As I get older I seem to develop more and more this sense of self preservation, up to the point where that stuff takes over my own free will. It's not like I ever was a Josh Bender (extreme freeride mountain biker not pornstar) but I am not a complete chicken neither.
Alas, the past couple of years I noticed that I am not that confident riding steep descents on my mountain bike. There are a few sections on my local trail that plainly scare me. Whenever I roll up on top of those sections I will chicken out and come to a grinding halt, unmount my ride and walk down. Trust me nothing looks as stupid as a guy in riding gear inching down a slope holding on to his mountain bike. I might as well install training wheels again.
So this weekend I put on my gear took out the full suspension bike and decided to exorcise the demons. It was now or never. I rode to my first scary section of the trail, a not so steep but quite narrow descent with barbwire fence on the left and a concrete wall on the right and a few steps and loose stones. A bit technical but nothing extreme. I have tried to ride this section a gazillion times before on my hardtail XC race bike with the same result over and over again; I arrive on top of the section and I brake, my brain will refuse my body to do it. Until this weekend, I just rode it! Ha! Stuff that in your pipe and smoke it!
I continued my ride feeling like king of the hill. On my way home I took a piece of trail I never rode before and all of a sudden I end up on top of a steep section that rides out to a small river, you miss your turn and you end up in the water or you hit a tree.
And the demon was back in full effect and pulled my brakes. I cursed turned around, gained some momentum but to no avail, the demon just laughed in my ear and pulled the brakes. I tried 2 more times, always the same result. Luckily I was alone, any passer-by would have laughed his ass of. Look at the chicken on the mountain bike what on earth is he up to, riding in circles on top of that hill?
And that was that, I kicked my demon there and then and rode down that hill, feeling all stupid it had taken me so many attempts to even do it...
Does this mean that I'm no longer afraid when I go riding my bike? Hell no! It will take much more practice to convince myself that I can ride down steep sections without an OTB or worse, but at least I feel already a bit more confident.
Nothing to be afraid of, except dogs running loose and nordic walkers.
The dogs is an easy thing to explain; the small ones are more than likely suicidal and will invariably try to jump under my wheels, making me look like a vicious dog killer in the eyes of their owners (old grumpy looking men and women). Whereas the big ones well, they want to show me who is the faster one, and who has the sharpest teeth.
The Nordic walkers are a whole different ballgame.
Imagine a couple of determined, pissed-off-looking grannies on a mission, marching in the woods on a sunny Monday morning, wielding ski sticks. They are clearly out of their mind and no one can guarantee me that they won't come after me, convinced that it was I who crippled their poodles and stole their skis.