“BMX is scary, straight up.” Lessons on overcoming fear from an Olympic BMX rider
Time to read 4 min
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'.”
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.
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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