Updated: May 25, 2020
It's amazing how quickly life can change. How a set of circumstances seemingly beyond our control can alter the routines of security and stability. When the need to adapt and live life differently becomes a survival imperative.
For many of us, this will be the first time we've had to make such a sudden and seemingly drastic change that has been out of our control. There will be also a group of fortunate people who might find that life hasn't changed all that much. In fact, some people have found that they have unexpectedly benefitted from the current situation. And then there will be a group of people that have had to battle through life so frequently that yet another challenge to face will just seem normal to then.
But whatever group you're in, it's unlikely that you would have been able to continue life without making some changes. And often with change, reflection about where things might lead often occurs. I suspect that for many of us, that thought process has led to us questioning what is actually important in our lives.
Having had to suspend the Balance MTB Skills Clinics for an indefinite period, it's meant that I've had a chance to enjoy a few weekends off. It's been a welcome break, given my day job often sees me working 60 hour weeks. And yes - to the surprise of some, I do actually have a job which has nothing to do with mountain bike riding!
It's been a long time since I've had two weekends off from working for a while now, let alone more than a month. With the time I've had spare I've been able to enjoy a bit more time relaxing, some quality time with my family, actual time riding my bike on the trails and the opportunity to reflect on the journey that mountain biking including my more recent foray into mountain bike coaching.
I have to admit that the free time has led me to wonder about when and even if I should restart mountain bike coaching. I guess during this time I've been a bit quiet as when I've happened to run into a few people out on the trails, they've been asking about if and when I'll be starting up coaching as well.
Rather, it is about a single moment, a crash, the worst one I've had to date. At a time when I continually rode with reckless abandon, I clipped a tree at high speed as I raced down a narrow, rocky trail and shot straight over the handlebars with enough time to think about the fact that there was no good way to land, ploughing head first into rocks with only an unpadded forearm for protection. I remember feeling some pain, but had no real way of knowing how badly hurt I was. I just knew that there were two guys following down the trail and that I had to get myself and my bike out of the way otherwise they might crash as well. And so in spite of everything hurting, I dragged myself up, albeit significantly slower than normal, and got my bike and myself out of the way in time. The two guys I was riding with, whom were both recent acquaintances, were kind enough to patch me up. They were however, very quiet while they reviewed my injuries while they decided what to do. When they took out one of the bladders from their backpacks and emptied over a litre of water onto my arm, I figured things weren't probably the best though. After that I discovered only two fingers in my left hand were working - enough to hang onto my handle bars but not use my rear brakes which made riding out a bit more challenging.
A few hours later, while resting in a hospital bed after the guys I had been riding with insisted on driving me to the Emergency Department and a doctor had pulled my arm back together with 14 stitches after accidently stabbing me with a needle, I had a chance to reflect on the events of that morning:
Firstly, despite falling and ending up in a world of pain, I got back up;
Secondly, two guys with whom I didn't really know very well were kind enough to stop, patch me up and take me to the hospital - something they didn't have to do;
Thirdly, I got back on my bike and kept riding (admittedly much more slowly and carefully);
And finally, I found the fact that I had one gum nut, two rocks, three twigs and half a dozen pieces of bark embedded in my arm mildly amusing.
At that point I thought to myself that if I could get through a situation as crazy as that mountain bike crash and be okay, then I would find a way of getting through my depression challenges as well. And at that point, I also figured that if riding mountain bikes could help me get through difficult times, perhaps I could show others how mountain bike riding could help them as well. Without the crashing part.
Which ultimately led me to this current journey of coaching mountain bike riding. Yes, that's right - I coach mountain biking because a major crash on the trails helped me realise how great mountain biking can be for people.
Seriously though, upon deeper reflection I've realised there are so many aspects of mountain biking that are not only beneficial while on two wheels, but that can also be translated to life in general. Physical health and well being, overcoming fear and gaining confidence, learning new skills and challenging yourself to succeed at things you didn't believe you could ever do all translate into very useful life skills. And for a handful of us, there are also the mental health benefits as well.
So, now that you know what started me down the path of mountain bike coaching, you're probably wondering why I'd be questioning whether or not I should keep coaching. And while the long answer is more of a beer at the pub conversation, the short answer is that I haven't been sure as to whether or not my coaching was still relevant and useful to people.
Since I started coaching almost two and a half years ago, the local MTB clubs have been more active, shop social rides have grown and become more frequent and more MTB coaches have appeared in the local area. For everyone on a mountain bike, this is a fantastic outcome for the sport that we all love and cherish - more opportunities for everyone to be involved and become better riders.
With all the support now available in our local riding community, I've questioned whether or not what I do and how I do it is valuable to people now. It's a question I've been pondering a lot, especially while I've been out riding (so sincerest apologies if I've ridden past you without saying hi - I often ride deep in thought and completely oblivious to my surroundings!)
For now, the answer for me has been through the conversations I've had with people that I've randomly bumped into on the trails. People who have spoken to me with pride about how they're applying what they've learnt out on the trails. People who have told me they've been sessioning features to get better at their skills instead of just pedalling as far as they can. People who have asked when classes will start up again.
Those conversations have in effect, answered the question for me. The Balance Skills clinics will continue. Exactly when, who can really say? It might be next month. It might be much later in the year. But when the time is right, I'll restart the classes. In the meantime, I just wanted to say thank you to all of you who have continued to support my quest to help others enjoy mountain bike riding (safely!). I look forward to bumping into more of you on the trails.