So on my ride tonight I said “Hi” to a lot of people. They were people I didn’t know and had never met. In most of the situations we came across each other rather suddenly. So what do you think happened after I said “Hi”? The answer is nothing; I got no response out of anyone. Why? Well I can tell you that most of them never saw me coming or expected me to be on the trail. Nobody ever looked up, or took their eyes off the trail. In each rider I saw a moment of stress as they came across another rider. They were not being rude, they were just caught in the middle of a big decision. ..take their eyes off the trail and say hello, which could result in unknown consequences or just ignore the rider and stay safe with their eyes on the prize of brown soil. Keep in mind I was well aware of each rider as they approached and was in full control of myself, bike, and the moment.
After my ride I was still questioning what had happened on my ride. I quickly realized what had happened in each rider I came across. It was as I stated earlier, it was a decision of mental focus. Each rider chose staying focused on the trail and safe, over a moment of possible distraction. I cannot blame them, I can only try and give some advice to help with moving on to becoming a better rider. ..one who can let their eyes stray from the trail for just a moment to recognize a friend or possibly meet a new one.
If you walk looking straight down you will eventually run into something because you never saw it coming. You will walk into a person, a pole, a car, door etc. I’m sure you get the point I’m trying to make. When you look up and see what lies ahead, you can decide where you want to go. The same principle applies to riding your bike. When you’re riding and looking down you can only see a few feet in front of you. Now add moving forward at a few miles an hour and things start to happen very quickly; too quickly actually and your beginner and some intermediate riders can’t handle the terrain fast enough. Trees, rocks, roots, riders, and all other obstacles are coming so fast that it requires every ounce of attention. The fear of crashing increases in correlation to the speed. We don’t want to crash and it’s a good fear, so how do we move past it.
Look up, don’t focus on the ground right in front of your tire, rather, let your eyes move out and onto the trail. Your head should be focused forward just as if you were walking. When you’re looking forward you have a much longer time to see and react to things coming and you can properly prepare for them. Do this in small steps so that you don’t rush into danger. On your next ride slow down your pace and work on looking ahead. Don’t rush into your ride and be in the mode of go, go, go. That may lead to your ride being over quicker but that doesn’t mean you will get the best ride in you can. Each time you ride and spend time focusing on looking forward you will be progressing your riding ability. Not only that, but you will become a safer rider for yourself and others on the trail. My other advice for new riders is to loosen up your body while riding. When your body’s loose and relaxed you can handle the trail better and naturally respond to changes. Let your shoulders and hips move around while you’re riding. Dip your inside shoulder in a corner, and also weight your outside leg. Think about moving your hips in a corner in the same direction as the front tire. Last but not least, get you butt off the saddle. I see way too many riders who try to ride an entire trail sitting down. When the going gets rough, get up, let your legs become your body’s suspension. Have fun, stay safe, and practice, practice, practice!