Years ago I had just started a new job at a bike company and as you can imagine, a big bike brand has lots of great riders on staff.
On the first few rides with my new co-workers I wanted to make a good impression. I found I was nervous before these rides and ended up putting more pressure on myself, trying too hard and thinking too much. Inevitably, I would have a bad ride, miss lines I could easily do in my sleep and not only did I not impress anyone, but found I was getting frustrated and not even enjoying the rides.
I kind of gave up caring at that point and just relaxed again. After that my riding went back to normal and I experienced some pretty awesome rides.
A racing friend told me once that 10 per cent slower is actually 10 per cent faster. It sounded counterintuitive, but it just comes down to relaxing and finding the flow, as opposed to pushing too hard or thinking too much.
This advice was passed to me at a Canada Cup DH race that I had no business being in. Since I had no chance of winning against riders of this caliber, the pressure was off and I relaxed. I rode faster than ever before in that race and managed a very surprising second place finish.
I often hear from people who are intimidated when coming on a group ride or riding with new friends. They think too much about holding up the group, or they worry about the technical level of the trails. When they think about all the negatives that might possibly happen, they no longer enjoy the ride, they ride below their skill level and end up frustrated. But, when that same rider just goes with the flow, all of a sudden, they ride better, faster and smoother. They may not be the fastest rider in the group or hit every technical line on the trail, but they have fun and you can see their improvement throughout the ride.
So next time you’re thinking about your pace, trying to keep up with another rider, or worrying about a certain trail section, just relax and let the ride flow. I can almost guarantee you’ll ride better, smoother and faster, and most importantly, you’ll have more fun.
I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin…