You Got This

Don’t let fear stop you from crush­ing your cycling goals! Here’s how four cy­clists faced down what scared them most – and how you can do it too.

Bicycling (South Africa) - - INSIDE - BY JOE LIND­SEY, PATTY CHANG ANKER, LU­CAS EUSER, SYD SCHULZ

A large part of cycling is over­com­ing fear. Whether it’s of crash­ing, rid­ing in traf­fic, or walk­ing into the of­fice wear­ing ly­cra ( gasp!). To fully en­joy the sport we love, at some point we have to do some­thing about it. These rid­ers over­came their big­gest fears. Their sto­ries will help you do the same.

"I DREADED TRAF­FIC"

THE CAR BE­HIND ME GROWLED. An SUV ahead had just stopped and re­versed to par­al­lel park. I braked clum­sily be­tween the two, pan­ick­ing. “I don’t have a seat belt – or an airbag. I’m gonna die!”

At 43 years old, I was a novice, tak­ing a new bike for a test ride from a bike shop in the city cen­tre. I had learned to ride as a kid in the sub­urbs, but then my fam­ily moved into the heart of the city, where a pre­vail­ing fear of mug­gers and traf­fic meant that no-one in the area (at least, no-one I knew) cy­cled.

Fast for­ward to adult­hood: a born-and-bred ner­vous wreck, I was tired of let­ting fear hold me back. I live near a beau­ti­ful bike path, which I had avoided for eight years be­cause get­ting there in­volved nav­i­gat­ing sub­ur­ban traf­fic. I vowed to con­quer my fear of cars in or­der to ride the path. But now, clutch­ing my han­dle­bar and blink­ing back tears, I waf­fled on my res­o­lu­tion.

The cars had moved around me, but the bike shop was still one treach­er­ous block away – down a hill, through an in­ter­sec­tion where a woman was push­ing a pram and tourists were cross­ing on moun­tain bikes. I took a deep breath, pushed off, and some­how made it. Back at the shop, I told the owner, “I’ll take the bike. And learn to ride it.”

So I took some skills cour­ses where I prac­tised smooth turns and sud­den stops, and learned to shift, sig­nal, and scan for traf­fic. I prac­tised in empty park­ing lots, then on the road with friends. When I first started rid­ing, my mind was al­most paral­ysed by thoughts of all that could go wrong. But build­ing my skills was em­pow­er­ing. Know­ing how to ride well en­abled me to stop fo­cus­ing on all the dis­as­ter sce­nar­ios. My self­talk changed from ‘I can’t’ to ‘You got this – just feather the brakes, sig­nal, and you’re good!’

It’s been four years. In that time, I’ve rid­den the path many times, and fin­ished three triathlons. Rid­ing in traf­fic may al­ways feel a bit har­row­ing to me. But when I think of some of my hap­pi­est times – bik­ing to a pic­nic spot with my kids, or with my hus­band, or by my­self to the start of a triathlon – I’m proud of how much I’ve opened up my life.

WHAT SHE DID RIGHT GOT HELP The most pow­er­ful weapons against fear? In­for­ma­tion and a sense of con­trol, says Jeff Wise, au­thor of Ex­tremeFear:The Science­ofYourMind

in­Danger. By gain­ing knowl­edge and skills, Patty armed her­self with both.

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