Managing Risk to Crash Less

A while back I conducted a poll to learn more about how riders manage risk. The paradox soon became obvious:

Risk is an important part of mountain biking. “I've realized that some risk makes you feel alive, like you've accomplished something.” CW

But daily life requires that we reduce risk. “Now that I have a family and a crap load more responsibility, I take risk and analyze it a lot more to assess if it’s worth it.” KH

Yet if we are too risk averse our riding can suffer. ”I like to aim for low risk scenarios in my riding, but sometimes I feel as though aversion to risk holds back my riding progression.” RC

So the question of how to continue evolving my riding, while staying injury free is one that is always at the forefront of my mind. It’s a topic we cover regularly on my coaching site.
Here’s a brief summary, of this huge topic:

  1. Risk is inherent to our sport. It can not be escaped, only managed.
  2. Building skills can both reduces risk (due to greater proficiency) and increases risk (due to the ability to ride bigger lines).
  3. Knowing where to draw the line, no matter what situation (or who you're with) is key. Being conscious of your ability and acknowledging limitations allows better decision making. This is easier said than done!

Everyone has a different comfort level when it comes to risk. Checkout this video I shot of riding a technical balance line. What emotions does the thought of riding this line bring up for you?

There was certainly risk involved in riding this line, but because I’m aware of my limits I could do it in safety and actually enjoy it. I’ve spent years developing the balance and bike skills necessary for success. This is a good example of pushing the limits while managing risk.

A lot of crashes occur when people tackle obstacles outside their comfort zone. Often they are trying to keep up with mates or being egged on to “just send it”. The power of peer pressure is still strong as an adult!

"My most recent crash 6 weeks ago led to a shattered collarbone. 12 weeks off the mountain bike as a result. It was an elevated boardwalk with step-downs at a local trail I've ridden many times. That feature freaks me out, and most times I take the ride-around. It gets in my head. I was riding with friends, wasn't feeling positive about it, went for it and pumped the brakes as I went in. Not enough speed, got crooked after the second step, and went off the edge. Landed on my head/neck/shoulder. Result could have been far worse. Lesson learned - If I'm not feeling 90+% about a line, speed, a feature, whatever, make a decision early and stick with it. Indecision and panic led to this accident." AS

Sometimes you’re not feeling it, and that's okay. Despite (being paid to) riding bigger and badder lines my entire pro career, this steep rock slab at Whistler spooked me, so I walked it, despite one of my coaches doing it right in front of me.

I just wasn’t feeling it that day. Sure, I could have convinced myself otherwise, but listening to your body and ignoring outside influences is the key to enjoying mountain biking for the long term. It’s always better to live to ride another day. 

Thoughts, reflections, or opinions? Please share below in the comment section!

Ride on,


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