Handling Uncertainty: On AND Off The Trail

I was recently riding with a group of boys ages 10-12 on a trail they had never ridden before. The three boys are all excellent riders and very comfortable on their home trails. As we were riding, the boys peppered me with questions:

  • How many hills are there?
  • What are the rocks like?
  • Is it all up hill?
  • Are we half way yet?

I was struck by how uncomfortable they were with the uncertainty of the trail, and how learning to be uncomfortable with that uncertainty is a coachable skill. Recently, as families have started to prepare for Fall and back to school amidst a pandemic, we have all felt a lot of uncertainty and asked similar questions such as “How long is this dang hill?”

Bekah Descending Hood River, Oregon
Photo: Colin Meagher

Below are my top 5 tips for riding a new trail. I hope you find them helpful not only in your trail riding, but as you prepare for the uncertainty of Fall 2020 as well.

1. Expect uncertainty and embrace it

We only get to ride a new trail for the first time once. It should be a thrilling and refreshing experience. It’s actually good for the brain to quickly process new obstacles as we go flying down a trail!

2. Look as far ahead as you can

Try to anticipate what is around the next corner and adjust accordingly. Do you need to slow down, shift into an easier gear, position your body lower or to one side? Actively think to yourself, “what do I need to do next?” and you will be more ready than you think as you proceed forward.

3. Exaggerate Ready Position

When in doubt, engage your natural suspension by bending the knees and elbows! Click here for more on the Ready Position.

4. Slow down, look, and walk if necessary

Remember you can always slow down, and get off your bike if needed.

5. Breathe

All too often we forget this crucial life force. Slowing our breath can help us shift our nervous system from the sympathetic (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic (rest and digest).  When we slow our breathe we think more clearly, make smarter decisions, and proceed with a sense of calm rather than panic.

6. Control the controllables

Nutrition, news consumption, and your bedtime routine are factors over which you have a large degree of control.

Bekah rides bermed corner at Ninja's Instructor Retreat

As fall creeps closer it is easy to feel uncertain, anxious, and nervous. I encourage you to think of it as a new trail. Perhaps the hardest trail you’ve ever ridden, but remember the skills you’ve developed in the past and lean into those skills to get you through.

Expect there to be uncertainty, but try to look ahead and prepare. Don’t be afraid to take things slowly, maybe you feel like others are rushing full steam ahead and making plans left and right, but move forwards at a pace that is comfortable for you. When everything else seems crazy and impossible, remember to breathe.

About Bekah Rottenberg

Bekah Rottenberg is a former professional enduro racer who now runs her own business, Brave Endeavors, which specializes in on-line strength training programs for mountain bikers. Bekah believes that through strength training we can improve confidence, longevity, and mindset and ultimately have more fun on the trail and move through life happier and healthier. Bekah is a Ninja instructor and coaches kids on mountain bikes in her hometown of Hood River, OR. Bekah is a NASM certified personal trainer PMBI certified Mountain Bike Instructor.

5 Thoughts on “Handling Uncertainty: On AND Off The Trail

  1. Great post! Really appreciated this for both MTB and life.


  2. Such good reminders, aptly timed. Thank you Bekah!

  3. Kamala S Slight on September 22, 2020 at 2:42 pm said:

    Great Post and very appropriate to the times! Happily shared this with our GGR Chapter in San Diego.

  4. Glad you enjoyed the article, Lisa!

  5. Conrad Clayton on September 24, 2020 at 10:35 am said:

    Second these comments, great article, with some transferable tips…
    Enjoy the ride is a good slogan.
    Many thanks for sharing.

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