Getting your balance right. Secrets of mountain bike racing

Yesterday it rained long and hard but it stayed warm as we splooshed our way through the streets of Pietermaritzburg on our way to practise the World Cup course. It felt a bit like riding through that tepid foot bath of water you must brave before accessing a public swimming pool, minus the floating plasters thankfully.
We started out on a lap of the course to find trail builders everywhere depositing crushed gravel all over the soft, red earth in the hope that the trail might better survive the forecast weather. Consequently, our tyres picked up enough clagging mud to double the weight of our bikes as we ploughed on in an effort to learn some lines.
When we dropped into the first technical section of the course, hearts started beating a little faster at the idea of having to nail a 3 foot drop followed by either a gap jump or an insanly steep stepped log section. While all the lads stood around discussing possibilities and getting wound up, a calm came over me. I felt light and in control and knew I could ride the section with that certainty you feel when all your movements slot together fluidly and seemingly without thought. Despite the rain and the mud and the nervous boys I rode those logs that day, perfectly balanced in my body and head. I ll admit that the exit wasn’t too graceful but the important part was nailed and all because of balance. Not too much in my thought and not too much in my feelings but just trusting all those hours of practice that began when I started to take my own weight 33 years ago (that’s a lot of practise by the way).
Later that day, when the boys went off to the mall, I stayed to attend the birthday party of the 7 year old of the couple we are renting our cottage from. There, on their covered deck, with the rain teaming down and surrounded by small, wet children, birthday cake and cups of tea I realised that this was part of the balance too. To be able to keep bike racing in perspective and spend 2 hours creating involved birthday cards and pet avocados out of candles and physio tape. To feel light and in control on the bike takes more than churning out the miles and sessioning the rock gardens. It takes patience, perspective and creativity. If only half a person launches themselves off a drop off, inevitably they lose their balance. Its hard to remember all the time when you re out here and your job is racing but I m trying. With the help of a 7 year old.


3 thoughts on “Getting your balance right. Secrets of mountain bike racing

  1. Think it would take more than a beautiful avocado with candles for me to feel light and in control going down that slippery jumble of greasy logs.

  2. Like. Between beady eyed turtles and 7 year old birthday girls, you are becoming a very sorted and centred little racing gingernut! Your thoughts are infectious Lil….thanks xx

  3. Well Lee totally blown away with you most articulate blog on balance. Did I really have a hand in making you! You’re reaching dizzy heights of self discovery. Stimulating stuff. Yer Ma x

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