What Mountain Biking Can Teach You About Getting Through a Pandemic

As I write this, I can feel a sense of anticipation and nervousness going around about what changes might be ahead and a dog-tired feeling of how long all this might last. I’m feeling it too. I’m down in Dumfries & Galloway this weekend on the mountain biking trails and found myself smiling to myself as I realised the metaphor they presented to me as I rode them!

The routes we’ve been on have been particularly rocky, gnarly ones and it struck me as I navigated my way through them, just how much it felt like navigating through the ongoing uncertainty and rockiness of the pandemic!

Mountain biking asks you to keep going, even when you don’t know what’s ahead, even if you’re not sure how you’ll tackle the tough bits and even when you get tired.

You can’t look just at what’s right in front of you or you’d never go anywhere. You’d avoid the obstacles, detour them around and convince yourself it’s too difficult. You’d see all the divets & tufts as individual obstacles & the route would feel impossible.

Trails need to be tackled by looking a bit further forward at what’s ahead, finding the line through it that smooths out the rough and then committing to that line. The more you do this the more you trust your judgement - or you learn from it. You learn to have faith in your ability to ride what’s ahead, even if you’ve never ridden the path before. You learn to gauge your pace, knowing that too fast & bullish means less control and too slow & cautious means too much control. You learn to roll with the rockiness and to bounce back & adjust when the rocks try to throw you in a different direction. You keep looking forward to where you’re going, and deal with the bumps & shoogles on the way, knowing they’ll come, but not letting them stop you from going on.

The trails you’ve never ridden before naturally hold more uncertainty. You’re nervous, but you give yourself the grace of having a go and doing your best. You adjust - maybe a little different in pace for now, maybe the easiest line you can find this time, maybe today you do walk down that particularly gnarly section that you can’t find any other line in. But you get on your bike, you ride regardless of not knowing what’s ahead.

Some times you DO take a thump, you might have a fall, or you might indeed get the collywobbles. But you get back on, you carry on, & you feel a certain pride in yourself for not letting it beat you. And at the end of each ride you revel in your sense of achievement, your new found resilience and the little bit more courage and faith in your ability that you’ve nurtured.

I know this weekend many of us are wondering what changes are ahead, and how long this ride will last. You might not be a mountain biker, but you can see what I’m saying, eh? And you now we’ve got this too, don’t you? We get back on it, we work our way through it. We ride together.

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