Man Sitting Mountain Bike


The mountain biking community is a good-humoured lot, always up for a laugh. But I am going to get a little deep on you now. Growing up with the sport and spending the bulk of my formative years throwing myself down steep hills and churning up the trails has taught me some valuable life lessons that have stayed with me into middle age. These are the key lessons mountain biking has taught me about the wider world.


Despite how I felt in my teens and twenties, we are fragile and mortal objects. This may be obvious to many people, most middle-aged men and women can usually pinpoint a moment when they stared the reality of their own mortality in the face. However, nowhere have I felt this more in my life than my relationship with mountain biking. When I was in my teens and early twenties, “just do it”, was the mantra. By the time I reached my thirties it had to changed to; “is this going to hurt? Maybe I’ll sit this one out”.


When I competed in my early twenties, every time I came off my bike my mind would begin the meticulous process of analysis. Why did I fall at that obstacle? How can I ensure that doesn’t happen again? Where can I improve? This analysis has translated into every part of my life. I don’t dwell on my own failings for too long and I am constantly looking for something to take from every mistake. I wholeheartedly attribute this characteristic to my days of competing in downhill events.


On a mountain bike, trying to control everything can be detrimental to the ride. You need to give the bike freedom to move beneath you, trying to limit the bikes movement with your knees leads to instability.

Like in mountain biking, trying to keep strict control of every single aspect of your life also leads to a feeling of instability and like everything could go wrong at any moment. Letting events run their course naturally and going with the flow has taken me to new places, with new people, and a whole host of new experiences.


Struggling with a flat tyre or a tricky section of rocks and tree roots, ask for help. There will always be someone better than you who can offer some words of wisdom. Similarly, if I see someone at the side of a trail with a mechanical problem, I always stop to lend a hand. It doesn’t just apply to the mountain biking community.


I learnt this when I was 18 or 19. My old school friend and I were flying down one of the best trails I had ever been on. It was one of those runs where everything goes perfectly. The turns were tidy, I hit the perfect line, my bike seemed to be operating in perfect harmony with me. Once I had got to the bottom and screeched to halt, I turned around to my friend to clap him on the back and revel in our elation. Smeared across his new Accuri goggles was the unmistakable streak of freshly laid dog much, with the smell to match. It had obviously been kicked up in the flurry and neatly landed across his face. It was a brutal life lesson for both me and my friend about managing life expectations.


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Neil Watson

Neil loves mountain bikes and everything to do with them. He's got years of experience he is sharing.