Starting off on the wrong foot... but at least it's a low consequence environment
Starting off on the wrong foot… but at least it’s a low consequence environment

Have you ever had one of those days? You know the kind I’m talking about. The ones where you really start off on the wrong foot? Where you just can’t seem to accomplish what you set out to do, no matter how hard you try? That describes my Saturday last weekend.

As usual, I planned to ride my trials bike this past weekend. Rain was forecast for Sunday, but Saturday was sunny and beautiful. For whatever reason, I was feeling a bit under the weather, so I decided to just ride at home instead of driving anywhere – even somewhere fairly local. Since I have a small trials practice area that I’ve started on our property, I figured I could add some small rock features that would help me practice riding on natural obstacles. So that’s what I did.

That moment you realize things probably aren't going to end well (fortunately, the family jewels survived intact)
That moment you realize things probably aren’t going to end well (fortunately, the family jewels survived intact)

A Rough Start

The riding session started out pretty rough. On the first attempt, I literally fell off the pedals when trying to get up on my rear wheel. I’ve done this move hundreds if not thousands of times (it’s a basic trials move), so falling off was about as absurd as tripping over nothing while walking. On the second attempt I tried to abort, but ended up bridging the bike across two rocks and landing on the top tube with my crotch (fortunately just missing my vital equipment!). A few attempts later I let go of the rear brake for no apparent reason. I was definitely not off to a good start. After about 1-1/2 hours of trying to complete one single, simple trials line (attempted from bother directions), the GoPro memory card was full and I’d only successfully completed the first half of the line. By that point I was exhausted. Time to wrap it up.

Struggling to maintain my balance on a rock halfway through the trials line.
Struggling to maintain my balance halfway through the trials line.

Wisdom From A Trials Session

As I thought about the session, I realized that there are some bits of wisdom that I could glean from the experience to share with you.

Don’t take yourself too seriously. Sometimes you’ll have bad days and you’ll encounter silly and embarrassing moments. I barely escaped a nut-crushing less than 2 minutes into my last trials ride after falling off my pedals mere moments earlier. Yes, I felt like a complete dumbass, but at the same time, both ‘failures’ were opportunities to find the humor in the situation and share with others who can either relate to the incidents, or at least find some amusement in them

Practice what you struggle with, not what you can do easily. In this session, I deliberately selected rocks to balance on and hop between, specifically because they are imperfect. They are not smooth, level, and predictable. One rock was really bumpy, one was really off-camber and rounded; the third one was better than those two, but still imperfect. I also selected distances between the rocks that was doable, but far enough to challenge me. The rocks are (relatively) small, so accuracy is important. If you only practice what you can already do, you will not grow. The goals is progress, not perfection – or in the case with this session, even one success completion.

Set yourself up so that it’s safe to fail while learning. My trials setup shown in this video is pretty low to the ground, so falling was fairly benign. That was on purpose: the idea is to learn balance, control, and certain moves, but I can do that just a few inches from the ground. What mattered with the rock surfaces and the distances between them, not how high up they are. Of course I also use a helmet, and I wear shin guards under my jeans. You have to be wiling to fail in order to learn and grow, but it helps to feel safe while doing so, whether the failures you will encounter are physical, mental, emotional, social, whatever.

The Session

Here’s the session in all its glory. The first couple minutes cover the updates to the trials practice area setting up the new rock line, and the rest shows the struggle, the failures, and some really close attempts. While I didn’t successfully complete the line, the session was still a success. And I will come back and hit this line again and again until I can do it consistently.


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