Throughout my rather short but fully immersive riding career of the last 8 years I’ve come to realize a few things about riding skillsets and abilities. Why is it that some people excel at riding so much faster than others?

This is something that has utterly plagued me since the time I started riding… Let me backtrack a little here…

I was brought into this sport by racers and avid trackway enthusiasts. Perhaps that’s where my trouble started lol! These guys were’t your average run of the mill street joy riders, I mean they did that too, but they were all fierce and extremely two wheel inclined…unlike myself who had never even ridden a 4 wheeler much less anything motorized on two. I know deep down I’ve always felt inferior and just not good enough at any and all times while riding around my peers.

While this mindset immensely fueled my need to grow as a rider and constantly push myself to be better, faster, stronger, whatever; I now see it was a double edge sword. There was this burning need to constantly prove myself not just to myself but to others—I felt that if I was really good people would take me seriously. Without this push I wouldn’t have come this far, but it also brought me so much anguish, blood, sweat and tears. If you’ve been following my journey for a while now, you’ll know I always say “I posses zero natural talent. I can only do what I do because of repeated practice and working on my skills. Furthermore, I’ve come to accept that what takes most people a couple days to learn, takes me 100 times longer.”

This statement still holds true today…but I think I’ve noticed a shift in the last year with my thoughts regarding it. Instead of fighting my mind and wallowing in self disappointment, I’ve come to accept that it’s ok for me to learn at my own pace. I’ve stopped putting so much pressure on myself to chase a laptime, hit an apex, brake less into a corner. Sometimes you have to take a step back and breath, clear your mind. Constantly pushing forward and getting nowhere is only going to frustrate you and stun your growth…which is exactly what I’ve been doing for years.

I’ve come to notice that I ride better when I take long breaks away from riding.. why do you think that is so? Generally when I come back to track after winter I have only one objective—shake the rust off and have fun. No pressure, no goals. Generally I’m amazed at how fluid and in tune I feel…and shockingly my lap times aren’t slow. This just proves it that putting too much pressure on yourself to perform is detrimental to progress.

So how do we balance wanting to progress and set goals without putting so much pressure on ourselves that we get on the struggle bus? I get asked often by fellow female riders especially, how to get to that next level of riding, how to break out of the conservative mindset and ride “better”. Simply put, it’s all in your mindset once you learn the proper skills. I’ve been training so hard for years that the skillsets are embedded in me, I do things on the bike without even knowing I do them, everything just flows, is natural. But what’s holding me back is my mind. And that is the major difference between a rider that progresses and one that keeps hitting plateaus.

Training the mind to just ride and not overthink is just as important as learning proper advanced riding skills from professionals. I can’t stress this enough.

And furthermore there’s a fine line between “reckless eff-it mode” and “let’s just push a little bit more to see where this gets us”. This is completely different for every individual and therefore it’s important to dig deep down and figure out what your limits are. Learning to become in tune with your senses and trusting your skills is absolutely paramount here.

To illustrate this, last season I finally went from feeling uncertain while riding, to having fun… Now lets get something straight, I’m always having fun regardless. And maybe I’m a sadist because even when I’m failing, I’m still having fun deep down because I’m pushing towards my goal and I do it because I’m passionate. However, last year was the first time I broke free of the concern and uncertainty—both on street and on track. I stopped worrying about crashing (you can not ride with certainty if you are scared of crashing, end of story). The second you let your mind wander to crashing, you’ve let you fear control you and stopped focusing. I stopped overthinking and overanalyzing while riding, and as a result I stopped fearing. On the street I started trusting in my skills; in myself. The mind is the most powerful thing in your arsenal—you become what you truly believe deep down.

Soooo, if you want to truly progress in your riding, invest in learning proper skillsets that will not only make you a faster rider, but a safer one. When you commit these lessons to mind and body, work on freeing your thoughts.

While some riders are blessed with innate abilities and natural talent, a majority of us have to work through our worst fears sometimes. Don’t let them stop you. Try things in a controlled environment (like at trackdays or advanced riding courses) so that if you fail you have mitigated damage, have a good cry if you need to, pick yourself up and push on forward. When we get hurt we start to wrap ourselves in a mental cocoon. But this is just fear edging into our mind and controlling us. That spike of adrenaline that almost makes you throw up because you realize you almost died; learn to get through that. Learn from it but don’t let it stun you mentally. I promise you, the less you fear the easier it gets until you get to that next hurdle.

These realizations are of course my own and like I said everyone is different. But I’d be willing to bet that there are other people out there that are on the same boat as me. So to you I say, first and foremost surround yourself with skilled and knowledgable riders that are willing to take you under their wing and look after you. While riding is a solitary state, you should not be alone in the learning process. Trust the advice of seasoned veterans and actual coaches (take what you read from others on social media with a grain of salt). And most importantly, believe in yourself. If I can do this, so can you!