The Mountain Bike Life

Since my neck has continued being a pain for the last few years, (compressed vertebrae), I’m riding less rough terrain and shying away from those fun tough rides that cause me trouble between my shoulder blades. More than loosening my grip and staying cool, I’ve had to enter physical rehab this past month to retrain weakened muscles and find proper healing working with a Physical Therapist before I can comfortably find my way back to REAL mountain biker, if ever……. So for now I’m riding super easy trails and seeing my P.T. 2x a week working out neglected muscles.

It got me thinking……WWHD? What would Hans do?

Since I follow Hans on FB, live in the same town he does, enjoy his tails of trail adventure around the globe and appreciate the work he does through his foundation Wheels 4 Life…. I thought I’d reach out and ask him how he handles dealing with accidents. He was gracious enough to respond right away though he was in Europe doing what he does best….riding killer trails like the true mountain bike adventurer he is. And I quote….

“Cheers Colleen, I’m actually in Europe until next week, I’m pretty tied up with an event the next couple of days”

…. but here is what he’d like to share with our TMBL readers.

“When one crashes, the first question is to ask “Why?”, if you don’t know why, then you have to slow down and rethink. But once you know what happened, its much easier to file the incident in your brain as an accident that could be avoided. You have to be able to know why you crashed to eliminate mental blocks, fear, and loss of confidence. Always look at mishaps and mistakes as something you can learn from.

Generally speaking, when riding dangerous or tricky sections, focus on where you want to go, not where you don’t want to go. E.g. when riding along a cliff, make sure you focus on your ideal line and not constantly on the drop next to you, otherwise you will eventually end up there.

Ride the kind of terrain you feel comfortable with, you have to be able to visualize what you are going to do before you do it. Riding dangerous and technical sections has little to do with courage, its more a matter of having done your homework. Its always good to master the basics first and one can even train to ride under stressful conditions, by simple imagination. E.g. ride along on the curb and imagine the drop to the street is not just a few inches, but several feet tall……(good for your nerves, and confidence).“

Thanks, Hans!

Hans just keeps on smiling. That’s confidence. | Photo: Carmen Freeman-Rey

Hans just keeps on smiling. That’s confidence. | Photo: Carmen Freeman-Rey

I can imagine he’s had his share of down time like anyone who chooses outdoor life over couch life. Injuries happen. But so does follow up repair time. It’s all about learning how to ride better and safer while not shrinking away from real adventure altogether.

One of my riding friends Karin, who had a wicked dislocated knee and torn ligaments on one of her mountain biking adventures, told me it felt like the end of the world as she lay recovering. It came at the worst time in her athletic life, the very pinnacle of feeling she was at her “A” game; that she’d finally arrived at a best level of fitness of training that took her many years to achieve. BOOM! She’s on the ground in a split second and it hurts bad.

For Karin, as for myself also, finding a P.T. who helps you get back on the bike, or in your running shoes or just walking without a hobble, will help you not only repair properly but fight the depression that sometimes follows healing downtime. There’s nothing worse for the active outdoor adventurist than to be inactive indoors. Ugh. Not to mention dealing with pain and slow recovery.

“My physical therapist team uplifted my spirits and inspired me to get back into shape and ride again,” says Karin. “The six weeks I was in therapy, reduced the inflammation so the surgery that followed could repair the damage. I was so depressed. But after I got stronger, I had a new outlook, I became more confident and stronger. I could not have done it without the love and support of friends and family and this great team of therapists.” Karin went on to place 4th in her age group, the following year, in a tough 6-week mountain bike competition called Over The Hump. She’s over 50, but definitely NOT over the hill …..THAT hill!!

My first biking injury that landed me in the E.R. Left thumb hang’n loose! | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

My first biking injury that landed me in the E.R. Left thumb hang’n loose! | Photo: Colleen Hannegan

For myself, my most difficult and continual therapy is a mental one. “Will I hurt myself again? Am I getting too old to ride down hills? When will I know today’s the day I’ll be stuck on easy trails from here on in?” For those readers and bikers who have enjoyed the number of birthday’s I have (born in the 50’s) and secretly share those same thoughts….here’s my well earned advice.

Ride as long and as hard as you can or desire, as long as you are having a good time and it feels good.

Take that last statement any way you want; life is made to be lived, actively.
And for those who love mountain biking, riding through nature is the BEST action thrill of all.

Isn’t it?

Be safe, and ride!

Next month Part 2: of Overcoming Injuries. It’s all about physical therapy…from the experts.

Crazy Daisy And The Return Of The Short Lap
Joining the Quilomene Club

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