Getting Back on the Iron Horse

News & Results

09/18/2003| 0 comments
by Kristen Dieffenbach, Ph.D.

Getting Back on the Iron Horse

Learn how to stay motivated after a crash.

imagery you want to be riding rather than watching yourself ride. Make your images as clear and detailed as possible. Keep your mental rides in real time and riding situations and always remain in control over what is happening. Finally, for effective imagery practice, concentrate on riding strong, smooth, and safely in a variety of situations, including those similar to those that lead to the crash.

Remember that overcoming a crash that got into your head wouldn't happen overnight. It is important to be patient and recognize that it will take time and conscious effort. Just like a knotted muscle or stiff joint, the "mental knot" that blocks your ability to regain your pre crash edge will take time to work out. Relaxation techniques can be a useful tool both on and off the bike in helping release this knot and enhance your recovery. Off the bike practicing relaxation can help control and reduce pre-race or pre-ride anxiety. On the bike relaxation can help quickly reduce your anxiety levels when you encounter a situation that makes you nervous or tense (both things that will increase your likelihood of crashing). Both techniques require repeated practice in order to be effective.

As mentioned before, you should use what you learn from crash experiences to help identify physical skills and riding techniques that you need to learn and practice in order to avoid future problems. Bike handling skills are probably one of the most neglected areas of technical training for many athletes, particularly by those on the road. Look for ways to incorporate these things into routine training in order to enhance your safety on the bike. Practicing skills like bunny hopping, bumping drills, and evasive maneuvers routinely, both alone and in groups, will both enhance your sense of readiness and confidence on the bike and will improve your chances of avoiding a wreck.

Riding confidence and crash readiness can also be enhanced by doing an honest assessment of your abilities and limits. Know what you can and can not ride and what you are and are not comfortable with on the road or trails. Yes, you need to stretch those limits in order to improve, but be careful not to try to take took big a leap at any one time. Look for small systematic ways to improve your skills and stretch your limits. Go from the beginner trail to the intermediate before diving down the double black advanced trail. Choose a small group ride before a full blown pack. Limiting the stressfulness of the situation will help you develop both the skills and the confidence in those skills rather than just struggling to survive.


The easiest way to cope with crashing is, of course, to avoid them all together. However, as mentioned, this is not always possible as many things can and do happen in both training and racing that are beyond our control. Thus, in addition to knowing how to prevent crashes, and cope and recover from them, don't forget to practice how to handle them when they do occur. Chris Carmichael

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