“BMX is scary, straight up.” Lessons on overcoming fear from an Olympic BMX rider


Time to read 4 min

Anyone who rides knows that cycling has its hairy moments. Moments where a car whizzes past a little too closely. Or where you’ve taken a turn a little too sharply. As a cyclist, you constantly have to watch for pedestrians, pebbles, and general debris, all while riding at speed. And this is just speaking of road cycling. Get out into the mountains...or onto a BMX track and suddenly you’re having to push the very definition of hairy. Think about narrow descents through trees and shrubs, or jumps on a piste full of other riders chasing you down. These are styles of riding not made for the faint of heart. Something Drew Mechielsen knows all about.

As a Canadian Olympic BMX rider, Drew has spent most of her life on bikes. She started riding at the age of 2 and by the time she was 3, she was already racing on the BMX track. Blame her brother.

“I was so young when I started. My older brother started, and then I followed him because that’s what I did when I was little. So that’s how I got into it.”

What started as normal sibling modeling, soon turned into a passion and mission of her very own. At some point, Drew set her sights on the Olympics, which she accomplished (no big deal!) at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics.

“I was like, 'That sport is f—king scary.' And he was like, 'Yup. Yeah it is.' And I was like, 'Yeah, I’m done with that now'.”

Drew Mechielsen

In the sport of BMX, there are different kinds of tracks and races. Generally though it involves some kind of jumps, other riders crowding your space, and super high speeds. It’s intense and adrenaline-filled, even for viewers watching from the comfort of home. Skill plays a massive part and, like ski jumps, if you don’t know what you’re doing the consequences are big. For Drew, there were a couple broken bones, teeth too that had to be replaced (3 front ones to be exact). As she puts it, “Consequences happened. There were crashes, injuries. That’s part of it.”

Part of dealing with it also meant facing her fear.

“For the longest time when I was learning I was so scared. But I knew that to reach my goal I had to overcome that. I worked with a sports psychologist. We figured out some things together. But for me it was just trusting myself. And wanting my goal so much that I didn’t care.”

‘Overcome’ though, she says, is the wrong word. Because you never really overcome fear. According to Drew, it’s always there. You just learn to deal with it. And perhaps, embrace it too. As she says, you learn to trust yourself and focus your sights on specific goals.

For years, that’s how Drew coped–nay, thrived, ultimately making her dreams a reality in Tokyo 2020. And then, she was done. Following the Olympics, Drew made the decision to quit the competitive world of BMX. She recalls the moment she went to her coach to deliver the news. “I was like, That sport is f--king scary. And he was like, Yup. Yeah it is. And I was like, Yeah, I’m done with that now.”

It was a liberating moment. To retire from a sport that had been such a big presence in her life, and that had kept her slightly always on the edge. But retiring has opened up the door for Drew to evolve and grow as a cyclist. Nowadays she opts for the mountains and road as her new playground instead.

“I’m proud and happy with everything I did…but now it’s just for me. I’m choosing it. I have rediscovered my love for cycling… . There’s no specific goal. I just take it at my own speed.”

Of course, as an Olympian, Drew’s definition of goals is slightly different than the average person. While her sights might not be set on the world stage (for now), she has been crushing local races around her home turf of Vancouver, Canada, and continues to push herself in new cycling adventures. No doubt, we’ve got our eyes on her and are curious to see where the road leads her next!

Drew Mechielsen BMX Canada

Drew’s Tips on Overcoming Fear

Whether you’re BMX racing, or just commuting around the city, fear of crashing while cycling is a real thing. Truth is, no matter which type of riding you do, the stakes are high. The good news though is that comparatively speaking cycling is a safe enough sport. Government stats from the UK, for instance, have shown that cycling is actually safer than walking, running, football, and even tennis. But, if knowing that still isn’t enough to shake the jitters from your legs while you’re out riding, consider these 3 coping mechanisms, as vetted by Olympic BMX rider, Drew Mechielsen.

BMX is scary

Tips on dealing with Fear of Crashing


1. Trust yourself    

“I think that’s probably the biggest part. The trust in yourself and knowing your capabilities.”


Of course, a big part of trusting yourself comes from developing the proper skills. Learning how to take corners, braking safely, and even learning how to maintain your own bike for instance can all help in building your confidence while out riding.


2. Don’t push when it feels off    

“I don’t push myself quite as hard. If I’m on the mountain bike and there’s something I just don’t really feel like doing that day, then I won’t.”


Unless you are competing for high stakes, there is no sense pushing yourself when you feel iffy. Don’t worry about being the fastest or trying to make up time on descents. Also, reminder: no one cares about your PR.


3. Learn to embrace fear    

“Fear is always there… . You have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. I try to live my life that way.”


Up to a certain extent, fear is healthy. Learn to live with it. And let it keep you in check every time you set off on a new cycling adventure.

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