Mental vs Physical

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  • Mental vs Physical
  • Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Lots of sports start off being mostly about the physical challenge for the beginner with the mental side becoming more important as you become more proficient. When it comes to riding a mountain bike downhill though, it seems to me as though the opposite is true. While it may look like a physical activity the challenge for the beginner is almost entirely mental. It’s only at higher levels where physical condition starts to make a meaningful difference.

    After more years than I care to mention riding road bikes, I’ve spent the last couple of years trying to get to grips with a mountain bike. I’ve been on a few skills courses (group and private), read loads of stuff and spent a fair few hours trying (with limited success) to put it into action. I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t actually much to riding a bike down a hill (at least at my level). If you point it roughly where you want to go, stay off the brakes, stay loose, let the bike move about and trust that it will get down then it usually does. That trust is the tricky bit, but nine times out of ten when I crash it’s because I’ve lost confidence that the bike will get through on its own and tried to intervene. Unfortunately that one time in ten when you crash because your confidence was misplaced tends to be the one that requires a trip to A&E to put you back together, which makes trusting the bike all the harder, but I still think that’s the key.

    Tom_W1987
    Member

    No, you need good bike handling skills.

    You gain the mental part when you have that as you can then trust the bike and also react to the trail with innate quick reflexes.

    You won’t get this unless you spend a lot of time on a BMX, 24 inch DJ/Street bike when you aren’t downhilling.

    The difference between my brother and everyone else is that he will hit things full belt the first time round without bottling the entry as he has enough bike handling skills to be able to read the course blind. Like a good musician being able to sight read music.

    Superficial
    Member

    Part of the skill of riding placing the bike where you want it, and part is gauging how loose to go on a given section. Sure, a beginner can probably keep up with a good rider for short while by just letting off the brakes. But they’ll crash often and risk hurting themselves.

    Although I think what you’re saying is that XCing isn’t as terrifying as it appears, you can get down most stuff with basic skills and the right attitude.

    Junkyard
    Member

    Not sure stay of the brakes is always a great idea on really steep technical rocky stuff and it will end very badly if you try
    It does work well on some less steep rocky stuff where you reach terminal velocity of circa 20-30 mph but you would be in trouble trying that approach down some stuff unless you are world class.

    It works for some trails but only the easy stuff that is just a test of nerve rather than skill.

    Premier Icon jambalaya
    Subscriber

    @roverpig, I think you’ve contradicted yourself a bit.

    Mountain Biking to me seems much like a lot of different sports I’ve tried in my 50 years. To start with there is a confidence element, being willing to try something but it’s mostly about what natural appetitude (talent) you have whilst learning new physical skills. Then there is a plateu you reach where improvements are a mix of some technical but mostly mental which is something which can really change with practice. A lot is written about muscle memory but IMO practice trains the mind as much as the body, you gain confidence with successful repetition. Specifically with regard to improving physical condition that does depend upon your skill and physical level as to whether that makes a difference but there is no doubt that it helps.

    lucien
    Member

    What was the question again?

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    What was the question again?

    I don’t think there was one 🙂 Thanks for the responses though. There are some interesting points in there. As to whether I’m contradicting myself: quite possibly. These posts may look like a statement of what I think. In fact they are mostly an attempt to try and understand what I think.

    I think I still think that riding a bike downhill is unusual in that, at the beginning it is almost all mental. You folks aren’t really the best people to rehearse this argument on as you are probably all at least competent. However, if we assume that somebody knows how to stay upright on a bike then the challenge to the beginner is (I think) still mainly about trusting that the bike will roll through stuff and trying not to get in the way. OK, staying off the brakes was a bit simplistic, but even when you need to brake it is more about braking at the right time, which is a mental thing.

    There is obviously a physical skill being learnt, but how much of that is (or even could be) consciously learnt is an interesting question. So, there you go, we got to a question in the end 🙂

    Maybe its like that for you because you have years of road fitness under your belt? So firstly you dont find it nearly as phsically demanding as road biking and second you are used to being in constant grip with a reasonably smooth surface. Mountain biking being rather different in that respect. What you describe may be similar for most roadies coming onto mountain bikes but maybe not beginners in general.

    Just a thought.

    winch
    Member

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t actually much to riding a bike down a hill

    [video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKIpCPS-oZc[/video]

    richmtbguru
    Member

    Confidence is the key here, and also confidence comes once you trust your own bike handling skills. So how do we go about this then some will say,,, Well, the first thing I teach my clients is that a positive mind is a good place to start in mountain biking, to know that you WILL get better with practice, the second important skill is to learn the art of visualization, I’ve gone down tracks before that would possibly seem impossible to ride even by an experienced downhiller, I get looked at in astonishment by walkers who simply think I’m crazy riding down certain alpine tracks, this isn’t crazy it’s just my mind skills are more ‘open’ to opportunity than most riders, instead of visualising the track as you see it, try to make it less rocky, perhaps make it less steep, stay loose and ‘feel’ your bike float over the technical bits, I guarantee you it works if you believe it works, for advanced mountain bike skills the mind is the most important tool 🙂
    Keep your eyes out for my up and coming book which will soon be out after Christmas called ‘something to believe in’ good luck with the learning and have fun on the way! Always wear your helmet.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Well, there goes my thread 🙂 Thanks for all the comments though, you’ve given me stuff to ponder.

    GEDA
    Member

    Richmtbguru. I think you are right on here. What I usually do when do big drops and jumps for the first time is close my eyes before I know I will chicken out then open them again when past the commit point. I just visualise myself going over the lip and hey presto when I open my eyes I have. Bit like that guy on one of the biking filming who was riding half blind.

    xiphon
    Member

    Confidence and bike handling skills go hand-in-hand….

    Being confident you can handle the bike when it gets a bit sketchy is the key… hence some riders can hit a trail blind at race pace.

    number18
    Member

    I think it depends on how young you are when you start.

    I only really started biking a couple of years ago aged 26, but a childhood of bombing down the woods helped me very quickly get to be as good as my mates who had been biking for about 3 years when I started.

    Compare that to another friend who I am trying to turn in to a mtbiker. He’s a bit older (36) and never really did much sport as a kid. I don’t think he’ll ever get over his cautious approach as he isn’t used to pain! I sincerely think that 20 years of football knocks and playing on in dreary Yorkshire weather, plus playing on my bike in Hopton woods has set me up nicely for ‘getting through’ a long arduous ride (such as 6 1/2 hours in the snow at Ullswater!) and giving just about every obstacle a go at trails such as Dalbeattie, Kirroughtree and Glentress. Having half a dozen ski trips under my belt as a teen has also probably helped me learn quick at biking too.

    My point is, it depends on your background as to how easily you pick things up. As a child you don’t have the same fear, so starting young is best way to achieve greatness at a particular discipline. However, the better you are at biking the more extreme something needs to be to give you the same thrill = more chance of major injury!

    A bit of a stream of consciousness this post, I wonder if many agree with the points made?

    Premier Icon mattjg
    Subscriber

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t actually much to riding a bike down a hill

    Maybe, but I suspect there’s quite a lot to doing it well.

    I think people who are good at something usually make it look easy, but usually it’s not.

    richmtbguru
    Member

    However, the better you are at biking the more extreme something needs to be to give you the same thrill = more chance of major injury!

    This is the difference between two mindsets, one simply doesn’t look at the negatives of what ifs while the other does,, something that can be changed with the right tuition.

    GEDA
    Member

    If you have the right mindset it seems to cover you with some kind of protective aura. You look at amazing and extreme riding like that on red bull rampage and when they fall or make a mistake and it looks like they are going to die but they walk away! Then on the other hand you see somebody with out much experience fall on a really small drop and the end up really hurting themselves.

    Premier Icon mrblobby
    Subscriber

    However, the better you are at biking the more extreme something needs to be to give you the same thrill = more chance of major injury!

    Alternatively, downgrade your bike to upgrade the trail 🙂

    barryboglips
    Member

    This is something that I have struggled with on and off for the past year.

    Started racing this year and found myself really lacking in confidence. Have had 1 or 2 bad crashes since I started doing DH (started about 1 and half years ago) so I don’t know whether that affected my confidence or whether it was the pressure of racing??

    I decided to book myself onto a skills course with Ben Cathro (Sick Skillz coaching) and it is the best thing I have spent money on since I started.

    He covered basic body positioning, braking, line choice jumping and spoke to me about confidence etc.

    My riding has improved SO much since then and so has my confidence.

    All of my mates that I ride with have been surprised with how much I have come on. All i needed was someone to help me iron out some little flaws and now I am definitely quicker than I was.

    The two things definitely go hand in hand.

    I still don’t have the mentality to hit things flat out at “race pace”, so I don’t know if I will bother doing much racing next season, but my overall riding has improved so much and I am feeling alot quicker/confident and enjoying my riding.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    We’re all familiar with the fact that two riders can look at the same course and one will see the positives and the other the negatives, but I suspect that it may go deeper than that.

    I think we all assume that when two riders look at the same course they are at least looking at the same thing, but just interpreting the picture differently. In fact there is increasing evidence on the role that our subconscious mind plays in our perception of the world, which would suggest that they are not even looking at the same course!

    When you look at the world what you “see” is a uniformly high resolution image in your brain. However, it would seem that what the eye actually produces is a high resolution image of a tiny spot in the middle and a very low resolution image of the rest. Your subconscious fills in 99% of what you see. The thing is that it doesn’t just fill it in based on what it thinks should be there, but on what it thinks is important. This is what allows magicians to make things disappear (through misdirection) and why car drivers don’t see cyclists, amongst other things.

    Basically, it would appear that what you see isn’t an accurate representation of the world as it really is but an image provided by your subconscious to your conscious mind based on what it thinks you need to know. If there is something it thinks you should pay attention to then it may well distort the image to achieve that aim (e.g. making a slope look steeper). Similarly if there are things that you don’t need to worry about they may be removed from the picture altogether.

    So, when you are barreling down a trail what you are seeing is not the trail as it is but a detailed picture of what your subconscious mind thinks is important. To put it another way, when you and Rachel Atherton are riding down a trail it is not just that she can see lines you can’t, she is looking at a different trail to you.

    IanMunro
    Member

    I think I still think that riding a bike downhill is unusual in that, at the beginning it is almost all mental. You folks aren’t really the best people to rehearse this argument on as you are probably all at least competent.

    Indeed.
    I think a classic example would be riding down a flight of concrete steps. A basically skill less task that just requires you to point the bike in the right direction, but for beginners can be quite tough mentally, and physically too when they try and get off half way down 🙂

    Junkyard
    Member

    In fact there is increasing evidence on the role that our subconscious mind plays in our perception of the world

    By its very nature its beyond perception- its what the word means- so we have no way to “investigate” it that I am aware of

    What are these experiments of which you allude to?

    When you look at the world what you “see” is a uniformly high resolution image in your brain. However, it would seem that what the eye actually produces is a high resolution image of a tiny spot in the middle and a very low resolution image of the rest. Your subconscious fills in 99% of what you see.

    I think you are confusing the role of the fovea [ basically the bit we focus on] and peripheral vision – its why we scan when we look for example. Its not 99% it snot low resolution its atuned to detect movement – see rods and cones in eye anatomy for further information

    This is what allows magicians to make things disappear (through misdirection) and why car drivers don’t see cyclists, amongst other things.

    Saccadean movements are what make cyclists disappear magicians use misdirection

    If there is something it thinks you should pay attention to then it may well distort the image to achieve that aim (e.g. making a slope look steeper). Similarly if there are things that you don’t need to worry about they may be removed from the picture altogether.

    the studies that show this to be the case please?

    So, when you are barreling down a trail what you are seeing is not the trail as it is but a detailed picture of what your subconscious mind thinks is important.

    I think I am seeing the trail on my fovea and looking at what the consciuos mind thinks is ipoirtant – that big rocks, the drop etc.

    To put it another way, when you and Rachel Atherton are riding down a trail it is not just that she can see lines you can’t, she is looking at a different trail to you.

    No its OBVIOUSLY the same trail but she may see things I cannot see as she has learnt things and is more skilled than me at riding a bike – she not doing this subconscioulsy and she could explain them to us as well.

    Why do they pre ride trails etc and look at lines if it is is all in the subconscious ?

    Euro
    Member

    I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t actually much to riding a bike

    I agree, which is why i find the idea of ‘skills coaching’ a little weird. Mainly because i’ve ridden with, and know a lot of, very good riders and not one of them has had any sort of coaching. A couple of them provide ‘coaching’, but as a way to make extra money out of something they enjoy doing – riding a bike.

    Regarding different people ‘seeing’ the same trail in a different way, this is true and based on both your riding experience/ability and your mental confidence. A novice will look at the trail and see every lump, drop, rock, root or tree as a potential threat whereas an experience rider wont be concerned with these relatively insignificant features, but might focus on braking areas, entry and exit points and places to rob some free speed from the trail.

    Even though i don’t believe the Guru exists (sorry rich 😉 ) the visualising technique works and i’ve used it many times over the years (i was usually the test pilot for any jumps we built). It didn’t matter that other people had faith in my ability, if i couldn’t picture myself clearing it in my head, i didn’t do it.

    GEDA
    Member

    Even though i don’t believe the Guru exists (sorry rich )

    Next you will be saying that santa claus and the tooth fairy don’t exist.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    No its OBVIOUSLY the same trail but she may see things I cannot see as she has learnt things and is more skilled than me at riding a bike – she not doing this subconscioulsy and she could explain them to us as well.

    It’s obvious, but is it true? That’s what interests me. But thanks for the reality check. You are right that it is very hard to design experiments to probe that. Also, I haven’t provided links to the statements so they should indeed be treated as, at best, a hypothesis and at worst the ramblings of a confused mind. Maybe one day I’ll find the time to dig out some links.

    We’ve all seen those videos where you fail to see something because you are not looking for it though. The thing you fail to see may be moving so it should be picked up by an eye designed to detect movement, but it gets filtered out of the picture presented to your conscious mind. I’m just wondering what else gets filtered out (or maybe even distorted) and whether we do indeed all see the same image of the same trail.

    Euro
    Member

    You are right that it is very hard to design experiments to probe that.

    Not sure if it’s the same thing, but i noticed i could ride a trail faster in the dark than during the day. I put it down to having less background (peripheral) distractions so i could focus more on the trail ahead.

    Next you will be saying that santa claus and the tooth fairy don’t exist.

    Of course they exist but they’re not real (or is it the other way round?) 😀

    barryboglips
    Member

    I agree, which is why i find the idea of ‘skills coaching’ a little weird. Mainly because i’ve ridden with, and know a lot of, very good riders and not one of them has had any sort of coaching.

    Well it’s like anything mate

    Some people are better than others!!

    When I had my skills course, i ended up doing quite a bit of body position stuff and braking, but when it came to doing the steep bits, I was miles ahead of my mate and with better technique, so Ben spent more time with my mate on the steeper stuff.

    I can see where you are coming from, a lot of the lads I ride with are good riders, but some people either pick things up quicker or are just naturally good at it.

    Junkyard
    Member

    whether we do indeed all see the same image of the same trail.

    we can all interpret things differently but we do see the same thing!!
    It is confusing as you are right is is an interaction between the mind and the eye or brain and reality.
    It always confused me that even when you know its an illusion and what oit really looks like it still works and looks like what it is not – perhaps this what you mean by unconscious [ i hate the term so sorry if i over reacted to it]
    [video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BaofyuCXZ_0[/video]

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I agree, which is why i find the idea of ‘skills coaching’ a little weird. Mainly because i’ve ridden with, and know a lot of, very good riders and not one of them has had any sort of coaching. A couple of them provide ‘coaching’, but as a way to make extra money out of something they enjoy doing – riding a bike.

    I paid for a bit of private coaching a few months back. I won’t say where for now, but at one point the instructor said that the best way to get better at trail riding was just to ride your bike lots. At the time I did think “so why am I paying you then”, but in hindsight it may have been one of the most useful pieces of advice.

    Regarding different people ‘seeing’ the same trail in a different way, this is true and based on both your riding experience/ability and your mental confidence. A novice will look at the trail and see every lump, drop, rock, root or tree as a potential threat whereas an experience rider wont be concerned with these relatively insignificant features, but might focus on braking areas, entry and exit points and places to rob some free speed from the trail.

    I’m sure we are all familiar with the phenomenon of a trail looking different to the way we remembered it. I went up to Dornoch a few weeks back and rode the black trail at Balblair. I’d tried it a year ago, but it was well beyond me at the time. The thing is that I had what I thought was a very clear mental picture of some of the features that had scared me last year, but when I saw them this year they didn’t look as scary. I don’t just mean that I saw the same picture but felt more confident about riding it. I still wouldn’t ride the trail that I had in my mind from the previous year, but I could ride the one I saw this year.

    Now the conventional view of this would just be that our memories are imperfect and I’m sure that’s true. But if we are happy to accept that our memory is false can we really assume that our current perception is true? Maybe the picture I have in my mind is the way way I saw the trail a year ago and the way I see it now is different. In which case, maybe the way somebody else sees it is different too.

    But as I said, this is all just conjecture really.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    we can all interpret things differently but we do see the same thing!!

    Can you prove that ?

    Junkyard
    Member

    yes unless of course you think reality is a personal experience and not real /there is no truth or you think we all agree

    Do you 😉

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    I don’t know what I think, but for the purposes of this discussion my hypothesis would be that there is an underlying truth but what we see is not that truth but a picture that has been filtered by our subconscious.

    Let’s try a thought experiment. Say you briefly showed a novice and an experienced MTB rider a trail, then asked them to tell you the size of the obstacles (drop, rocks etc). Now I haven’t done this experiment, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there was a difference in the reported size. Just look at the number of people on here who claim to clear 6 foot gaps and 4 foot drops 🙂 We could do the same test in a lab with wooden blocks or something to make sure there wasn’t a general difference in their ability to judge size. Let’s say there wasn’t. How would you interpret that?

    I dare say that you would still claim that they saw the same image of the trail but just somehow interpreted it differently. But an alternative hypothesis would be that the picture presented to their conscious mind was actually different.

    As I said at the top I don’t know which is true. The latter hypothesis is certainly challenging, but I’m not sure I can reject it just yet.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    What number18 said.

    It’s all about familiarity and practice. Remember what it was like learning to drive. You start of unsure of how to control the car, then you drive cautiously, then you get faster and more confident. Then 20 years later you realise how much you didn’t know when you started out because it’s not just handling the car that’s second nature, it’s reading the road, reading traffic, anticipating drivers and all those other skills that hopefully you’ve picked up!

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    my hypothesis would be that there is an underlying truth but what we see is not that truth but a picture that has been filtered by our subconscious.

    Of course. Perception is a very complex thing. Is it a picture of two faces or a candlestick? Is this jumper black or navy? Are there three lines on this trail or just one? Will the left work out better than the right? How will the bike react if you go left and have to negotiate that tree stump, rather than the rock on the right?

    barryboglips
    Member

    Why has this thread turned into people using loads of long words, trying to seem clever?

    maxtorque
    Member

    Because they are all perspicuitious fonambulibulists i’d imagine

    barryboglips
    Member

    well I disagree, i think they are perceptual flux capacitors searching for a new hypothesis.

    Junkyard
    Member

    I don’t know what I think, but for the purposes of this discussion my hypothesis would be that there is an underlying truth but what we see is not that truth but a picture that has been filtered by our subconsciousexperience and expectations

    I dont have an issue with that as long as you stop saying subconscious

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Done 🙂

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