Ryan Leech On How the Risk Paradox Affects Mountain Bikers

May 30, 2018 at 9:26
by Ryan Leech  

Words by Ryan Leech. Illustrations by @WAKIdesigns

We choose to mountain bike. It’s an awesome elective in life and it’s a risky sport on a spectrum from low to high. But, we can choose moment to moment where on the spectrum we ride.

Risk is a complex topic, it begs for respect, attention and honesty. How you experience and deal with risk is personal, and can be a powerful teacher not only for your approach to riding but for learning about yourself as a human navigating life.

If the signals that risk attempts to communicate are ignored then there is a big price to pay. In my experience, risk wanted me to wake up, not just for clearing a section of trail, but to understand who I was in a more intimate way. For me, I felt more real as a human taking risks, the social props and attention I received supported this but this appreciation [eventually] began to go against all the signs and signals my heart and body were giving.

All quotes are from students of my online skills coaching site.

"The risk drives a little nervousness before every ride and the associated excitement of being immersed in a zone where nothing else exists and all my stresses in the world fade away." SB

"Risk and MTB riding go together and risk is part of living and creating a meaningful life." RW

“I've realized that some risk makes you feel alive like you've accomplished something.” CW

“Can't help myself, apparently, I feel like I must prove myself." B.D.G

If you’re ready to dig into this topic with me then please proceed with caution you risk having your perspective shifted. And, like any crash, there’s no going back!

Mountain biking is rewarding, and how we experience reward is also on a spectrum that evolves with many factors, a big one is risk. The memorable reward that comes from successfully riding a risky bit of trail can have an influence on future risk choices - we downplay risk in favor of reward, often unconsciously, and this pattern eventually ends with a crash.

For mountain bikers, it is common for risk and reward to become codependent on each other. Untangling this dynamic through self-observation is essential for a long-lasting mountain biking lifestyle. However, to be clear, risk cannot be eliminated - it is an intrinsic aspect of our sport.

“I actually wish I was a little more comfortable with risk as I feel that at times my innate caution holds me back.” DT

“For me risk is an essential part of my learning process.” DG

“A little bit of risk is a big part of what draws me to mountain biking.” AK

We evolved from needing to take risks to gain the reward of food and security. Risk was required to be alive. Our modern society has now, thankfully, decoupled our need to take physical risks to survive.

Risk-taking still has the power to make us feel alive, though. A risk above our ability levels makes us think ‘thank God I’m still alive’, whereas a risk that matches our ability level provides a steady flow of conscious awareness. Most people in our society aren’t willing to truly expose themselves to physical risk so they rely on controlled entertainment and experiences, such as watching YouTube or going to an amusement park.

Are you holding your phone or is your phone holding you

These activities have an opposite effect on mountain bikers - they insulate and soften our experiences which is why it’s so painful for mountain bikers to deal with an injury. They’re thrown into this massive entertainment culture and can’t wait to get their blood flowing again. So why is this risk-reward dynamic such a compelling force in the lives of mountain bikers?

Let’s consider the reward - engaging risk can bring about a unique and powerful high. It’s a temporary state experience that brings us out of the daily routines and stress of life, out of our heads, and into the moment.

“When I feel that it's been a long time since I've had that 'thrilled to be alive' feeling, nothing else can scratch that itch than mountain biking, and it grows stronger the more I disregard it.” ED

“The paradox is that to make myself feel fully alive I have to risk life itself.” DF

Illustration by Wacek Kipszak Waki for the mental fitness section inside RLC s online course Jump With Confidence - https learn.ryanleech.com p membership

The rewards from riding go beyond just a high of course, such as being in nature, with friends and getting fit, but that’s another topic. It does appear, after much consideration, that the depth of the rewards that are directly related to risk taking are limited. Even pro riders who gain financial reward, praise, and status eventually realize that these rewards fall short of their promise, so we must look beyond the trail for insight.

To what life challenges or problems, new, old or ongoing, might risk unknowingly be bringing you relief? It’s not always obvious. This stuck energy needs to flow, and riding releases it but it’s a temporary fix. For example, many riders, like myself, often feel they need to prove themselves, whether to others or to themselves. Once I discovered why I thought I needed to prove myself and worked with this, my enjoyment of mountain biking went way up and the need to risk went down. I didn’t think I could love mountain biking more than I already did!

“In my head... I want to do flips and massive jumps, but I don’t want the consequence. The reward is small and failure could mean not being able to do all the other things I love in life.” JP

“The risk of the line forced focus and freed me from life's stresses. Unfortunately, it only lasted the length of the line. A time of life that I was the most unbalanced mentally was when I was the most balanced on my bike.” LC.

The flip side of risk-for-reward is hospitalization - a reality many of us experience over and over. According to the results of a recent survey I conducted on risk, age comes in as a massive factor and this is linked to responsibility in life.

You can’t take care of your family or earn money if you’re injured. Dealing with the yearning to ride-and-risk can be tricky for older people to navigate when the deeper lessons from risk are yet to be learnt. They’ll be caught in this dynamic where the attraction to risky riding is insatiable and impossible to moderate in line with life’s responsibilities.

“Because of a series of crippling concussions, I tend to avoid risks while riding. Yet because of this, I find it detracts from the joys of riding and reaping the rewards of conquering a challenge.” GH

“Risk is what reminds me that there is much more to life than mountain biking, and it's not worth risking those greater things for a momentary thrill.” AM

“Now that I have a family and a crap load more responsibility, I take risk and analyze it a lot more to assess if its worth it.” KH

“Anytime, anywhere..if you are not on it..poof..you broke something..With two kids, and a family to tend to, its always in the back of my head.“ AN

Illustration by Waki for RLC online course Jump with Confidence https learn.ryanleech.com p jump-with-confidence

It is common for many ageing riders to turn to fitness-oriented riding challenges, as it is more socially acceptable and provides a similar escape and feeling of aliveness and accomplishment with less risk. But again, this is often fueled by unresolved issues in life and may end up adding to them.

”I like to aim for low-risk scenarios in my riding as I have a job and a family, but sometimes I feel as though aversion to risk holds back my riding.” RC

“Injuries can easily cost me a full year of riding or more - let alone I have a family that relies on me. I can't imagine putting my wife and kids in a bind if I got injured badly.” NH

It is important to understand that stress can influence your ability to accurately assess and manage risk. However, the release of stress is one of the reasons that people love mountain biking so much. This paradox creates an internal division and battle that calls to be reckoned with, forcing us to learn about ourselves which ultimately allows us to continue riding mountain bikes safely well into the future. Thus mountain biking has the potential to play a big part in the healthy evolution of our existence in this word.

I run an online MTB skills coaching website which includes a section on mental fitness with practices and discussion relating to the topic of this article. In my pro career, I performed thousands of live MTB trials and stunt demonstrations and appeared in classic riding videos such as the Kranked series and The Collective. My passion for the sport lives strong through my coaching website and community which offers hundreds of step-by-step video progressions with personalised coach feedback.

MENTIONS: @norcobicycles @shimano @MarzocchiMTB @LizardSkins @Kenda @RydersEyewear @WAKIdesigns @RyanLeech


  • 162 0
 I certainly feel like I am too risk averse in my riding a lot of the time. It is rare that I crash as I simply don't do thing I am not at least 90% sure of making. This holds back progression as a mountain biker but it also makes me able to ride more regularly without injuries.

I shouldn't have typed that of course, I have now angered the crash gods and will certainly crash on the next ride.
  • 32 0
 Risk is huge. I came to terms with injury a long time ago and by doing so, risk taking has become part of my daily routine. Every ride now, whether it’s a trail I’ve been on a million times or once, I still find myself craving that feeling of taking a line or drop or what have you that scared me just enough to make the adrenaline pump and ultimately give me a feeling of invincibility and pure clarity. I still have no clue what it is that drew me into MTB but if I had to guess, it would most likely be the risk factor and how when acting upon that risk I feel alive, and certain in my choices. Nothing else matter but that, and I haven’t found another activity that provides such an intimate feeling.
  • 5 28
flag fecalmaster (Jun 13, 2018 at 10:09) (Below Threshold)
 "If a tree farts when nobody is around does it really make a noise?" - Terry Hargan
  • 4 46
flag aljoburr Plus (Jun 13, 2018 at 10:29) (Below Threshold)
 You know that "crash gods" is not a real thing right?
  • 24 0
 @aljoburr: No, shush, you will provoke them further!!
  • 53 2
 The funny thing is that most injuries seem to happen in the least-risky aspects of the sport. It's not always the big jump you're taking for the first time, a lot of times you get injured because you lost focus on something you do regularly.
  • 3 4
 I take risks on a daily basis when riding, and was out once, for 2 weeks, that i spend in greece on holiday anyway. And i'm pretty sure i still would have been able to shred with that minor injury as i as well finished the ride with it
  • 7 1
 @aljoburr: oh you f*cked up now
  • 2 1
 @High-Life: Yep! I broke my wrist from a pedal strike on a climb on Captain Ahab. Flew through the wild final 0.5 miles (at least by my standards, haha) with no problems.
  • 2 0

Crazy. And I’ve endoed on a climb in Moab. Not sure how that happened at 4mph but it did.
  • 10 1
 Risk is an aspect of the challenge of mtb. It is part of the equation in Csikszentmihalyi‘s theory in flow states, at least for me it is. To be truly focused and lose sight of all around you is a testament to the challenge in front of you matching your skill set, or very closely matching it, give or take. Te closer the challenge is to matching our given skills, we focus more intently on the task. Risk, and the challenge to overcome it can take a moderate challenge-ride on an 18” barrow path-and make our perception of the challenge much greater-ride and 18” narrow path along the side of a 60’ drop. Realistically the challenge is the same physically but the mental perception is that the greater consequence increases the challenge as well. I remember learning about flow in uni and freaking out because to me it was science explaining how I feel biking. Great article and live anything that generates ideas and perspectives. Nice!

Sorry for rambling, minor nerd over here...
  • 3 0
 @High-Life: So True!
  • 3 0
 @High-Life: Couldnt agree more, all my biggest crashes have happened while doing something entirely routine.
  • 2 1
 Go hard or go home.
  • 2 0
 @High-Life: This so true. The nastiest crashes i had were because of the lack of concentration. Ok, this is goin' to be a chill one guys...and the next second i was upsidedown not knowing on what planet i am. I see that if i commit to it and go fast, just like in a race run, i crashed way less and i was aware of what just happen if it happen to get on the floor.
  • 2 0
 @High-Life: It seems like every relatively notable crash in recent memory falls into this category. What's wrong with me lol
  • 2 0
 Beautifully said!!! @Veasey5:
  • 1 0
 @WasatchEnduro: haha just did that on a climb while doing a nose pivot too high
  • 119 0
 Good insightful article Ryan.
I've been wrestling with this paradox a lot recently! I'm now approaching 60 so am firmly in the ageing riders category. Since getting my current Bike (Nomad 3) in 2015 I've pushed my riding into areas I never thought possible, learnt to jump and gained KOM's on my local DH trails. However this progression in my riding has come at a high cost, I have had the most sever crashes in the last 2 years despite riding for the last 25. I know that progression is what is so appealing to me in my riding, however my recent crashes have all resulted in lengthy periods of no biking or very little gentle riding. I've had to ask myself some though questions about how much risk is worth taking. I acknowledge that some risk is absolutely necessary so that our concentration levels are relevant to the riding we are doing. As others have mentioned, trails considered too easy often result in accidents as we are not concentrating.

For me though I've now decided that :

1. My body can't take many more big crashes, it doesn't heal 100% any more
2. I've limited time left to ride and 6 months a year off the bike due to injuries is not sensible
3. I will never ride at more than 80% ever again
4. I wont chase KOM's anymore
5. I will push myself hard on the climbs but not the downs (a massive shift for me)
6. I still love riding my bikes and any riding is amazing compared to sitting at home in pain healing slowly!
7. I still believe I will progress in my riding
8. I will push my envelope from the inside where its safer rather than at the edges
9. I will try to improve my skills so my 80% becomes faster but less risky than my old 100%

My broken ribs are now just a slight twinge and I'm back riding regularly each week, Risk v Reward will be a constant battle, Go Big or Go Home? na, I'm going riding and having fun, hitting trails and features that I know are within my ability, ill just be growing that ability a bit slower than I used to.
  • 18 0
 Just like you shared here, I have found that spending some time getting about my goals/values as a rider very helpful to help reduce the number of risks I take that are motivated by the wrong reasons. Thanks for sharing, and also similar to item number 5 I'm loving challenging myself on tech climbs these days too!
  • 15 2
 I'm 53 , self employed, 3 dependents, rarely crash, forgot my back protector and pads, landed a jump on my back, been struggling to do much for 4 weeks, going Whistler in a month, may not be able to ride properly, but wtf I'm going to send some thing out there!
  • 10 0
 @RyanLeech: Getting clear about what you want to get out of your riding is huge. You can further enhance that benefit by realizing that while taking appropriate (as defined by your goals and values) risks is one way to maximize flow and thrill, it's not the only one. My main sport and lifelong passion is windsurfing. It's incredibly rewarding at remarkably low objective risk (something about there not being a whole lot of trees/rocks/whatever to crash into - if you crash badly in windsurfing, you tend to get thrown clear of your gear and take a swim). There are not a lot of other sports where you go 40 mph and don't have to worry about dying if something goes wrong. But the sensation of speed and the vestibular input are amazing, and you feel like you're in low-level flight the whole time. And now we've started foiling - and while we go a little slower for now than we would in high-wind slalom sailing, the learning curve provides so much thrill that that's completely OK.

I've tried to take those lessons and apply them to my skiing and mountain biking, where the risks are a lot bigger because the impacts tend to be against something a lot less forgiving than water. Instead of going for speed or max air, I'm looking to maximize the vestibular input, to find a way to up my skills. And then I found, when riding with my kid, that you could actually find ways to make tame trails more challenging and more rewarding by looking for creative lines, turning harder and with more commitment, and finding ways to ride at a higher level.

I still think it's important to do things that stretch me a bit, and to scare myself a little. But I'm actively looking for ways to stretch my envelope in ways that are compatible with the whole living to fight another day approach. I want to have five excellent rides every week of the year for years and years, rather than a stupidly epic one followed by three months off the bike.
  • 19 0
 55 here, i've been doing risky stuff my entire life. i can tell you exactly why i do it. i was a hyperactive kid (officially diagnosed and prescribed ritalin). i discovered early that risk was really the only way to find focus (i didn't like the medication, and only took it for 1 year). i've discovered other ways to find focus since then-meditation, yoga and craft work (ceramics and woodwork). however, risk is still the short cut to focus.

having said that, i have to admit something unrelated. the modern MTB makes the risk worse in one specific way. i don't crash nearly as often as i used to (i've been mountain biking since 1986). but, when i do crash, i'm usually going very fast. something that really didn't happen very often back when mountain bikes sucked.
  • 5 1
 @pigman65: Well have fun in Whistler, but do remember to pad up!
  • 11 0
 You nailed it. 80% is the new 100%. Just like 50 is the new 20. At least until my next hospital visit.
  • 3 11
flag aljoburr Plus (Jun 13, 2018 at 10:53) (Below Threshold)
 @benz-tech: If you end up in hospital you are doing it wrong, Yes limits are ment to be pushed, but you get there faster without hospital visits
  • 3 0
 @pigman65: good for you mate. I dislocated my shoulder last bank holiday Monday and I'm off to Les Arcs in less than four weeks. That's just the latest in a long list of bike related injuries. I'm 47 with a wife, two kids, a cat and a dog but there is no way I'm gonna change how I ride (well, not intentionally).
  • 2 0
 @BedsideCabinet: @BedsideCabinet: like you buddy last bankholiday Monday I broke my thumb and schafoid at the Leeds Urban Bikepark. Had it all pinned together and had to cancel our Alps trip which included Les Arc and Andorra.
My missus asked if I'd be returning to the park and the jumps when I'm fit again and when I said definitely she said good for you. She was more worried about me loseing my confidence than cancelling the road trip. So whilst as I have her backing I'll keep on trucking. Can't imagine life without it.
  • 4 0
 @y400bhp Great write-up. I guess the part I struggle with these days (age 37, couple young kids and a full time job) is how to ride at 80%, but progress so that's higher. How do you increase 80% if you never go 110%? I had goals to podium at my local enduro races in my category this year, but had to toss that all out when I got injured in march. Recovery was/is slow. I'm back up to pace now, but where is that edge? When I crashed, I was riding 80% percent and got caught out on a faulty trail feature. I guess we can all agree - getting older sucks! lol
  • 3 0
 "improve my skills so my 80% becomes faster but less risky than my old 100%"

I like that. Words to live by even at 38 yrs old. Except, 95% instead of 80%. I still have 22 years before I'm 60.
  • 14 1
 @spinko: you can step up your game away from the trail. Fo skills practice, take your bunnyhops to another level, pump flat ground drills, manuals, balance skills etc. if you want to minimize effectsnof ceashing hit the gym hard
  • 1 1
 @pigman65: Traumeel--swear by it, hopefully available in the U.K excellent German product.
  • 5 0
 I totally agree with @WAKIdesigns on this. The perfect reason to start riding trials. Tons of room to progress with very lower injury risk, in my opinion, since your speed is low (or non-existent) and the sense of accomplishment is way high.

And, nothing has helped my trail riding like all the time I spent trialsin!
  • 1 0
 @TyPierce: totally agree, great plan!
  • 4 0
 57, fat, and still pushing it. I never wanted to live past 30, pushing the aphorism of "it isn't a sin to die having fun". But three shoulder surgeries, a bad knee, and now a heart condition, I look at the youngsters (under 40) spending more time in the air than in the dirt and think about the risk I can't afford. Hospitals are damn expensive.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: nailed it good sir
  • 3 0
 @spinko: For me strength training off the bike has helped immensely. It started with rehab and recovery from a shoulder injury (missed hip double jump). Now, I find that the stronger and more limber my entire body is, the more likely I am to avoid a crash. With age, of course, we have to work harder just to maintain muscle mass. I hate working out...but since it allows me to stay in control at higher speeds I will continue to do it.
  • 2 0
 @y400bhp big kudos I hope I'll be kicking it like that when I'm your age!
  • 5 0
 @upchuckyeager: I think this an important truth. As brakes, suspension and tires have gotten better it's so much easier to go fast which means the crashes are worse.
  • 1 0
 @benz-tech: good tips!
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: Gym it is! As @benz-tech points out, not only will the fitness help, but the other bonus is quicker recovery time. Big Grin
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: didn't even read the article just recognised your atwork in the thumbnail and had a nagging feeling you must of drawn it ,you must have a style sir.you should print tshirts.
  • 3 0
 @unleash: soon, very soon Smile I have two designs ready, I am looking for someone with quality material cotton or merino who won’t rob me off every single penny while charging clients the premium, all using slave labor.
  • 1 0
 @WAKIdesigns: You nailed it here. Cross training benefits all aspects of life - taking the crashes better, recovery times, fitness, strength.

I bought a bmx to hit the pump track and I can feel those learnings coming into play when I pull them out on the trails.
  • 43 9
 It's especially risky for Americans who don't have the luxury of free health care like most developed nations have. Broken bones in the US are usually followed by the receiving of a jaw dropping hospital invoice. Most health insurance companies don't even cover high risk sport related injuries.
  • 14 0
 I have decent insurance and still have to worry because if I get hurt bad enough that I can't do my job I could lose it and with it I'd lose my ability to cover medical bills.
  • 7 0
 Rocky: tack on jobs (corporations) that let you go if they find you doing risky hobbies. Had bosses that went through Facebook accounts looking for employees risky behavior! It shows in Enduro and DH courses too. Canadians courses tend to be way more difficult!
  • 20 4
 @MX298: People share way too much of their personal life on social media. I don't know why people feel the need to expose so much of their life on the internet. Big brother is watching, and people willingly open the curtains to the windows of their life.
  • 1 0
 @MX298: I had no idea that happens. How common is that?
  • 3 1
 @leelau: More common than you think. But you don't have to worry, you guys got free health care too, so no cost to any company insurance.
  • 5 0
 The part about the US not being part of the modern developed world with universal health care is true. The part about insurance not covering injuries is not true. The part about the bills, with or without insurance is unfortunately very true.
  • 8 0
 @Rocky-Urban: It's very far from 'free' health care. But yes, we do all have health care.
  • 13 0
 @cdmbmw: Sure, it's paid through taxes, but you and me get so much back with the taxes we pay. Knowing you will never have to worry about losing all you worked for all your life due to medical bills is peace of mind I consider to be one of the best luxuries one can enjoy.
  • 8 12
flag MX298 (Jun 13, 2018 at 9:23) (Below Threshold)
 @Rocky-Urban: everyone that has or owns nothing has free health care and that number is growing In USA!
It’s just the workin man that has to pay!
  • 6 0
 @Rocky-Urban: Fully agree! After wrecking myself a few weeks ago and needing immediate ambulatory care, stressing about how I was going to pay for that was the last thing I wanted to worry about.
  • 9 1
 @MX298: True enough. But having been on medicaid before I can say it sucks. It is a stressful system that tries to kick you off all the time, that doctors hate because it doesn't pay the bill without a fight (having spoken to some doctors and my ex being a physio therapist who has to deal with getting $4 for every billable hour with a Medicaid patient) I feel like Medicaid is garbage.
I propose a 2 tier system that does not cover most minor illnesses, but does cover major stuff. Evidence shows that when people have full coverage in the USA they tend to go to the doctor all the time for every little thing. (the Oregon Study) but that the big stuff is what scares everyone the most. Cover "El Cancer", but take your common cold and stuff it.

There. World's fixed. Lets get back to bike stuff.
  • 4 0
 @taletotell: That's a pretty rational approach, so unfortunately, it probably has no real chance of ever getting anywhere...
  • 2 0
 @leelau: very, and for different reasons. i work in the movie bizz, the studios monitor employee social media to make sure no one is leaking photos of in-production projects.
  • 14 0
 @Rocky-Urban: Hell, in NZ thanks to ACC (Accident Compensation Corporation) our government even pays you 80% of your weekly income each week while you're off work as long as you meet their criteria!!! Take that broken US medical system!!!
  • 1 0
 @taletotell: Don't you have any workers rights in the states? Surely you can't lose your job if your on the sick?
  • 3 0
 @taletotell: We pay $1,200.00 a month (my wife's employer pays rest) for a plan that comes with one annual check-up per year. We pay for first $5,000.00 of medical expenses and then insurance starts paying percentages. That is not tiered, its our plan. Other plans are available for different amounts, this is what we could afford. I get hurt and hobble around on advil because I would have to pay to get medical attention. I think this is a dis-incentive to take proper medical care of yourself. I appreciate that we have help with major medical but I have a painful elbow and a knee that pops in and out. I'm lucky. People that wait months or years to have a major problem diagnosed (cancer) because they didn't feel that bad are very unlucky.
Yes I would like to see single payer healthcare but think it will be very hard to balance the system. Thousands die every year (worldwide) from not getting treatment for flu.
  • 14 0
 @mikeSC: "We pay $1,200.00 a month"

ho-lee f*ck
  • 7 0
 @mikeSC: "We pay for first $5,000.00 of medical expenses and then insurance starts paying percentages"

I had a conversation with some friends from a well - off state and well off region (Seattle, WA) and they were explaining concepts like "co-pay" to me. Then they mentioned paying 1400/month for a very vanilla plan. Certainly not as comprehensive as basic Canadian MSP. Then we started comparing property taxes, income taxes etc (we're pretty good friends) and we in BC were paying approx 3-5% more in taxes. This did not strike me as a huge difference. But perhaps WA is a high-tax jurisdiction? I haven't looked

No offence but conversations like that reminded me that even though Canucks and Americans are culturally very alike in some marked ways we are very very different
  • 4 1
 @leelau: we build military airplanes and bombs and you guys build ice rinks!
  • 12 1
 @mikeSC: whaaaat. I pay half of that a year for the whole family and it is the top insurance. 1200$ a year is whole family covered with free of charge access to private clinic/ hospital with service guaranteed within 30minutes from registration. No matter if you broke the sline or have a mild head ache. And state insurance is good already. Well just like they told you in school Sweden is socialist and socialism is terrible
  • 5 11
flag JohanG (Jun 13, 2018 at 14:07) (Below Threshold)
 "free health care" lol. You think it's free.
  • 9 0
 @JohanG: Sure we pay in the form of taxes. My point being that the tax differential was not as great as I thought. I'm more aghast at how complicated the US medical system appears to be and how loaded it is with conflict - seems very byzantine
  • 3 0
 @JohanG: well it's a hell of a lot cheaper than $1,200 a month!!!
  • 1 1
 "We pay $1,200.00 a month (my wife's employer pays rest) for a plan that comes with one annual check-up per year. We pay for first $5,000.00 of medical expenses and then insurance starts paying percentages."

that's a bummer

I thought we had a whacky sys in OZ - there is the free public system that actually covers most things - you'll get better but could wait awhile and have to share room with the restof the great un-washed. Then we have the option for additional private cover. there is a tax incentive where if you take a basic package you get the cost back in tax. then from there its an open market to find what meets your needs but we're talking $2k per yr for average Joe in 20s to $5-6k for senior with know health problems.

thing is once you earn a given amount or reach 31 and don't take up private insurance they have this loading incentive to "encourage" you to sign up to prop up the system - for every yr you don't when/if you eventually do, you're slugged with an extra loading fee percentage - "If you don't have hospital cover before 1 July following your 31st birthday, you will pay an additional 2% of hospital cover premium every year you delay – up to a maximum of 70%."
  • 6 0
 @leelau: With system like the US where the hospitals are businesses they are trying to give the cheapest possible care at the highest possible price to make the most profit. The doctors, nurses etc obviously care about their patients but the management are there to make money. That's why cancer drugs that cost $200 to manufacture cost $30000 to the insurance company (and therefore the people paying for that insurance).

With a single payer system where the hospital is owned by the payer they are trying to give the best possible care for the cheapest possible price as they have to stick to their budget. They will haggle, choose medication based on value rather than just which company offers the best margins etc. I pay less in taxes per month in total than Americans pay for health insurance alone and I know I can walk into a hospital and receive world class treatment without a bill to follow.

The only people who benefit from a system like the Americans are the people who run it and the politicians they pay to keep it going.
  • 1 0
 @mikeSC: I pay about $1000 annually for a family of 6. I have great insurance, but a condition of my job is that I can wrestle a juvenile delinquent to the floor if need be. If I can't do that I can't work there safely. So they can let me go if I get injured.
  • 2 0
 @mikeSC: make that $10000
  • 30 5
 The issue with the course those drawings came from, the jumping course, is that the Dragon is something both external and internal. One may want to keep that in mind because it is all to easy to externalize it and downgrade it to fear, the enemy. In many ways we are chasing the dragon but also riding it, and we ourselves can be the dragon. It can bite you, it can throw you off it's back but at least for me the most important part is that I can be the dragon to myself, or get possessed by it if you like. Our drive towards beating the fear, accomplishing something like hitting a huge jump or super sketchy steep, can hurt this body and mind we have. I am always trying to be mindful of when ambition take place of the fear and closes off reasoning, whatever this ambition comes from, internal desire to ride something, showing off, beating a friend, beating a person I don't like?. Because we all know the alternative, the feat, when fear takes over we lack confidence and it is just as dangerous as being overconfident. Same applies to the family or work, don't supress them but also don't let them take over you. I have had enough crashes coming from doubt and the most dangerous doubt is the one just under the surface. I feel a bit odd but I'm riding anywas, I had a few good moves, but then out of nowhere panic strikes on a familiar trail and BAM!

Keep demons on the leash, let them work for you, it's all too easy to invite the judgmental one: you should think of the consequences! For your family! Workmates you let down! And what happens when you do crash if you let that demon in? he will pound you with his fists: You terrible father! You terible rider, how could you try that or bail on such simple thing! He won't be done with you, oh no. At older age it is so easy to suck up to virtue of responsibilitiy. But is that you? or is it the voice of the society? What's the alternative? How about, your son hearing: I saw your dad at the pumptrack yesterday, he was ripping it! Your kids and wife admiring you for what you do. It's so easy to put it all down on ego, to degrade it to some unaccomplished male selfishness - but that's who we are, that's what drives us to great things. We bring meaningfulness to our actions.

Cheers Ryan, it's been a great read!
  • 5 0
 Always great to work with you Wacek!, and thanks for this reflection and added insights here, it's a rich topic.
  • 9 0
 Maybe the best post I've read of yours, well said Waki
  • 4 0
 Waki please post more like this. Sometimes i read your posts and just think to myself, "what the f*ck is this guy talking about".

Your drawings are bomb.

Keep it real man.
  • 3 0
 @WAKIdesigns: I really need to meet you in person one day sir. Let’s ride and toss back a few beers. You really need to write columns.
  • 22 1
When you have a smile on your face (at least in your mind^^) you are in your comfort zone.
If the smile disappears while riding you are either to fast or to slow. Wink
  • 6 1
 But the Smile comes back if you cleared a big drop/jump etc... Best feeling
  • 2 0
  • 3 2
Or disappears for a looong time if sth. goes wrong.

Less risk more fun! Enjoy being here and moving freely!
  • 2 0
 I'm not sure I agree, but it's obviously a to each their own thing. I enjoy scaring myself a bit, everytime I work myself up to a new challenge there is a bit of fear..and I'm sure my facial expression shows it. But the feeling of accomplishment afterwards is when the smile kicks in.
  • 5 0
 @cdmbmw and @NotNamed: not for me. Best feeling is the point of pleasure within my comfort zone. The kick from doing a big drop or double is mediocre.
Seems like there are two categories of rider in this conversation: Those who push for the thrill and those who get their kicks more just from the ride.
  • 4 0
 @taletotell: I get my kicks from both. Sometimes I go on 60 km xc journeys where I never come close to pushing my limits with risk..Sometimes I will ride up 5 km only to ride back down 5 km as fast as I can. I can appreciate both.. But the ultimate feeling for me is taking risky lines cleanly, and getting to the bottom faster than I did before. I'm sure as I get older that will change.
  • 2 0
 @taletotell: I usually dont ride that risky... Note injuries less time to ride. But sometimes you need to commit to get better and have even more fun.

I get most of my good Feelings by absolutely having a good flow, ne it in the trail itself or also the beautifaul Environment
  • 9 0
 My question for the adrenaline junkies out there: If you could fly without risk of falling would it bore you?

I'm not an amazing rider. Blue square all the way. But the pleasure I've always taken from riding was finding that exact point where I can manage the risk and still feel a thrill.
I feel like there is a groove, that moment on a snowboard when you are on just the tail of the board in deep powder on a steep line, that feeling when rappelling when you are moving fast, kicking off the wall in control but fast enough to feel like you are flying. I actually find that point the easiest on a bike. It's the high point.
It is not usually the most dangerous point. I actually don't love being in the air, doing drops, or any of that. I mean I do it sometimes, and it is kind of fun, but it pales alongside the rush of riding down just the right trail at the right speed with the right lines.
That moment when you drop backward over the ledge isn't anything special. Just another hurdle.

It's probably why I don't care for rollercoasters. There is no pleasure of control. Just speed and fear.
The thrill isn't about fear for me. It's about something else.
  • 2 0
 To answer your initial question it would bore me and I came to that realization after getting into skydiving 2 years ago. 2 tandem jumps in a week then signed up for the Accelerated Free Fall course to get certified where i did 1 jump solo (with instructors on my side during free fall). The thrill dropped after each jump and i then realized why people BASE jumped so called it quits from there. Bikes are still way more fun!!
  • 1 0
 @nyhc00: If I could fly I'd do it wingsuit style. Flying single track would be fun too.
And I would still bike.

I suspect if you could actually fly biking would not excite you as much because the risk is gone from every crash, right? Screw up a huge sender and catch yourself before hitting the ground. . .

For me it isn't about the risk. I'm not saying it's better. It is just a way to distinguish the difference. If I was invincible I think biking would not be less exciting.
  • 3 0
 "It's probably why I don't care for rollercoasters. There is no pleasure of control. Just speed and fear."

That last sentence just hit me!

People don't undertand why I like "downhill" (in brackets since is what the average people think you are riding) but a the same time I fear rollercoasters. The same happens when I watch on TV someone been invited to an F-16 stunt ride, I think no way I 'm doing that but a the same time I would love to pilot an F-16 myself!
  • 1 0
 I can't agree with this enough... I flew CH-53 aircrew in the Marines and still love to fly now but put me on a roller coaster and all I get is motion sickness. There is something about the lack of being in control (at least in the the way you move your body when flying) and knowing the built in safety margin fr a roller coaster is massive that just makes it boring and sickening to me. But with riding I get to moderate all of that based on my mood, endurance, and feeling at the exact moment and exact set of trail and can always find that zen moment, and often manage to string it out.
  • 1 0
 "If you could fly without risk of falling would it bore you?"
Heck no. Flying would be so awesome, I'd never get bored. Yeah, being in the zone is a great feeling.... But I also love most roller coasters, jump/drop stuff, etc. Adrenaline junkie, but play it safe. I'm complicated. Big Grin And yeah I would love to fly a jet/plane... hope my stomach could handle the G's lol.
  • 8 0
 Good read. Thanks Ryan. A big part of the risk discussion is arousal. When we engage in things that activate lower more primitive and risk oriented parts of the brain, our arousal system is engaged. When you talk about flow, you describe a state of neurological equilibrium where arousal is managed, perception is focussed on the present but still insightful, and planning can still take place (with some challenges). Flow is often described as the optimal state of experience and one of the states most conducive to positive affect and wellbeing. When you talk about risk that is really problematic, that slider moves to a place where the arousal is not appropriate to the risk. Learning to manage this system can be huge and is actually a back-pocket secret to some of the most successful riders- who often don't know fully what they are doing but find a way to tap into this. For example, Josh Bryceland talking about one of the major changes he made including seeking out a sports psychologist and learning breathing/relaxation techniques (read as 'arousal management') in the recent Downtime podcast (highly recommended).

I do a lot of work on this stuff with kiddos who spend too much time in a place where there body is over-responding to the risk management demands of their environment. This is often due to early adverse experience such as trauma. The effects of this are that they can be very impulsive, at times overly aggressive, hyper-emotional and end up getting hurt or hurting others. I think the same applies to biking. More and more I am seeing the positive benefit of doing this work in a sports context and it makes a great deal of sense to those of us who nerd out on brain development and optimal functioning.
  • 4 0
 Fabulous work you're doing snl, nice one man, so needed. I love how you explain arousal management, a great alternative term for our mtb culture to explore and work with when compared to the more generic term mindfulness training.
  • 1 0
 @snl1200: Wow who are you? The PB comments section runs the gamut of the intellectual spectrum. Gotta love this place.
  • 7 0
 Thanks for the insight Ryan. I never seem to injure myself on risky new sections of trail or sections of trail that scare me. It's usually getting complacent on trails I feel comfortable on or losing focus on a new trail that feels "easy". That makes judging risk, at least for me, a difficult proposition.
  • 7 0
 I've always told myself and the guys that I ride with - "Whenever you are considering trying something stupid, just remember that you didn't get into this sport just for this season. This is a sport you can participate in for the rest of your life, if you are smart". For me, knowing i'll be able to ride next week, next month, and next season is more exciting than any single descent or jump.
  • 2 0
 Great philosophy TheRaven, love that perspective, and am always doing my best to adjust my riding to reflect that, it's an ongoing process for sure.
  • 8 0
 3 types of bike rides I go on.

1.) adventure / leisure / relaxed
2.) stress relief, break up the week, get outside
3.) Puckered a*shole who is more insane
  • 7 1
 IS it surprising that we become risk-averse as we age? Or that many of us never were very risk oriented even though we ride bikes in the woods?

"Our modern society has now, thankfully, decoupled our need to take physical risks to survive." Or perhaps NOT thankfully. This lack of daily struggle for our necessities has lead to a raft of emotional/social problems--we have too much free time and not enough meaningful use of our lives. Maybe this is why so many people turn to a sport like mountain biking in the first place--to satiate unfulfilled needs. Unfortunately these are often ones that can't be satiated in our pseudo-civilized world.
  • 5 0
 I don't consider myself a Strava dick - I worked out all my Strava-related bad behavior a few years ago. But one thing I wonder is how much more injury prone I am because of Strava. Strava makes me perpetually want to go faster - I'm always trying to beat myself, or my friends, to get that performance-related dopamine hit that a downhill KOM, PR, or trophy induces. If I weren't trying to go faster ALL THE TIME, I bet I'd get injured less... ...typing this in a hand brace, just got out of my cast yesterday...
  • 5 0
 This article is so true. I was recently injured very badly doing a drop that I knew I could do but somehow still crashed. It wasn’t a bad crash but I still dislocated my leg and shattered my hip socket. I am 37 and have been riding and racing everything from XC to DH over the last 15 years and have never been injured this badly. Now I can’t work or ride for at least 4 months. As a carpenter I need to be healthy to provide for my family and as a very avid mountain biker it is torture for me to lay around while everyone else rides. I will never stop riding but even if I heal 100%(which may not happen) I don’t think I will ever ride with the same confidence again because I understand the risk vs reward all to well now.
  • 5 0
 I broke my neck last season. I know 3 other riders who have done the same. But in all of these cases, we were not taking risks. It was during a lull in the ride, or the end, where you aren’t paying attention, chatting with your buds and suddenly you are over the bars. I broke my ribs a few years ago. Was on a challenging ride just before a week long riding trip. I said to myself 'take it easy, don’t hurt yourself before the trip!’. I slowed down and my mind wandered to what to make for dinner, front tire rolled on a baby head and I fell on to a sharp rock.

Now I’m back on the bike. I’m not 100% physically, and I’m trying to force myself to ride at no more than 80%. But we can’t ride challenging things lackadaisically! You have to pay attention and get the adrenalin flowing. I am wrestling with how to tackle this as I continue riding. Avoiding risky obstacles is one thing, but there are also the obstacles that don’t seem risky and require extra attention. To get the focus, you have to be pushing a little bit. Hard to find the balance.
  • 3 0
 You bring up a crucial question jnicol and I'm glad you're back on the bike exploring it. So the question you raise in summary is more or less: 'how do you focus when you're not pushing your limits?' Solving this riddle I consider to be one of the keys to a long life of enjoying mountain biking, and there is no quick one-size-fits-all solution. Based on your comment it seems that the self-inquiry that triggers insights about this question is well underway for you. Ride ON!
  • 5 0
 Great article Ryan....really hits on some very legit stuff. As a 50 year old father of 2, I hear multiple times per day from my more sedentary work colleagues how I'm way too old to be doing this stuff and need to settle down. While I get their point of view, I like the person mountain bike has made me into and believe that constantly trying to improve and pursuing my passion makes me a better human.....I don't want to just be like the majority of people you referenced relying on controlled entertainment and experiences for joy. I look forward to the pit I'll have in my stomach next week as I line up for the Crabapples :-)
  • 5 0
 A few months ago, I had the worst injury of my life. I broke my leg in multiple places, damaged the nerve the allows me to raise my foot so I'm able to walk normally, and went through six surgeries to put it all back together. I'll be able to walk again, and theres not a doubt in my mind that I'll be riding again, but it could be up to a year until I'm able to do so relatively normally. I've had injuries in the past (lacerated spleen, more minor broken bones, concussions, etc.) but none have come close to setting me back in life as much as this one has. I was scheduled to start medical school this august, but now I will have to postpone until next year. I had an awesome job at a hospital that I had to put on hold. And, my family, friends and loved ones have gone through almost as much stress as I have. This may sound like a complaint, but to me its a realization. I've been mountain biking for over a decade and I love it just as much as the day I started. I've always known the risk involved, but over the years, its been difficult to learn from these crashes because the feeling of riding out of that massive drop was just too good. In my current deluge of free time during recovery, I've had a lot of time to think. I fell in love with mountain biking because it allowed me to be completely in my own world, devoid of the normal stresses of life. Don't get me wrong, I love a good challenge, but the potential of completely messing yourself up physically, emotionally, and just in life really isn't worth the few minutes of pride when you stomp the landing. That was hard to realize before this injury put me through more physical and emotional pain and made me put my life on hold for a year. At the end of the day, mountain biking is about having fun, and so is life. One aspect of your life, whether its biking or school or a job, should not be the cause of you missing out on all other aspects of it. Being able to achieve new things is good, but theres a difference between a challenge and an outright stupid risk. Take this as advice or me just thinking out loud, but seriously, look before you leap. Think about all aspects of your life that you care about before you ride off something that could potentially deprive you of enjoying it for a year, or the rest of your life. Go out and ride your bike, and be safe doing so, I guarantee you'll have fun no matter what kind of riding you're doing (well idk about road riding but thats another story). Thats my rant, take it for what you will. Wear your f*cking helmets kids. P.S. what kills me is that all the bike suffered from this crash was a scratch on the bars...what the hell.
  • 2 0
 Thanks for taking the time to share this for everyone's consideration freeride000, wishing you a strong recovery and many fun and healthy mountain bike rides in the future.
  • 2 0
 Wow man. I've been tossing around these very thoughts recently just from a bruised tailbone that sent me back a few weeks. Its so easy to obsess about the bike and the trails and neglect the many other important things in life. Thanks for sharing and I hope you recover quick and well.
  • 4 0
 I think I risk more spending weekend on the couch. More and more it is affirmed to me that getting out and riding is something I HAVE to do for my own mental and physical health. Being 46 I do realize that I'm not going to send it like I was 25. I follow two basic principles, ride to ride again and try to ride within my own limits. Part of the fun is recognizing the risk and treating it with respect. I take my chances on the trail anyday over driving on the 5 Freeway!
  • 4 0
 I always think of the financial risk of bike repairs and unpaid time off work rather than pain or injury. The older I get the more I tend to risk assess everything unconsciously.
  • 5 0
 Scaring yourself and riding away is one of the best feelings you get while riding. The problem is you can only keep chasing that dragon for so long before it bites you back.
  • 4 1
 If you have a family who depends on you, doesnt really make sense to be doing stuff that can kill you or put you out of work for a long period of time. I love biking and all, but chasing that KOM and thrill shouldnt, despite the urges, ever overcome the obligation to be smart and take care of your responsibilities.... Get your thrill on, dont take stupid risks.... thats what's in the back of my head when riding. Still have a ton of fun out there, and better yet I get to remain on my bike all year, even if it's with scrapes, bruses and cuts, I just cant be launching myself off stuff anymore.
  • 3 0
 Other aspects of risk are directly age related. When very young, the brain is simply not equipped to understand 'risk-reward' well. Thus kids doing what appears to be "stupid" things. This final wiring doesn't generally happen until around the early 20's. As we age, we develop the capability to assess risk more rationally (doesn't mean we do, but we can). Part of that is experiential, and some of that is high brain function.

For me, now in my early 50's my risk aversion is definitely different. I still like to push the limit to a degree, but I am VERY keen on my skill level and can assess the "what could go wrong here" scenario at a much higher level. I like to keep things in the 80-85% zone. Pushed, but not on the limit. On the limit, the consequence of a mistake is instant. Giving one's self room for error gives a bit of breathing room when the mistake occurs. I think knowing your limits is critical to reasonable rick assessment. This takes time and mileage. I still live by the "go big or go home" rule, but "big" is a lot smaller than it used to be!!!
  • 3 0
 “There is no such thing as paranoia. Your worst fears can come true at any moment.”

“The Edge... there is no honest way to explain it because the only people who really know where it is are the ones who have gone over.”

“I’m the one that’s gonna have to die when it’s time for me to die, so I’m going to live my life how I want to.”

Hunter S Thompson & Jimi Hendrix.

There aren’t words to articulate the feeling. You either feel the need to experience what is past the edge or you don’t. Maybe it is neuroses, insecurity. I just accept that the only way I can be at peace is to confront the fear and follow my heart.
  • 1 0
 To be more accurate, I’m running from something inescapable. On my bike, on the edge, it goes away. Otherwise I’m powerless to avoid it, thus far in my life.

It’s worth the risk for those moments of peace.
  • 4 1
 Blame Strava. I just broke 6 ribs. I read this article a bit grumpy. I wish I never took the risk of a KOM attempt on my local singletrack. Me, my family, and my bike will now be grumpy for the next couple weeks, all for a stupid moment on the bike. The damage and risk wasn't worth it, I'll be gravel riding the rest of this year until I learn to take fewer risks and slow down.
  • 2 0
 Why would you blame Strava? Was it not your decision to take the risk that resulted in your crash? Seems to me that if you are doing risky activities then you have to accept the consequences.
  • 3 0
 after a half dozen broken bones one loses the raw thirst as the fear takes hold. Ride your bike confidently and if you are just not sure, dismount and walk the challenge.... then ride it... or not. Staying fit and healthy is number one..... the rest is BS.
  • 3 0
 Wow! What an article Ryan. Ok so I’m 53, self employed family etc. Discovered mountain biking at 47. I can tell you that learning to ride a MTB was the only thing that pulled me out the darkest personal time in my life. I also suffer from adult ADHD (yeah those annoying little kids grow up) MTB riding particularly the more technical and risky lines is the only thing that quiets the static of ADD. (drugs suck) I simply can’t live without riding. I can live but my spiritual mental quality suffers. However I’ve broken ribs, separated my right shoulder permanently, punctured a lung. So yeah I send it sometimes without the postage to deliver it. I wear pads and don’t care what others think and I’m taking your skills courses so I can become more skilled and crash less. I hate crashing and getting injured because everything stops. So it is indeed a paradox. Just need to learn to balance skill set with risk. It’s tricky.
  • 3 0
 I think there are also physiological drivers behind changes in risk-taking behavior as one ages. I believe it is well-documented that at a young age our brains have yet to develop the capacity to assess the long-term consequences of our actions; thus, a 15 y/o is more likely to make high-risk decisions than a 43 y/o (like myself). I am married without children and (fortunately) both my wife and I have good jobs and proper accident/health coverage. I also tend to not give a shit about what other people think, so Ryan's quotes "age comes in as a massive factor and this is linked to responsibility in life.You can’t take care of your family or earn money if you’re injured." and "It is common for many ageing riders to turn to fitness-oriented riding challenges, as it is more socially acceptable..." do not really apply to me. Nevertheless, I do notice that I become more risk-averse as I age, but I would describe this process more like the waning of an inner need than the consequence of external pressures (e.g. responsibilities or social perceptions). Somehow my brain does not scream "send it, you pussy" all the time anymore, just as it does not want me to chase any and every woman within sight (which cannot be said of my 15 y-o self). I have also lost the joy of riding on the edge. Back in the day I would consistently hit over 90km/h descending on my road bike and would love that "f*ck this is sketchy" feeling. These days I enjoy the feeling of speed and the g-forces that 70km/h give me, but much faster I simply get scared and do not enjoy it anymore. @RyanLeech , surely there are studies relating changes in the chemistry of the brain as we get older and our propensity to take risk.
  • 5 0
 Anybody who seriously wants to get into the mental risk/reward game should try free-solo (rock) climbing????
  • 1 0
 Didn't mean to put those question marks at the end...
  • 1 0
 I used to free solo regularly in my past and I must say that nothing was more relaxing or mentally cleansing than being 500' feet off the deck without a rope or cruising multi-pitch alpine/ice climbs.
  • 1 0
 I’m an ice climber... that’s a mental roller coaster for sure!
  • 2 0
 Good reading and certainly correct. Fast approaching my 40th in a couple of months, I tend to stick to having fun rather than pushing myself. Don't get me wrong I still scare and push as often as I can but I do tend to think about sending the bigger set of doubles. Anyone who saw the big double at Steel City this year will know what I mean.
  • 2 0
 "Let’s consider the reward - engaging risk can bring about a unique and powerful high. It’s a temporary state experience that brings us out of the daily routines and stress of life, out of our heads, and into the moment. "

It's the feeling we all chase & what makes day to day life so difficult to fully engage. Perfect description of a feeling I feel daily but can't explain to most people.
  • 2 0
 Interesting read, I definitely get a buzz off taking bigger risks, I’ve been focusing on jumping more this season and it’s been a thrill. That is until I sent it too far last week and landed flat blowing my knee up. Now I’m on the couch for 4-6 weeks with a fractured tibia but I’m still looking forward to getting back out there and sending it again! Maybe my risk evaluator is broken too...
  • 2 0
 At almost 50 I am probably a more conservative rider than I was 25-30 years ago (although bikes now give you a lot more confidence). However if I am thinking about the risk of an obstacle or feature while riding, I think of my old riding buddy Carlos from when I lived near Mexico City and rode there all the time. He was very risk averse and very aware of his role as the provider for two young daughters in a society with limited social safety nets. I always used to tell him don't worry you can teach from a wheelchair, when he was hesitating to ride something. Right after I moved back to Canada another friend called to tell me he had been shot and killed in a carjacking on his way to work. Totally senseless. Totally heartbreaking. Absolutely nothing you can do.
When something is a bit intimidating I usually ride it and think of him (obviously only more or less within my not that amazing abilities)
  • 2 0
 An enjoyable read, but I actually disagree with just about all of it.

I don’t need risk to have fun.

In fact, I wish I could remove the risk entirely.

The risk is the necessary evil. It’s what I’m willing to tolerate in pursuit of fun.

There is no direct correlation between increasing risk and increasing fun.

Some extremely fun moments of mountain biking (i.e. riding a bermed-out flow trail with lots of G outs) pose really very little risk but are incredibly fun.

And other things, like riding elevated skinnies or high exposure lines, have tons of risk and I don’t find them fun
at all.

I enjoy CHALLENGING myself. Is that with many here are calling risk? I think that’s a mis-correlation.

If risk is the puzzle that unlocks reward when conquered, then just go ride with no helmet. There you go, your risk just went through the roof, did you have more fun? Of course not.

Appreciate the thoughtful article but I’m sorry, I’m just not buying it. If all the risk could magically be removed from mountain biking, I would enjoy it even more because I know I could challenge myself even further without the potential downside.
  • 1 0
 Challenging yourself is the point you are making and I agree with you here. However you must agree that the challenges shift as your skill levels change or the trails you ride change.
Everyone’s riding gets better to a point and as your level gets better risk is altered. Riding a flow trail with berms could be risky for someone but not for you and me who may smash through it. I agree you can have a hell of a lot of fun without taking too many risks but ultimately risk is there in some form it’s how you deal with it and how your skill makes that risk stay at bay. If we didn’t all take a bit of risk to improve our riding or speed then it would start to become boring so while I agree with you and have fun myself smashing laps that I know I can do….there’s still moments when I gotta challenge myself to do something new. Once that risk has been taken I can relax it’s the enjoyment of knowing I challenged myself and now that risk is lower for next time, meanwhile I’m on a high all week until I can ride something else.
  • 2 0
 This is an easy one. I am a drug addict, and am hopelessly and desperately addicted to the drugs my brain releases when I do stupid shit. There is absolutely no sound reason to be riding black diamond or harder downhill trails beside the rush of overcoming a dangerous challenge. The fact that I also use basic reasoning skills to often decide that the consequences of a specific risk isn't worth the high has nothing to do with why I ride.
  • 2 0
 I hit a crossroad many years ago.

To the right, keep freeriding and deal with the possibility of injury.

To the left, start coaching mountain biking... never really looked back.

I coach because it gives me great pleasure in seeing a steady progression through applied risk management. By empowering people to learn in a fun and safe environment, you can easily determine the next challenge for them.

The risk is not eliminated, it is mitigated. Don’t leave anything to luck. However, bad luck can still happened.

A different feeling knowing you have the skill and you make it vs making it it by pure luck. Guess which one will catch up to you quicker?

Send it!
  • 2 0
 "Our modern society has now, thankfully, decoupled our need to take physical risks to survive."

This is a complex topic...

Life is risky and will result in death no matter what. Lack of physical challenge results in a fat, weak body that is MUCH more likely to be injured in daily life activities like walking down stairs... I knew an inactive woman who tripped down the stairs and nearly had a foot amputated as a result. I read a while ago about a person who broke their neck falling off their couch. Then there are the diseases of the fat and inactive.

I think it's helpful to remember that life IS risk. One way or another you're taking a risk. Mountain biking keeps me fit physically and emotionally and personally I'd rather break my neck riding my bike than getting fat sitting on my couch watching other people mt bike on youtube and having a heart attack or something. Choosing NOT to live life and ride a mt bike because you're afraid is not a valid choice imo.

Like most things in life a degree of balance is required and any choice we make will have it's set of associated risks, both physical and mental.
  • 1 0
 Good read, I’ve had 2 major surgeries due to Bike accidents, and find myself focusing a little more on the fitness vs the gnar mostly because while mountain biking was the cause of my injuries it’s also the reason I’m almost back to 100% strength and mobility after fractured hip socket and dislocation, and last years attempt at twisting my foot off like a beer cap.

The funny paradox is I’m getting more fit, and able to ride harder and farther than I was before...
  • 1 0
 Sent you a PM
  • 1 0
 Ryan Leech is a legend. What I would say from my experience is that people are mostly into averting problems. Stop them at the source if you will. I feel we're meant to be boring. Just look at a zoo mammal, and look at a human, they're far, far more athletic.
  • 1 0
 As much as I am all for progression, the skill level in mountain biking now is off the charts, I think that video footage and better bikes has a lot to do with that, but yes there is still risk But the more you ride the better you get even if you are getting old, so ride more
  • 1 0
 The biggest factor for me is knowing how a bike park rates their trails. I'm from the Midwest so most trails around here are rated black if it's mandatory that your wheel even leaves the ground. I rode at silver mtn in Idaho last fall and their blue trails require a far greater skill level of riding compared to black trails in the Midwest IMO. Anywhere outside of the Midwest I completely stick to blue ratings. In the Midwest I preride the trail to find out as I find most blacks are way overrated, or have tons of b-lines.

I also find that flow trails and tech trails seem to very greatly in their rated categories. I rode a bike park that offered a blue rated flow trail and a blue rated tech trail. I found myself taking much greater risks on the blue tech trail than the blue flow trail . I felt the flow trail was overrated.

This I assume is why the moto preride, reride, freeride is used.

What are your procedures for preriding a trail? To you guys get off and walk most sections of a black trail when preriding? I find this difficult on tighter trails or busy parks.
  • 3 0
 Risk is mountain biking.....risk is skiing.....If you don't like the risk--you can always buy some spandex and an xc or gravel bike. There is no risk always going uphill.
  • 1 1
 Haha, you’ve never ridden in CO obviously!
  • 1 0
 @Geof3: Check my pictures....and I just got back there for 420. Rode Ruby hill and scooted up to Valmont.
  • 1 0
 Taking risks is one thing being stupid is just another different thing ,but is in the human being to challenge him self from the begging of life so some just have it others never will and some will loose it with the passing of time ,but I love a good challenge,maybe not doing things that are way of my riding skills but things that are in my reach or I guess they are :-)) ,now risk my life for a dare, no thanks that was some time ago ,but I don’t think to mutch in injuries cause they will come no matter what so I just engage my PILOT MODE ON ,always focus :-))
  • 1 0
 Great article Ryan, and the risk is certainly on my mind, although I put it to one side when I’m doing an uplift day !

On a different note. How come on the posters nationality, the Scottish & the Welsh have their respective flags, but the English get a Union Jack, or is it something we can change but just don’t bother to?
  • 1 0
 I’ll geek out a bit here on the impact of risk on decision making. At our core we are all risk averse. There has been a ton of research in this area demonstrating that our decisions are way more motivated by avoiding losses than seeking gains.

So I general we should be more tuned to avoid being a crumpled mess on the trail than to seeking the exhilaration hitting that drop you’ve been eyeing for months.

But in mountain bike loss and probability of loss is all relative. As many of the student quotes pointed out loss was gauged by potential for physical harm, not being able to be with or to support one’s family. As forty something dad of a 4 year old I can relate.

But in the midst of a ride and feeling the flow loss could be viewed as missing out or FOMO for hitting that gap, riding that rock roller or god forbid an elevated skinny (I hate them).

Loss is also relative between rides each time you clear that scary segment it decreases your perceived risk. But even though your skills get better and your muscle memory gets enhanced, a sketchy section is still a sketchy section and we’ve all had those bails that baffle us cause we felt we had the section mastered. To the other extreme a bad crash reinforces just how close we are true painwhen we hit the trail.
  • 1 0
 I’ve always been pretty risk averse yet friends I have that don’t ride and see where I ride think I am crazy. I think we all have an envelope of comfort which will vary from rider to rider. Some of us like to go outside that envelope a lot some not, some a little. I’ve known people with families, jobs and mortgages that took risks and got injured and one who died. It’s one thing to take risks if it’s a job like a pro DH racer or something like that. But to take risks just for the thrill as the only reward is not something I can do. Never could.

Motivation to do things is an interesting thing. Why do athletes dope to win? For the average person cheating to win makes a win meaningless. Some might do it for money, some for the prestige and accolades much like a mountain biker riding a big jump or stunt. I recall the early days of freeriding in North Van. Before we all rode hard trails, but competition was just XC. Guys quit XC claiming it was too competitive but in reality they just weren’t doing very well at it. But freeriding was just as competitive but less obvious I suppose. It was a competition to ride wilder and wilder stunts and jumps. People were getting hurt pretty good too and not for profits that’s for sure. I never could do that and I don’t really understand it. But that’s my risk averse nature.

When I blew my knee skiing and needed ACL replacement guys in my office assumed I was going to quit skiing. I don’t understand that either. I do think risk taking is an important part of life. Without risk taking there wouldn’t be all kinds of things. Risk is a part of life. The important thing is to acknowledge and understand that risk so a person can take appropriate steps to deal with the consequences. That can be only hitting jumps in the bike park which well designed for that with help not too far away if you need it. Wearing helmets and pads, making sure you have health insurance, wage loss coverage and that sort of thing.
  • 1 0
 One issue I have is a fear of heights. It's very different from non-phobia based fear because it's hard to accurately judge risk when dealing with a phobia. You may feel fear just getting within 10 ft of a cliff edge even though there is no danger at that distance. I still confront this phobia and will ride many trails with exposure but I haven't conquered it completely. I get nervous and this makes me ride worse because I'm tense and lack confidence... Anyone have any advise? Smile
  • 1 0
 I’ll geek out a bit here on the impact of risk on decision making. At our core we are all risk averse. There has been a ton of research in this area demonstrating that our decisions are way more motivated by avoiding losses than seeking gains.

So I general we should be more tuned to avoid being a crumpled mess on the trail than to seeking the exhilaration hitting that drop you’ve been eyeing for months.

But in mountain bike loss and probability of loss is all relative. As many of the student quotes pointed out loss was gauged by potential for physical harm, not being able to be with or to support one’s family. As forty something dad of a 4 year old I can relate.

But in the midst of a ride and feeling the flow loss could be viewed as missing out or FOMO for hitting that gap, riding that rock roller or god forbid an elevated skinny (I hate them).

Loss is also relative between rides each time you clear that scary segment it decreases your perceived risk. But even though your skills get better and your muscle memory gets enhanced, a sketchy section is still a sketchy section and we’ve all had those bails that baffle us cause we felt we had the section mastered. To the other extreme a bad crash reinforces just how close we
  • 1 0
 The risk factors have changed on the North Shore.

High risk used to be restricted to technical trail features. Nowadays the trails are all flow and speed, so a bad crash could happen anywhere! So why do we wear less armour these days?
  • 2 0
 Why nobody is commenting on Waki’s drawings??!
Good to see he’s doing stuff outside commenting 24/7.
Also it seems most comments here are from 40-50 year olds. I’m 42. Younger guys went sending Wink
  • 1 0
 I started mountain biking again 3 years ago because my other two wheeled passion (rode motorcycles for 10 years) was a bit too risky and I almost died in 2010. I guess everyone has different risk tolerance.
  • 1 0
 I think about this and then remember there are guys ending it bigger and wrecking harder than I could ever imagine attempting, so I well stoked when I clear a 4 for double lol
  • 4 1
 Insightful as always Ryan.
  • 6 0
 Cheers Mike, insightful is part of what I was going for ;-) It's a challenging subject to find the right words for, but I think most riders, older ones especially, should be able to relate and benefit from this further inquiry.
  • 2 0
 as i read this i kept trying to attribute a real name to the initials. for example, i wonder if GH is Greg Herbold?
  • 4 0
  • 1 0
 Hehe to me they are big anyway
  • 1 0
 When you’re missing your local trail and your riding buddies there’s no reason to go slower and safer because you’re never grow old..
  • 1 0
 eighty percent 90 percent of the time , 50 percent for 5 percent cause I am 44 , and 1000 percent for the other 5 , because I love it
  • 2 0
 Great writing, Ryan. Very refreshing to read this piece
  • 1 0
 Cheers Fonse, glad to hear.
  • 1 0
 For me (like every Friday fails clip) it is the bigger unfamiliar jumps that get sketchy
  • 1 0
 There are certainly risks not worth taking. But the amount of those risks gets smaller on every ride, as you get better
  • 1 0
 I crash almost every ride. The only way to overcome it is learn how to crash
  • 2 0
 Stop using Strava. It breeds psychotic behaviour. Go have fun. #f*ckstrava
  • 1 0
 The envelope must always be pushed. But it's a choice we make and the consequences are our own.
  • 1 0
 I am for sure, on the spectrum.
  • 1 0
 "The blacker the berry....the sweeter the juice"
  • 2 0
 Send it
  • 1 0
 Live to ride another day.
  • 1 0
  • 1 1
 Ride or die !
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