In this edition of our series on cycling techniques, Ride School coach Jessen Lee speaks about the importance of confidence, and having the right mindset, while cycling. Building and maintaining confidence is key to being a better rider and getting the most out of your riding, your bicycle, and yourself.
What is confidence? And what has it got to do with cycling?
Here is the definition according to the dictionary: “FULL TRUST, BELIEF IN ONESELF.”
On a friend’s farm in Sabah, she had problem with eagles. She mentioned that eagles would snatch at least one chicken every day. So there was this chicken, one of the smallest of the lot. It wasn’t your average chicken. This was a different chicken. This little fellow had a strut that said, “I’m as big as anybody else.” So one day, as it was going about its daily chicken routine in the farm, an eagle swooped down and snatched it into the air. Most chickens never fought and never came back, but this little chicken fought so hard the eagle had no choice but to release it. The little fellow went back into the farm with its head intact and held high. As usual, it did its habitual strut as though nothing ever happened.
That chicken certainly had lots of trust and belief in itself.
Do you remember the moment when you first rode on two wheels?
I suppose most of us have probably felt that uncertainty if we were going to fall or take flight, just like adolescent eagles taking their first flight in air.
I once met this student during coaching; his name was Benji. This guy had never ridden on the trails before. The only cycling he had ever done was going to the market to buy food.
As the class went on, I noticed that he was exceptionally good on the bike, as though he has been riding with pros all his life. Descending for him was a piece of cake on super steep slippery slopes. When the class ended, I asked him how he performed the newly given tasks so smoothly and confidently.
He answered, “I don’t feel afraid at all, I know you coaches are there and I have full trust I’ll be safe.” This attitude is something rarely seen in many other ride classes, I thought.
In Benji’s case, there is a big difference on how confidence can affect your riding skills. Trust yourself. Being calm and collected also makes a difference in learning speeds when I’m running my coaching sessions. It’s always the calmer ones that learn the quickest.
Confidence is one of the main contributing factors in ensuring that you keep your head cool in times where your abilities are tested. Often it gets to us when we’re riding in a pack and suddenly you hit a lengthy, twisty downhill. All your mates go swooping by, leaving you behind. You’ll be thinking to chase up or to be a slave to your dwindling confidence as you lose sight of your flying mates. But don’t just lose hope yet on having a wee bit more fun with your bike.
Most of the time, cyclists are their own worst enemy rather than their own best ally in training and races. When you ride, whose side are you on? Realize that the ride itself wants to “beat” you with its challenge of duration, technicality and terrain. And, if it’s a race or not, there are other riders who want to beat you, too. If you’re also against you, you don’t have a chance of overcoming those course conditions or hanging tough against the field.