For years now at MBR we’ve been putting our socks on inside out and wearing our lucky chamois shorts to stave off crashing and hurting ourselves. Turns out, none of this makes any difference, according to sports scientist Will Harrison, who’s diagnosed us with a bad case of superstition.
“It’s an irrational thought process, caused by our belief in supernatural forces outside of the things we can control,” Will says.
Nevertheless, creating superstitions and rituals is one of the body’s control mechanisms to help manage anxiety and ‘fear of failure’. We do it to help us relate to successful experiences or disassociate from disastrous ones.
But it all goes wrong when superstitions start adding to our stress levels instead of reducing them, when we could be doing something productive and practical to prepare for a ride.
“Instead of being a nifty trick up our sleeve, superstition can become the insidious gremlin on our shoulders, which is about as helpful as a slick tyre on a muddy climb,” says Will.
But we thought routine was good — what gives?
Routine is good, superstition bad, apparently. “A general rule of thumb is that superstitions control us, whereas we control pre-performance routines,” Will says. The real dilemma comes
with superstitions that cross over the threshold and seem to act as pre-performance routines: try to control them, not the other way round.
Watch this video, guaranteed to make you faster than any superstition
Build a good routine
“It’s a good thing to develop pre-performance routines to improve our mindset and physical readiness before riding — imagery, self-talk and positive statements,” Will says. Try mentally
visualising yourself on the trail before riding, or simply say: ‘I can do this’ before you hit
“I always have to put my gear on in the same order from right to left (socks, shoes, knee pads, gloves, etc).”
“I can’t have any skin showing above my kneepads.”
“I only ever wear black socks and they have to be at exactly the same height. I always feel much better once they’re in line.”
“I always have to have a pre-ride dump precisely 20 minutes before my race run. I’d feel as though something was missing and assume my performance would drop because it’s that much of a ritual.”
“My Camelbak tube has to be over my left shoulder. I freak out if it’s on the right!”
“I always have to do the sign of the cross with my right hand across my body twice before I ride — I’m not even religious!”
“On the morning of race day I have to put a pinch of my dog’s hair down my shoes.”