This is a post inspired by a chance meeting on the trails. I happened to bump into Monique, Natalie and Shannon while riding one weekend. After a quick greeting the conversation quickly moved towards a log feature that Monique had decided to not ride over. She had previously had an incident on a similar feature and had decided that it was safer not to attempt it.
Having seen Monique ride during one of our Core Skills courses I knew she was more than capable of safely riding over the log. So, with a bit of encouragement we returned to Monique's nemesis and she managed to conquer the feature (she admittedly had a few entertaining expressions during some of the attempts which Nat may or may not have captured on her phone).
Having conquered the first log, Monique continued to challenge herself on subsequent logs throughout the remainder of the ride - without issue.
The chance encounter was a nice little reminder about how the journey to reach Mountain Bike Nirvana is so much more than accumulating technical skills. You can get all the help to learn the techniques to ride your bike better. But that may not be enough to help you achieve riding Nirvana.
What the hell is Mountain Bike Nirvana, I hear you ask? Well, I define it as that place where you flow in the moment and everything seems to melt away into riding bliss as you, your bike and the trail become one. Where conscious thought is put aside and your dance with your bike sees you gliding effortless along single track. Where worry and fear about anything is gone from your mind and you are simply just in the present.
And it's usually a temporary state. One that you can enter in and out of - perfect moments that you enjoy during a ride.
It's also a destination that can change as your riding progresses. Something that shifts with your capabilities and expectations as you realise there is more you can do, more that you want to do. Because every time you briefly enter Nirvana, you understand what you're potentially capable of doing on a bike.
And so it becomes a journey. A journey where you strive to improve your physical, technical and mental abilities to ride better. A journey where you search for your true potential as a rider. A journey where you leave fear behind.
The point at which you start focusing on what you're capable of instead of what you're afraid of is what I call the Turning Point.
The Turning Point, that point where you start focusing on what you want to do instead of what you're afraid of, is different for everyone. And just to be clear, it's not about being able to swallow your fear and "send it". There are always dangers in mountain bike riding, irrespective of the level of skill that you are at that you will need to manage.
The Turning Point is about desire, self belief and effort. You desiring to become the best rider that you can be. You believing in your ability to become a stronger, more skilled and confident rider. And your willingness to do whatever it takes to get to where you see yourself.
Doubt is gone. You know you're going to get better. It's simply a matter of time.
Reaching the Turning Point is different for everyone in their mountain biking journey. Some people are just natural athletes, able to run everyone else into the ground while never seeming out of breath. Others possess a natural balance and an aptitude for learning mountain bike skills. And then there are those that having an incredibly confident mindset.
Of course, there are those that have all three in spades (these are the riders we're always jealous of).
So some people will reach the Turning Point and let go of their fears in pursuit of riding Nirvana much sooner than others. Some people are so gifted that they bypass the Turning Point at the very start of their journey. Others however may take a bit more time and not even realise they've passed the Turning Point until someone points out that they've become a completely different rider.
The Turning Point represents the first step in the journey to Mountain Bike Nirvana. But it's important to accept that for most people, reaching this point in your riding can take some time. It also requires commitment on your part to battle your fears and have faith in yourself that you will be able to achieve what you dream you can be as a rider. And you'll also need to put the effort into improving your riding.
But when you pass the Turning Point, everything changes. You focus on the journey and the result, not what might go wrong. And when you don't get it the first time, or the second time, or the 20th time, you persevere with a steely eyed determination and iron will that tells everyone that you're going to succeed no matter what.
Which is exactly what I saw in Kendyl's eyes when she returned from Whistler. When you look at the photo below, it's hard to imagine that earlier this year she was nervous about rolling off some of the smaller drops in Nerang.....