In mountain biking there are a lot of different kinds of pressure. Pressure in your tires, pressure in your fork, pressure in your shock. As an instructor I talk about pressure in your feet a lot. A LOT. I coached a clinic today and yes, of course we talked about pressure in your feet, level pedals, yada, yada, yada…. I know! You’ve heard it! Even if you don’t “get it” or can’t master it yet, you have most certainly had it served up to you. At this clinic we talked about some different kinds of pressure as well. I am sure there are a lot of people around who would benefit from some of the things we talked about. So let’s talk about some other kinds of pressure that are both tangible and intangible. 

Tangible is easy for me. Touch it, grasp it, feel it. Plus, its way more interesting to you as a mountain biker, cuz you’re waiting for that little nugget that will make a change in your riding. Well, fear not. I have that little piece of dirt for you. But, we have to come to terms with some intangible pressure first. This is that “touchy, feely” thing that I’m not always so good with. I think women put a great deal of pressure on themselves to get things “just right.” Hey! I feel ya there! I do it to myself all the time. Sometimes it’s a good thing. We get things accomplished, we hold ourselves to a higher standard and it helps us become better in many ways. But, it can also be debilitating. If I feel so much stress and pressure that I am miserable when I ride, I’ve lost the whole point of riding!

Riding should be joyful, exciting and most of all an adventure! I want to leave my rides feeling strong, independent and exhilarated! I shouldn’t finish my rides feeling stressed out and like less of a person because I didn’t accomplish everything I thought I should have accomplished. Or even worse, everything I THINK, that the people around me think I should be accomplishing.  We need to remember our time on our bikes is glorious! It’s an adventure and most of all it’s a journey with NO TIME LIMIT! There are no rules as to what you MUST ride, or what time period. It’s all OK. This is supposed to be fun! So, let’s all give ourselves a break and decompress all that mental pressure. AHHHH!!!! That feels better… Got all that PRESSURE off my own chest!

Now let’s talk the stuff I’m better at! The tangible stuff. The stuff you can put your hands, or in this case your feet on! No, we are not talking equal pressure, or more pressure on the outside foot. (yeah, important stuff, but different conversation).  One area many women don’t understand regarding pressure is in their drive train. I know you’ve been taught to be light on your pedals when shifting. YES! We want that. But, that is a fraction of a second. Ok, maybe a whole second. And yes, I also know that for many women the physical effort of pushing a bigger gear is kind of scary. You are worried you won’t have enough strength to turn the pedals over. Or maybe you don’t think you’ll be able to shift fast enough if you need to.

You’ve learned that dumping it into your granny or easiest gear will let you sit back and gradually get up anything. I know its easier there. And that your effort is not as physically taxing. But, have you noticed when you’re in that easiest gear that standing on your feet and finding equal pressure is hard? Maybe you didn’t because as soon as you got to the top of that granny gear climb you kept your gearing there, dropped a foot, rested and let whatever would happen on the trail, just happen. Maybe you haven’t known there was anything different you should be feeling.  Or maybe you’re afraid of the effort, or the speed in which you might have to shift for your next hill. Then you come into the next little punchy climb spinning your feet, hoping to “catch up” and wishing you had some power behind you.

Well….really what you’re wishing for is GEAR!  Yep, gear… you feel this as PRESSURE! If I don’t have some pressure (or resistance) in my gearing, I have NO power. When you ride, do you often have the spinning out of control feeling in your feet? Do you often say “I would have made that hill (obstacle) if I had been in a harder gear.” Do you ever feel like you can’t stand on your pedals or keep level pedals because your pedals feel too loose? If you answered yes to any of these I want to give you a challenge that WILL improve your riding. This is a challenge… NOT pressure! Remember it’s a journey…. It takes time to make changes.

Anyway, here is my challenge to you… Start grabbing a gear when you ride. I didn’t say the whole cassette. I didn’t say 3 or 4. I said a gear. ONE gear.  See what happens when you stop letting your feet spin reckless all the time. Challenge yourself to make your gearing one ring harder than where you’d like it to be. See what happens to your riding. See if having a little more of the RIGHT pressure worked for you! And if it does…When you master that challenge, you can grab another gear! Here is our intro into “making a move”. If you’ve taken a clinic with me you’ve heard me say this and probably watched me jump up and down when you took control and actually made a move! Many women sit on their bikes and hope for the best. Let’s start making a MOVE towards our best riding. Grab a gear, I know you can!