Welcome back to the bike

How to get your mojo and your moves back when you return to riding. Set yourself up to feel positive, confident and make the best use of your time.

>>> 12 classic mountain bike crashes we’ve all had

Words by Andy Barlow | Dirt School

Getting back out on your bike after some time off can be a double-edged sword. You remember how good it is and are happy to be out again, but at the same time you’re frustrated that you’re out of practise or that you’ve lost confidence. Sound familiar?

Crash damage

Taking weeks off your bike because of a crash is a hard thing to come back from. All you can remember is the pain and discomfort of the injury and you’ll really struggle to complete the same type of obstacles that you crashed on without some sort of hesitation. It’s perfectly normal to react this way, after all you’ve had a lot of time to replay what went wrong, and you’ll naturally want to avoid the same mistake again. It’s common for someone to be knocked out, forget what happened, and actually have no fear about the same thing happening again simply because they have no memory of the crash to replay in their head while taking some time off.

When coming back from a crash it’s really helpful to be honest with your self about what caused it in the first place. Was it really the obstacle’s fault? Or was there something that you did that caused the loss of control. The more specific you can be the more likely you’ll be able to avoid the same mistake again. If possible, get back to the same kind of feature as soon as you can and ride it clean. Even if that just means getting through it. You can start to build on positive experiences and make progress.

Fitness tricks

Riding regularly is the best thing you can do for your fitness. Even if it’s just a short ride that you squeeze in once a week, the routine can be enough to keep both your mental and physical fitness just ticking over healthily. Taking time off for whatever reason will mean that the first couple of rides that you go on are a bit of a grind. Don’t worry about it. Try and pick a route that will give you plenty of time to faff, eat, and take breaks. You’re not going to smash any PBs, so instead just focus on having a laugh and enjoying the trail.

Don’t set off too fast. The shock to your system will mean that you’ll be burning through your energy reserves faster than normal. Keep it easy paced and mellow at the start, and you’ll be able to build the pace and feel like a hero towards the end. A much better way of finishing the ride on a high.

Ride in short chunks with plenty of flow and try and see the funny side of things. Take plenty of food and water and you’ll be able to keep your energy levels topped up.

Keeping a low body position is easy on level ground, but what do you look like when it gets steep?

Back to basics

Once the terrain starts to point down the way try and think about your body position. Keeping your elbows bent and your neutral riding position connected to the front of your bike will mean that you can neutralise the trail and avoid any bucks or slides that will dent your confidence further. Instead try and ride smooth and keep coming back to the things that will build your confidence. Brake where it’s safe to do so, and focus on staying low over the rough or choppy stuff. If you have a loss of control just go straight back to your body position.

As well as bending your elbows remember and straighten your legs and drop your heels. This will allow you to take rests between where you need to move by resting your body weight on your skeleton rather than having to use your quads all the time. As soon as you bend your legs you’re powering your muscles. Straighten your legs and you can rest while still having a limited bounce in your heels and ankles.

Notice how Andy’s hips are behind his saddle but his arms are still bent. This will allow him to stay neutral instead of being pulled forwards as his front wheel drops. Even on a steep trail like this you want to keep your elbows bent.

Easy goals

If you respond will to setting goals and having a plan, then you might like to have a think about what you’re trying to achieve by getting back on your bike. Perhaps it’s a fitness thing? Maybe a social thing? Or it might just be because you miss it. Whatever the reason for your absence, try and set a couple of easy goals to measure your progress. This might be getting down a trail clean, or rounding up the old crew for a good laugh. It might even be to face your fears and ride the same trail that bested you a few weeks ago. Whatever the reason, don’t be too harsh on yourself first time. Remember that even if you don’t achieve your goal you’re still making progress by aiming for something in the first place.