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Riding Scared…

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When my grandson was learning to ride (about the time he was turning six, on a brand new TY-80) the prime lesson he lived by was, “never ride faster than you feel comfortable.” When we went for rides, the leader (usually me) always kept his eye on the boy, and helped whenever he sensed hesitation.

After a year of this the boy could follow any leader at full speed. He rode smoothly, and fast, never fell, and was never afraid. But then we were not competing. When it was wise to go slow, we went slow, and when the danger was slim we rode like the wind!

When you compete, you are mostly challenging each other to ride at the intersection of fearlessness and skill. If you go too far over the edge of either side there is a cost (lost time, or worse).

Some fear is normal, because it can keep you aware of the danger level. But when you ride way out at, or beyond, the limit of your skills you are only milliseconds away from serious consequences. If you don’t keep it on two wheels, it’s gonna hurt, and you are not helping yourself. That’s what the fear is about. If you listen to it, it will tell you when to come down just enough so you don’t come off.

Fear can be your friend or it can be your enemy. It’s up to you. If you listen to it and know your skills, you can ride as close to the edge as you need to. But if you ignore it and go over the edge, then you put yourself in the hands of fate, and fate is notoriously cruel.

That’s what came to mind this morning as I was reading in CycleNews about qualifying at the 2018 Phillip Island MotoGP. There was “threatening weather, with isolated but frightening spots of rain…. Light spots of rain started precisely as the pit lane opened, and while they stopped again almost at once, they would come and go throughout the 15 minutes.”

Marc Marquez, for the fifth consecutive year, took the pole. Johann Zarco was third. This is what they had to say:

Marc Marquez:

“It was so difficult to understand the way to push. You are at more than 200 km/h (about 124mph) for almost all the lap, and you don’t know where the limit is. There have been many accidents here, and it is really easy to get injured. It’s really scary when you see rain on your visor.”

Johann Zarco:

“Then I saw everybody going out on slicks, so I had to also. In these kinds of conditions, you know you can push, because the track usually stays dry… but you don’t know how much. You ride scared, and it’s not good. But you have to do it.”

These are two of the small group of men who are so far out on the skills side of the scale that others may be fast, but they are aliens. They are already riding very far out on the edge of control, but their attention is also scouting ahead in anticipation of how the limit may change anywhere from a few milliseconds to a few seconds  ahead. Because of the uncertainty, that is the realm of fear.

Notice that Zarco says “You ride scared, and it’s not good. But you have to do it.” Well, when we are out for a trail ride, it’s still not good to ride over the edge of control, especially when we don’t have to, and when we’re not sure of the limits ahead because it’s a virgin trail to us. Probably worse is ignoring the voice that says “slow down” because we don’t want to admit to ourselves and our friends that our skills are not great enough to keep up the pace without putting ourselves in danger.

Sometimes it is fun to play at the limit, but that is best done on a smaller scale than a flat out trail ride. It is called practice. I always used my trials bike to explore limits in practice, because at the scale of a trials challenge, tight and steep, and at at relatively slow speed, skill was paramount, but consequences were seldom severe.

You can do the same thing on an enduro bike, but you need more room, more speed, and easier obstacles, although the consequences can be greater to both bike and rider, so be careful.

Give a thought to the lesson my grandson lived by, “Never ride faster than you feel comfortable.” In other words, listen to your fear when it tells you you are approaching the limits of your skills, and slow down appropriately. Extend the limits of your skills prudently and safely by regularly practicing somewhere where you can control risk. Life is long, so don’t hurt yourself unnecessarily. Hopefully, you too will still be riding into your eighties by not riding too far over your head.

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18 minutes ago, hawaiidirtrider said:

Over 120 mph.. 

I changed to more tight woods riding to keep it more in the 20 mph banging bark to force my speed down. Plus it’s in the dirt.. 

HDR, my point is that you can get yourself airlifted to the hospital and spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair at 20 mph, by overcooking the pace on a high risk trail. You don't need to be going 125 mph on a MotoGP track. Look at some of @wwguy's videos to see some trails he rides at 5-10 mph that have an extremely high risk factor (which you can almost square, since he often rides them alone.)

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9 minutes ago, Old Plonker said:

HDR, my point is that you can get yourself airlifted to the hospital and spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair at 20 mph, by overcooking the pace on a high risk trail. You don't need to be going 125 mph on a MotoGP track. Look at some of @wwguy's videos to see some trails he rides at 5-10 mph that have an extremely high risk factor (which you can almost square, since he often rides them alone.)

Yea.. true.. there’s a bunch of factors.. I’m changing my choices to go on the cliff on both sides type trails. Frick that. I’m seeing no reason for the high risk with limited benefits. I’m starting to think why did I ever start going on the dangerous trails like that in the fist place??  I can have lots of fun without risking my life. 

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IMO what ever sport or for that matter life you choose do/live its 50/50 mental/physical. Then its a choice of how you want to do it. Life is short so live it too it's fullest, just don't kill yourself or anyone else in the process.

 

Edited by filterx

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1 minute ago, filterx said:

IMO what ever sport or for that matter life you choose do/live its 50/50 mental/physical. Then its a choice of how you want to do it. Life is short so live it too it's fullest, just don't kill yourself or anyone else in the process.

 

Yea well some choices physical have way more severe consequences in even a tiny mistake. That split second at very high speed or falling off a cliff going 3 mph are some riding scared situations that I’m rethinking. Now I’m thinking why am I riding this particular hairy dangerous trail? Because I always did it in the past and I was lucky that I made it before? Im assessing my ability again now and adapting appropriately. Ive been talking to my Dad who is a long time old trail cutter and rider racer. He and my uncles took us kids then on lots of these radical trails when we were young.  He has told me multiple times now “ What the f*** were we thinking bringing you kids on those trails??” . I tell him “ Hell yea some were super sketchy!! “. ....but when you are a kid you just do what your Dad says and shutup.  Your Dad says we going that way. You go that way and don’t contradict him..especially in front of other adults. It’s a different world now. 

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When its what you do for living and big pursue on the line. Ya you gotta get it done scared or not if wanna win. Thats racing its exciting and addicting 🏁🏁

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Fear should be pushed out of the equation as much as possible.  That's one of the emotions that makes you think and act irrationally and in this sport it will make bad things happen that could have otherwise been avoided. 

With experience and training I think it is possible to essentially mute that feeling.  One can still recognize a potentially dangerous situation without fear and this gives you the best chance of handling it in the safest manner.  You learn where the limit is and how close you can get to it.  You also learn what happens when you push too far and what happens next.

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1 hour ago, Motox367 said:

When its what you do for living and big pursue on the line. Ya you gotta get it done scared or not if wanna win. Thats racing its exciting and addicting 🏁🏁

Even then I wonder too. The David Bailey Ernesto Fonseca type situations really make me wonder about what risks are worth it.  I know the “What we did for love” type song can be playing. It’s fun to go fast and take risks and get away clean in most cases in riding and racing but Kurt Casseli died young. I’m twice as old , alive and still riding and on blood thinners.  I still can place and win or lose while racing and go alot slower than I know I used to ride. It’s just not being closer to the edge of crashing. There’s never a guarantee though. There’s the you can just be in the wrong place and get hit by a Bus type thing. I’m glad my daughter is a swimmer instead of an mx rider.

Edited by hawaiidirtrider
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23 minutes ago, hawaiidirtrider said:

Even then I wonder too. The David Bailey Ernesto Fonseca type situations really make me wonder about what risks are worth it.  I know the “What we did for love” type song can be playing. It’s fun to go fast and take risks and get away clean in most cases in riding and racing but Kurt Casseli died young. I’m twice as old , alive and still riding and on blood thinners.  I still can place and win or lose while racing and go alot slower than I know I used to ride. It’s just not being closer to the edge of crashing. There’s never a guarantee though. There’s the you can just be in the wrong place and get hit by a Bus type thing.

Look at the guys that race isles of man they not right lol . Makes ya wonder if its worth it.  ik whatya mean i use to push hard racing for years,  got pretty lucky not getting to busted up to bad  .

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3 hours ago, Old Plonker said:

HDR, my point is that you can get yourself airlifted to the hospital and spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair at 20 mph, by overcooking the pace on a high risk trail. You don't need to be going 125 mph on a MotoGP track. Look at some of @wwguy's videos to see some trails he rides at 5-10 mph that have an extremely high risk factor (which you can almost square, since he often rides them alone.)

The thing you don't understand is that guys you think are riding over there head on so called "high risk trails" are actually well within the limits, it may not look that way but most are. There are no speed limits on trails, it is enter at your own risk. 

Everybody has choices to make out there, I respect the guys out for a nice trail ride just as they should respect me while I'm out there trying to improve/get faster although that's not always the case. I just think the guys who are disrespectful have a lack of understanding of how in control the fast guys on the trail are, what they have been through to get that way, and what they are trying to accomplish. Not everybody has their own hundred acre compound to train in, some have to do it on public lands...

Edited by Dirt Mcgurt

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2 hours ago, hawaiidirtrider said:

Yea.. true.. there’s a bunch of factors.. I’m changing my choices to go on the cliff on both sides type trails. Frick that. I’m seeing no reason for the high risk with limited benefits. I’m starting to think why did I ever start going on the dangerous trails like that in the fist place??  I can have lots of fun without risking my life. 

Amen, brother!

 

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Bailing out mentally riding has gotten more people hurt than not having enough Talent..

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I’m glad this thread got a bump. There are times I feel confident on the bike, and that’s when my speed improves. Not the other way around. There are times when trail riding I slow way down since I’m simply not feeling it. Often, this doesn’t help and I find myself laughing at myself as I recite “ Unsafe at any speed (Ralph Nader).” My worst injuries have occurred trail riding. My comfort level goes way up on a track since I can “learn” it.

Really, for me it comes down to a mindset. Some days I’m safe at (my) speed, and some days I just need to slow it down. Way down, since in between speed is my danger zone. I either need to be attacking, or plonking. In between is when my front tire settles in undesirable ruts since it’s not lightened by my throttle (broken ribs while cruising in 5th waiting for a friend to catch up.) and leads to a general lack of flow. I believe Tomac experiences a similar dynamic when he tries to “be smart” and slow things down. I believe he’s more comfortable/under control riding at his natural speed.

Skill development should come first. I’m pretty sure McGrath felt way more comfortable while dominating Supercross than I do riding the access road to the trails.

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On 10/27/2018 at 12:25 PM, Old Plonker said:

Some fear is normal, because it can keep you aware of the danger level. But when you ride way out at, or beyond, the limit of your skills you are only milliseconds away from serious consequences. If you don’t keep it on two wheels, it’s gonna hurt, and you are not helping yourself. That’s what the fear is about. If you listen to it, it will tell you when to come down just enough so you don’t come off.

Fear can be your friend or it can be your enemy. It’s up to you. If you listen to it and know your skills, you can ride as close to the edge as you need to. But if you ignore it and go over the edge, then you put yourself in the hands of fate, and fate is notoriously cruel.

 

These are two of the small group of men who are so far out on the skills side of the scale that others may be fast, but they are aliens. They are already riding very far out on the edge of control, but their attention is also scouting ahead in anticipation of how the limit may change anywhere from a few milliseconds to a few seconds  ahead. Because of the uncertainty, that is the realm of fear.

 

Sometimes it is fun to play at the limit, but that is best done on a smaller scale than a flat out trail ride. It is called practice. I always used my trials bike to explore limits in practice, because at the scale of a trials challenge, tight and steep, and at at relatively slow speed, skill was paramount, but consequences were seldom severe.

 

Give a thought to the lesson my grandson lived by, “Never ride faster than you feel comfortable.” In other words, listen to your fear when it tells you you are approaching the limits of your skills, and slow down appropriately. Extend the limits of your skills prudently and safely by regularly practicing somewhere where you can control risk. Life is long, so don’t hurt yourself unnecessarily. Hopefully, you too will still be riding into your eighties by not riding too far over your head.

IMO you are making a couple of basic errors in thinking.  "The Limit" is not a single point and it is certainly not the same for every rider.  The limits of a MotoGP rider are way above any of us mere mortals.  The Limit for them is a combination of riding skills and the physics of keeping the bike upright at speed.  Those are not normal limits for the rest of us.  WE are mostly constrained by our skills .... or lack thereof.

I don't remember ever being "scared" when roadracing, especially in the last few years.  There is simply no time for fear.  You know what you are capable of and what you need to do to not crash so thats what you do.  

The limit can be continuously pushed and reset by experience and skills gained.  The problem I have with people who talk about riding within their limit is that until they have gone over the limit, they have no clue where that limit is.

I have a friend who races MotoGP and he is surprisingly normal guy.  Very skilled rider to be sure but just a normal guy who has spent most of his life racing motorcycles.

 

On 10/27/2018 at 6:10 PM, Old Plonker said:

HDR, my point is that you can get yourself airlifted to the hospital and spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair at 20 mph, by overcooking the pace on a high risk trail. You don't need to be going 125 mph on a MotoGP track. Look at some of @wwguy's videos to see some trails he rides at 5-10 mph that have an extremely high risk factor (which you can almost square, since he often rides them alone.)

And you can end up dead walking across a parking lot or falling down stairs or a million other innocuous ways to die.  Best to live life while you can because hiding from risk doesn't mean you will never end up in hospital or die from something silly or otherwise unpredictable .

 

On 10/27/2018 at 8:32 PM, turbo dan said:

Fear should be pushed out of the equation as much as possible.  That's one of the emotions that makes you think and act irrationally and in this sport it will make bad things happen that could have otherwise been avoided. 

With experience and training I think it is possible to essentially mute that feeling.  One can still recognize a potentially dangerous situation without fear and this gives you the best chance of handling it in the safest manner.  You learn where the limit is and how close you can get to it.  You also learn what happens when you push too far and what happens next.

Racers don't think in terms of fear.  Fear is debilitating and there is no room for it in racing.  Thats not to say racers have no fear because if that were true they'd all die quite quickly.  Its just that racing requires every bit of brain power you have.  I never remember being overtly fearful when road racing but for sure there were things I wasn't going to do or that took extraordinary amounts of bravery to overcome.  The interesting thing was once you'd gotten past that hurdle, it quickly became a nothing .... no fear involved at all.

 

On 10/27/2018 at 9:05 PM, Motox367 said:

Look at the guys that race isles of man they not right lol . Makes ya wonder if its worth it.  ik whatya mean i use to push hard racing for years,  got pretty lucky not getting to busted up to bad  .

The IoM TT is more akin to climbing Everest.  Guys know they can die but it is a risk worth taking to overcome the challenge.  

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4 hours ago, CDNSXV said:

Racers don't think in terms of fear.  Fear is debilitating and there is no room for it in racing.  Thats not to say racers have no fear because if that were true they'd all die quite quickly.  Its just that racing requires every bit of brain power you have.  I never remember being overtly fearful when road racing but for sure there were things I wasn't going to do or that took extraordinary amounts of bravery to overcome.  The interesting thing was once you'd gotten past that hurdle, it quickly became a nothing .... no fear involved at all.

Fear is a tool, if used right.

When you are in a race and come up to an object, or a section, you have 2 options, go over/up, or go around.

This is a decision that takes two types of thinking, Go for it, or don't do it.

Winners don't take the easy line.

I make decisions not based on fear, not based on skill or ease, but based on time and advancement.

To lead back to your previous point, limited by skill....

Can I make this object with minimal or no screw ups? Or is it faster for ME to go around?

Fear never plays a part in my thinking. I make calculated decisions that I think are for the best of the race, and at the top of my skill level.

If you always ride with fear, or within your "Skill set" you will never advance. You always have to push, and always try things that make you uncomfortable. AHH that is the word! Uncomfortable.

Just so you know, I am agreeing with your post, it is just an "everywhere reply"

 

Anyone been in a car crash? I have. You have ZERO fear. Why? Because you are concentrated on what lies ahead.

Same thing with riding/racing, for seasoned riders/racers.

We all know what we shouldn't do, and those are based on our own personal limits, some of us don't have very many, some have just enough to hold them back from ever getting any better/faster, or winning. 

The choice is yours.

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1 hour ago, joey330 said:

Fear is a tool, if used right.

When you are in a race and come up to an object, or a section, you have 2 options, go over/up, or go around.

This is a decision that takes two types of thinking, Go for it, or don't do it.

Winners don't take the easy line.

I make decisions not based on fear, not based on skill or ease, but based on time and advancement.

To lead back to your previous point, limited by skill....

Can I make this object with minimal or no screw ups? Or is it faster for ME to go around?

Fear never plays a part in my thinking. I make calculated decisions that I think are for the best of the race, and at the top of my skill level.

If you always ride with fear, or within your "Skill set" you will never advance. You always have to push, and always try things that make you uncomfortable. AHH that is the word! Uncomfortable.

Just so you know, I am agreeing with your post, it is just an "everywhere reply"

For sure I agree on pushing your limit to the point of feeling uncomfortable.  Its the only way to learn.  Never riding over your limit means never approaching your limit which means you aren't learning or improving.

Roadracing I don't remember feeling scared.  Cautious about stuff for sure.  Uncertain if I could do something, sure.  I had one weird experience where I needed to hold the throttle WFO through a blind, bumpy, off-camber turn that had zero room for error.  It took me all day to be able to get through there holding the throttle open because no matter how much the rational part of my brain said DO IT, some deeper preservation instinct would over-ride and roll the throttle off.  It was strange because it felt like I wasn't in charge.  Once I'd done it, and knew it could be done, it still took some courage to go WFO through that corner but each time it got easier and easier to the point where I'd simply whack the throttle open to the stop and hold on to the bars while the bike bucked and wobbled through the mid corner bumps.

I don't have nearly as much experience on dirt so there are more things that freak me out.  For sure I've been scared on some of the narrow, steep sections where a fall is gonna be serious but thats cause I don't have the experience on that kind of terrain and I'm older now and already went through a major injury a few years ago, which seriously tempered my willingness to risk big injuries.

 

Quote

Anyone been in a car crash? I have. You have ZERO fear. Why? Because you are concentrated on what lies ahead.

Same thing with riding/racing, for seasoned riders/racers.

We all know what we shouldn't do, and those are based on our own personal limits, some of us don't have very many, some have just enough to hold them back from ever getting any better/faster, or winning. 

I've been in a few car crashes and actually find those quite scary cause most of the time things are completely beyond your control.  Seeing whats coming at you is no fun either.  Just waiting for the hit sucks.  At least on a motorcycle the suspense is usually quite short lived.    

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I think racing is a lot different than just riding.  I just got back into it at 56 after 35 years but I remember I could never tell anyone how I did a certain corner, jump or whatever right after a motocross race.  I could tell you who I passed or got passed by or if I'd made a big mistake but the rest of it was just a blur to include whether I was ever "afraid" of something or not. I don't remember being afraid. You just kind've instinctively know how fast you can go in any given circumstance.  Just trail riding is a lot like a practice session, you have time to think about what you're doing and if something is scares you.  So if you're just riding for fun, don't scare yourself too much if you don't want.  If you're gonna compete, and you're competitor's are doing something that scares you, you're going to have to find a practice method that gets you past that... Look at Musquin, he's not great at Whoops and obviously not comfortable with them which means there is some fear there.  He hired a guy in the off season to work on his technique that will get him more comfortable or over the fear he has of taking it up a notch...

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For me on street and dirt I just try to focus on technique over speed. the more perfect my technique over an rough patch of rocks or sharp curve the faster I go without feeling out of control. 

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