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Using the 80/20 Rule To Overcome Bike-Xiety

mind Aug 18, 2020

Hello, my name is Jordana and I have Bike-xiety.

I'm 35 and I love to ride bikes. If you knew I ran a gobal women's cycling community, you would probably automatically think that I'm a really good rider. Elite level probably. Basically a professional.

You would be wrong.

The thing is... I’m not naturally sporty. I never have been. Where others (including my husband) seem to maintain a base fitness level which allows them to rider anywhere, anytime, with anyone, I feel the need to secretly 'train' just to attend social rides.

I'm not naturally brave. In fact, I’m a big scaredy-cat. I was never the one to do daring things, even as a teenager... at least, as it related to adventurous activities like sports or travelling.

This isn't only because I recently sustained a traumatic brain injury from an MTB accident in May (you can read more about that here).

My first road ride I was scared of everything. Cars, dogs, other riders, the wind… On the mountain bike it was single track, trees, roots, rocks, mud, sand…

Put simply, I'm not one of those people who just took naturally to biking. At all. And that's ok, I've learned to come to terms that we all have different strengths and different abilities to process stress, whether it's physical, emotional or mental.

That's where the 80/20 rule comes in.

What's the 80/20 Rule?

I learned to ride a bike as an adult, which means that every ride was full of anxiety about the bike (bike-xiety) and nervous tension. For me, the best way to overcome this was to implement and obey the 80/20 rule:

I like to be 80% in my comfort zone, 20% outside it.

How does this work in practice?

The 80% is easy to put into practice. Spend the majority of my time doing things on the bike that make me happy and that feel comfortable. Routes I know, people I ride with often, in weather that I enjoy riding in. Yay! The 80% sums up all of the reasons you would use in a sales pitch to convince non-riding friends to buy a bike.

It's the 20% that can be difficult to put into practice.

When I think about doing things outside my comfort zone, it doesn’t necessarily mean I have to do anything super-radical. The 20% doesn't mean I suddenly need to start trying gap jumps and massive drops on a downhill bike.

It simply means putting thought and effort into doing something new and different.

For the mountan bike, it might be doing things like focusing on the skills required to do that rock I always stop at. Or navigating the rocky corner I crashed on. What does it require? Lifting the front wheel. Ok, let's try a few trails that require me to lift the front wheel and build up to it.

On the road bike, it might be tackling that hill I avoid because it's steep and I dread the descent. What does it require? Being comfortable on the drops. Awesome, I'll make sure I get into the body position on the flat so I'm prepared.

For you, it might be trying to brake 1 less time on your favourite trail the next time you do it!

Be deliberate - but go easy on yourself

Making deliberate attempts to be brave is what helps you get past what I call 'the fear humps'. These are different for everyone, and even different within the same person depending on the day, the month and the year. Even that time of te month can impact how 'brave' you feel and what the comfort zones means in real life.

I’m really happy when I’m riding in my comfort zone… but the brilliant thing about spending a little bit of time pushing myself is that, eventually, when I ride, the trails and obstacles falling in that comfort zone gradually shift to more complex things without me putting too much pressure on myself.

How do you overcome your bike-xiety?


Heather says:

Hi there! Heather, from Ontario, Canada here. I experience something similar, I think. I would call it 'group ride anxiety'. Even if I'm riding with people I've ridden with lots, who I like and trust and whose abilities I know, I still get pre-group ride jitters that start an hour or so before the ride and last about 15-30 mins in. What I've found works, is that whenever possible, I arrive 30-40 mins earlier than everyone else and go in for a warm-up ride solo. This shakes out the nerves and warms up my lungs and muscles. It helps me so much! Hope this might help others too :)