This particular post was inspired by a conversation that came up during the last session of a Core Skills B-Line course. We were investigating line options for a series of corners on Pete's Trail in Nerang. During a demonstration of one of those lines I heard someone say, "How did you do that? You managed to miss every rock!"
I replied immediately and without thinking. "What rocks?"
Okay - let's get real. It's Nerang and rocks are everywhere. But I said what I said not as a joke, but because I was genuinely confused. I hadn't actually seen the "rocks" everyone was referring to.
It wasn't because I'd taken a line that avoided the rocks altogether (although there is a line there that does exactly that, but I wouldn't say it's the fastest or most fun). In fact, I'd ridden the line that probably took me past the most rocks possible. It's just simply that I was so focused on riding the smoothest line possible that I hadn't seen the rocks on either side of the path that I'd chosen.
All too often when we're on our mountain bikes and out on the trails we see something that might look a little bit intimidating. We begin to wonder about the nasty "what ifs" that might be associated with something going wrong with a particular feature. And then suddenly we've tensed up, our hearts begin to race, fingers posed to jam on the brakes and all confidence having mysteriously vanished into thin air.
From here one of three things tends to happen:
You manage to ride the feature that's challenging you - just not as well as you would have liked;
You jam the brakes on and don't attempt a feature you that you know you should be able to ride; or
You become so focused on what can go wrong that something goes wrong while attempting to ride the feature.
Just to be clear, I'm naturally assuming you've learnt the necessary skills and practiced enough to be able to perform a particular technique. Believing that you can do something without learning the skills is obviously not going to guarantee that you'll be able to conquer a particular challenge.
But that actually goes both ways. Learning and possessing the skills only gets you so far in your riding. But not believing and focusing on the right outcomes is going to limit what how you ride your mountain bike just as much as if you didn't have the skills in the first place. I know plenty of riders that struggle with this challenge.
So when you're learning new riding skills, pay attention to what your mind is focused on as well. And if you find that your brain is actually focusing on the wrong things, start training and practicing your mind to focus on what it should be doing. Because whether you believe you can or you can't do something - you're absolutely right.