The difference between knowing you’re sh*t and knowing your sh*t

And I’m not talking about grammar here. I’ve recently learnt that if you know your shit (about bikes), you’ll probably be less likely to believe you’re shit (at riding bikes). I acquired this knowledge the hard way, after crashing out of my second attempt at racing enduro.

Back in April, I entered the Mini Enduro at the Forest of Dean. I’m not great at the psychology of racing (as you can see here), so I was always going to find it a struggle. But on the day it wasn’t just the mental struggle that got to me – I struggled to ride well too. I just couldn’t get into a groove and found myself fighting with my bike on the rooty sections. I put it down to my fear of racing and tried to battle on.

But on the second stage, I struck a root the wrong way, hit the deck hard and put a dent in my helmet. I wasn’t seriously hurt, but shaken enough not to want to carry on. I headed back to the van, fighting back the tears and berating myself for not doing myself justice and for losing my form. This feeling stayed with me for a little while; I convinced myself I couldn’t ride as well as I thought I could and I got nervous riding elsewhere.

And then, something amazing happened. We were doing a bit of set up on my new Kili Flyer, measuring saddle angles against my Ariel, when the Mr noticed something interesting. He spotted that there was no difference at all in the fork length on the two bikes – my Ariel’s 150mm travel forks matched my Kili Flyer’s 120mm ones. They were the same length. Well, that’s not right is it?

A quick trip to Nathan at Independent Bike Co. later and we knew that a valve was blocked up with muck, so the forks weren’t equalising properly. Nathan gave them a good service and got them working like new again. And what a difference it made. When I rode on the Quantocks this weekend, I felt like I knew how to ride my bike again. I whizzed and whooshed my way down Hodders Combe, not thinking twice about the roots.

The moral of this story? When your bike doesn’t feel right and your riding is off kilter, don’t automatically assume that it’s your fault and you can’t ride anymore. Take a look at the bike, work out what’s changed and put it right. It’ll save you a whole lot of heartache!

Quantocks fun

Loving my Saracen Ariel, with perfectly performing Pikes

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