Bearing in mind I'm 50 years old, like other big kids out there, we still want to progress, to learn more skills, and feel like we're getting things right, or at least doing 'something' right even if it's just for fun, we still like to challenge ourselves. As a surfer you never stop learning, so why should riding bikes as fast as you can downhill be any different. Firstly, progression will help us stay safe, the more we learn, the better we get, the better we get, the more we understand the trails, the more we understand the trails, and importantly the less trouble we get in with our partners because things won't go as horribly wrong.
But when trail time is limited, how does pushing back up the trail help? Is it just a waste of time?
Firstly, be aware of your surroundings. When I'm riding my local trail in West Cornwall, its steep and loose, technical in places, and there is no choice but to push up, and in many ways I'm so lucky this far West. The trails are short, there are few riders living locally, and I can see anyone coming down so I can happily walk straight back from whence I came. Please bear in mind where and when you're riding, as you must only do this if its safe to do so, and please don't do this in a bike park unless its empty, walk up next to the trail. If you know others are riding the trails and you know you trails well, just be be observant, no one wants to cause an accident.
But now ask yourself if this is not the perfect time to reflect on the last run? For example; I don't just walk back up as quickly as possible, I'm usually still puffing my lungs out. On my steady slog back up, I'm checking lines, moving fallen rocks or obstacles, bending brambles and gorse out of the way; I find myself stopping and looking for better lines, I'll reflect on whether the last run flowed, and what went well, or not in many cases. I'll ask where, and how can I improve? But, at a 'not so nifty fifty', or if anyone is new to mountain biking, this is a great time to mentally build some confidence, and a little self belief by visualising the new or better line you would like to take next run. By looking for smoother, cleaner lines on the way back up, rather than more aggressive ones, this will help stretch a riders abilities by increasing speed but remaining more in control, and my word, many of us older riders need to remain in control, because for us within the ageing population, that big word 'RESPONSIBILITIES' crops up many a time I'm sure. To support this theory of smooth is fast, I recently heard multiple World Downhill Champion Greg Minnaar, say of the up and coming Canadian rider Finn Isles, 'if he slowed down, he'd be faster'. So I'm taking this worldly advise on board.
To make this happen then, the push back up can be a time for stopping, refreshing, resting, and breathing, but don't forget the reflection and how you can be smooth and fast. Spend a little time being mindful of your surroundings too, take it all in, don't be in such a rush, and remember we're so lucky to get to ride in the great outdoors, but maybe that's my age. Maybe it's this process that clears our heads and gets us ready for the next run, maybe this walk back up is all part of having a greater session, because short trails are super fun and prepare us for the longer ones.
The journey to the top for another fun filled run, can be as painful, or pleasant as we make it, but it can also be valuable as it's part of our progression to be better riders. Guaranteed, taking everything in on the ascent, visually recording all the trail details, will ensure that coming back down, with a new mindset, will be so much more enjoyable. Remember those little roots, rocks, or off camber sections you failed to miss going back up, are the ones that could probably bite you in the arse going down. Happy riding.