It’s there for a good reason; to keep you from getting hurt. The only way to get over the too much fear problem and to acquire the confidence is to earn it by being prepared and knowing your limits, not riding beyond your abilities. The following list breaks down the preparation and how to recognize your limits factors for an easier understanding.
Being in good physical shape
If you’re out there racing or even riding and you’re not strong and in good shape, you’re just asking for an injury. And besides, you can’t ride well if you’re tired anyway. This is a big factor in earning that confidence, you have to put in the consistent hard training in order to get and stay in good shape. It’s important to be at your ideal weight and not be over weight so a good common sense diet is also necessary. If you don’t feel strong the fear factor is going to go way up. To get the most effective diet and training methods for motocross, check out my Motocross Conditioning Video or DVD from my website.
Getting enough seat time
There’s no way to feel really comfortable on the bike and not have too much fear unless you have ridden and still ride a lot. There’s no substitute for having the feel of the wheel so to speak. When you have a lot of riding time under your belt, the bike becomes an extension of your body and you know what it’s going to do before it does it. This way you can stay ahead of what is happening instead of not being sure and trying to catch up with it. How can you not be very afraid if you don’t know what that bike is going to do? If you’re going to ride really well, you have to put in the seat time.
Having a well-prepared motorcycle
If you’re riding a worn out bike, it’s only a matter of time before it breaks and you sure don’t want it to break on the face of a big jump. A serious racer has to have well maintained equipment. You or a mechanic has to go over the bike every time between rides. Every time before you get on it, you should have a checklist to go through. Things like: is there enough gas? is the chain adjusted correctly and oiled? Is the tire pressure right? Are the spokes tight? Are the linkage bolts tight? Are the controls working properly, especially the throttle? When you know your bike is going to do its job, it takes away a lot of fear and doubt.
Don’t take unnecessary changes
Whether you’re racing as a professional or an amateur, just go out there and have fun and do what’s necessary in order to reach your goals. If there’s a big double or triple that’s beyond your current abilities and no one in your class is going to be jumping it anyway, don’t be thinking you should try to jump it. If your thinking you should be pulling off some free style moves forget about it. Do you want to be a racer or a free stylist? If you’re finishing practicing for the day and your friend says, "Come on, you gotta try this jump I just found!", forget about it. Tell him you’ll check it out next time. Do what you feel is necessary and enough and leave it at that.
Recognize your limits
Every man or women has to know their own limits and you always have to stay within those limits while racing or riding. Racing is all about being on the edge, but you better know exactly where that edge is and don’t go over it. It’s better to slow down a little, get some points and race again next week than to crash and burn. Once you acquire a good portion of experience, it's really pretty easy to know where your limits are (you can feel them).
When you’re flowing with the track and riding smooth, you’re within your limits. When you start to make mistakes like missing a line, making a bobble here and there, when your arms are pumping up and/or you’re getting really tired, when things begin to happen faster than you are anticipating them to be happening, these are signs of going over the edge. With the correct types of preparation and practice over each week and month, you should be able to increase your limits, but you have to be consistent and it takes time. Don’t try to rush it by riding over your head or it will end up taking you more time to improve. Remember to feel your limits and don’t go pass them.
When you have these five previous categories covered, you will see the strangle hold of fear dissipate. Of course, as I explained earlier, there is always going to be some fear but it’s a good fear, one that will make you pay attention and heighten you abilities. Don’t ever take anything about racing or riding for granted. Just about the time you do is the time it will jump up and bite you. Always have that special kind of respect for it and make sure that you are always prepared and using your head every time you throw a leg over your iron horse.
Over the years I’ve had a lot of riders, both young and older, tell me that they are having trouble jumping doubles. They say they can jump the same distance on a tabletop jump but they are afraid to jump that distance over a double. They are asking me how they can overcome their fear and do these doubles. Sometimes these riders are at my motocross school and are asking me this at the beginning of the school. I say, well I’ll watch your jumping techniques when we cover jumps and we’ll see what we can do about it. When I’m asked this question, I pretty much know what to expect and most of the time I’m right on the money. Their jumping abilities are in need of some serious improvements before they throw themselves at the mercy of the doubles. They say that they can jump the same distance on the tabletops but they don’t land on the down side every time. If that were a double, they would be doing some serious case landings and getting rebounded over the bars. They also have trouble controlling the angle of the bike in the air. Sometimes the front end is too high and sometimes it is too low. These are riders that are missing one or more of the five qualities listed above. I always tell them the same thing, that they should not be jumping doubles yet and that there’s a good reason for their fear. If and when they develop the control to jump and land just how they want to every time over safer jumps, then they will not have that terrible fear and they will possess the confidence to do the big doubles, big doubles no troubles.
How does one acquire that confidence? Well, when we’re talking about big doubles, you first have to practice the proper jumping techniques over and over again on safe, forgiving type jumps, such as tabletops and/or step-ups. Once you have mastered the proper jumping techniques and you can feel the compression and rebound part of the jump so well that you can automatically react to it through your nervous system’s automatic reflex reactions, then and only then will you conquer the big no forgiveness doubles. Achieve the five steps above and you will conquer all but that little bit of fear that is suppose to be there. Mother nature cannot be tricked or cheated; she will give up to you the object of your desires only after you have paid her price.
Professional Motocross Trainer
If you're serious about improving your motocross skills, checkout my website for additional tips and training resources.