Girls who ride bikes, no matter their weapon of choice – be it fixie, mountain bike, roadie, or some other two wheeled machine – are likely to encounter moments where they are compelled to ‘man up’. This can be a little confusing and challenging for a girl, who a) is not a man, and b) has certain physical and social barriers – both real and perceived – stacked up against them. I found myself in such a pickle on the weekend, contemplating a drop off at a local mountain bike trail here in Sydney, and thought I’d share my experience…
I peer over the edge of A-Line at Ourimbah, contemplating my first serious attempt at the drop off. I roll my bike through the motions, carving directions in the dirt of where it needs to go. My legs are shaking; my heart makes itself known to my chest, thumping like a tantrum. Commitment abandons me, and then returns, in waves of hesitation. It is at this point I long for bravado, for confidence, for ‘balls’. It’s not that I don’t know what to do – approach slowly, lean back and stay off the brakes – but rather that something else (fear perhaps?) is holding me back. There is no rationality to my fear; the drop isn’t that big, and requires little more than commitment and careful line choice. One might be persuaded, as many are, that this is one of the shortcomings of being a girl; but that doesn’t make sense in light of all the times when being a girl has aided me in acts of courage. Perhaps my fear is the legacy of that silly stack I had yesterday? Possibly. But surely there’s more to it than that.
Evolution would have it that my knocking knees and sweaty grips aren’t the product of my gender, or the legacy of previous stacks, but rather the result of something biological: Fear. Fear is, for the most part, a functional emotion. The unfortunate thing for us mountain bikers is that it functions to preserve life; not to help you do drops or clear jumps. To achieve the latter, one must bypass the evolutionary urge to procure safety, and instead proceed to scare the shit of themselves.
After much rehearsing, wavering and contemplating, I managed to ‘suck it up’ and successfully drop off A-Line. But I’ll be damned if I learnt anything about overcoming fear in the process. I went back to the drop off later that day to prove to myself that my earlier efforts were not just a fluke. But I couldn’t for the life of me conjure up whatever processes or strategies got me over it the first time. I guess I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’. Despite this failed second attempt, I didn’t ride away feeling defeated; just confused, and curious. What happened – or didn’t happen – that second time? I can’t say I have the answer, but I can say I will be heading back to A-Line to find out. While I may not always be able to call upon bravado and “balls” in the face of a challenge, I can always rely on my curiosity and commitment to keep on trying.