Scott on his trials bike on top of a boulder
Scott tries to work up the courage and assess the setup for a wonky side drop

Just before 2022 came to an end, we decided to take the week’s group ride to Day Pond State Park in Colchester, CT. In addition to the beautiful scenery and trails for both mountain biking and hiking, this is actually a fun place to ride bike trials for just about any skill level from beginner on up.

A low consequence line

After having a pretty rough start to this week’s ride (involving a good pedal scrape up my thigh), we got warmed up on some of the smaller features and worked our way up to the bigger ones. This actually worked out nicely, because with the smaller features, you can practice precision and accuracy and warm up the muscle memory with low consequence of failure (as I clearly demonstrated several times in the video).

Starting out low to the ground also builds confidence in preparation for the bigger moves. If you’re not feeling confident, don’t even attempt any scary lines – you might get hurt. Getting hurt sucks enough; being off the bike sucks even more. That line isn’t going anywhere; it’ll still be there; you can come back another day. And even if it will be a ‘lost opportunity’, it’s not worth risking a bone-breaking fall.

As the sun sank lower on the horizon, we migrated around the pond to some of the bigger features – one large boulder in particular. The boulder is somewhat flat, but it’s off-camber and has a couple “steps” on two sides, so it provide some deceptive challenges. It also provides some opportunities for a number of different lines, including different heights for getting up and down. There’s also a gap or two I’d like try try, but I’ll have to save those for when I’m more confident and less tired.

During this ride I tried a couple drops that are higher and scarier that probably any drops that I had done previously. In order to progress, with trials, you do have to take some risks, just not completely stupid risks. I was confident enough in my abilities and my bike to do these lines because I knew I had the necessary skills – but it was still scary since there were painful consequences of failure. There are a handful of tips that these lines reminded me, so I’d like to share them with you.

Tip 1: Don’t take stupid risks. Maybe this should be Tip #0, because the first thing you want to do is know why you’re going to do this scary thing and evaluate (a) whether it’s worth the risk, and (b) whether it’s within your capabilities. If you think it’s within your capabilities, even if it’s on the edge, you might choose to send it; however, if you think the chance of success is low and the consequences are high, don’t be an idiot! Put in some practice, make some progress, build up your confidence, and try it later.

Tip 2: Maintain focus! While you’re riding a scary line or feature, you need to stay laser-focused on what you need to do, not dwell on what could go wrong or daydream. Yes, you need to be aware of the consequences before you try a scary line, but while you’re riding the line, push those thoughts completely out of your head and focus completely on what you need to do in order to safely and successfully complete the line.

Tip 3: Look ahead. As one of my trials crew reminds us periodically, look at where you want to go on the bike (not where you don’t want to go). You’re bike will go where you look, so if you keep your eyes on where you need to put the bike, you will be significantly to end up doing exactly that. Conversely, if you keep looking at the scary place where you don’t want to fall, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re not only going to fall, but you’re going to fall into that exact spot. Avoid the temptation – look where you want to go.

Tip 4: Ignore distractions. In this particular video, a couple of people were walking by while I was attempting to do one of the scariest lines I’ve ever done. Yes, I was trying to impress them, but in hindsight, that was a stupid, risky thing to do since this was the first ever attempt at this line. So the first thing is don’t be a vain idiot. But from a more generalized standpoint, there will always be distractions – whether it’s onlookers, other riders, whatever – so you need to focus on your riding and ignore everything else.

Tip 5: Acknowledge the fear. Here’s a little secret: when you do something scary (whatever it is, not just trials biking), you will feel the fear. We all do. The trick is to acknowledge that and learn how to do the scary thing in spite of that fear.

I’ve also written about coping with fear previously, but I’m interested in what you think as well. How do you deal with fear? Please share your techniques with the community in the comments here or in the YouTube comments for the video. Happy riding!


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