Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's in the Head

The cycling year 2011 so far has not been such a good one for me. A number of crashes and illness have meant whenever I felt like I was approaching some sort of race fitness something would happen and I'd be pegged back another few weeks. The fitness aspect of this is predictable enough and something you have to take on the chin and move forward with. The truth is that even if I hadn't fallen off as much as I have I know  work pressures and a (temporary) long commute make training the required hours to be competitive pretty much impossible anyhow for the time being.

What has been harder to deal with in many ways has been the psychology of crashing. I've crashed mountain bikes plenty of times over the years and I take it as part and parcel of the sport, and I've developed a good sense for knowing where the dangers are and not pushing my limits too far beyond what I'm capable of (perhaps this holds me back?). However, on the road bike I've always felt like the only reason I've ever crashed has been extenuating circumstances- i.e. it's someone else's fault (usually a driver). I've always had the utmost confidence in the grip of my tires, my technique, my stability and my ability to descend as fast as road conditions dictate. I might not be Vicenzo Nibali (pictured) down a hill, but I know I'm not bad.

However, after coming off 3 times in 3 months I've developed a fear for any tram tracks and the slightest bit of water on the road. I know that I'm tenser than I should be and this contributes to my chances of coming down. I know that speed and safety comes from being smooth, but somehow what I'm trying to tell my mind and what my body does is not always coming through. I over analyse all situations rather than just letting go, and the thought of doing a crit right now makes me quite nervous! I'm hoping it will pass, and perhaps just writing this will help (?), but I guess it's interesting that practicing what you preach is easier said than done.


  1. I can identify with what you're writing here. Remember when I snapped the Trek (way back in '94, which caused me to miss a rather fab birthday party of yours at Laserquest)? Took me ages to get back up to speed particularly on descents, primarily because I'd now seen just how thin bike tubing was and I worried about another frame snap at 40mph plus. I rationalised this by asking myself just how much more it would hurt at 40 than 25. 25 was going to be bad, so unless I was prepared to ride everywhere at 10mph, I might as well go the whole hog. Twisted logic perhaps, but anyway! It still took months before I was truly panic free on the bike, so give it some time too. All the handling skills you've amassed over the years haven't flown out the window but trying to go right back to 100% immediately will tense you up. Increments would be my advise. And a healthy regard for any wet metal in the road. I still bunnyhop cattlegrids if possible.

  2. Laser Quest. Now you're talking! Yep- it's getting better...

  3. I'm experiencing the same thing at the moment. Having told everyone at work that Aberdeen drivers seem quite sensible around cyclists I've had 2 near misses in the last week (as Dave will testify when he saw a shaking with adrenaline Phil last night).