Fear is an immense barrier when it comes to cycling and is the reason a lot of people refuse to get on their bikes. It also doesn’t help that we live in a society ruled by fear, where the media bombards us with stories focused on wars, crimes and accidents. We fear health warnings, authority and people with different beliefs. We live in a world where politicians and advertisers use it for their own agenda. It keeps us from our deepest desires yet fears are nothing but perceived threats that continuously play upon our emotions, while our personal experiences compounded with the influence of the media and people around us, cause us to over-think, get overwhelmed and let our fears and anxieties overcome us. Thus we end up sitting at home, paralyzed with fear.
What a shame, when there are so many great things you can do such as go for a bike ride.
If you suffer from cycling fears and anxieties, it is most likely a deeper issue unrelated to cycling. From my personal experience, I was never actually scared of riding my bike but after getting to the roots, I realized they were results of wanting to avoid certain emotions evoked from past memories and over-thinking (what is this were to happen? what if that were to happen?).
I still suffer from certain anxieties before a ride but I overcome them by reminding myself that once I’m out on the road, these anxieties usually disappear instantly. Other times I force myself to quit thinking and just do it. You can’t tackle all the issues at once but being aware, identifying trigger points and committing to a solution while staying persistent in your goals will get you miles ahead in your journey.
Here are some cycling fears and anxieties that I have or had:
Sharing a road with thousand-pound cars can be nerve-wracking … especially when you are at home thinking about it. After years of riding, I realized that while I’m riding on the road, those fears don’t exist— it was the over-thinking leading up to it that was the barrier and after that insight, my fear of traffic has completely disappeared. I now have complete confidence on the road (but not in a dangerously arrogant manner).
Not knowing where to ride.
Most forward-thinking cities are constantly improving their cycling infrastructure which covers the physical aspect of the fear but some of us still need to overcome the emotional fear. I still don’t always venture out to new areas by myself because I am stereo-typically terrible with directions but luckily I have some awesome friends that I can discover new routes with. Once I ride a route once or twice, I’ll have it memorized and can comfortably ride it myself. Again, I use to over-think and fear getting lost but I just kept on doing solo rides and realized that I always recognize landmarks while I’m riding. All that over-thinking was just wasting my time and holding me back. I mean, we have Google Maps and GPS navigation these days. It’s impossible to get lost. But still… working on this one.
Getting a flat tire.
I always perfectly knew how to change a tube but I never really had to do it until my 4th year of riding (super lucky or there were just boys around) and now that I’ve changed a few tubes in my lifetime, I’m pretty confident. I no longer get anxious about getting flats but I know I will get annoyed so I take precautions such as always checking my tire pressure before a ride and looking out for sharp objects. It still takes me forever though only because I have weak arms. This issue has gone away but I better get to those bicep curls!!
Riding in fall/winter use to get me really anxious because memories of super freezing rides are forever ingrained into my mind, even when I know the suffering is only for the first 15 minutes. The way I overcame this was by experience. Keep riding in all elements so you know what to wear and how your body responds to different temperatures, take notes and overtime, you will naturally develop confidence, since being prepared makes cycling a lot less worrisome. I’ve always advocated cycling in the cold so you shouldn’t ever let anything hold you back. It would be such a shame!
I love my pedals but I still get anxious when I know I’m going to be stopped at an incline because I still can’t gracefully clip-in on hills. I’ve done it many times successfully but the fear of falling from a childhood trauma still gets to me. At least, I’m aware and I’m working on it!
…Or as people assume: spandex (but it’s really lycra!). I am only joking about this one (since I think I look pretty good in lycra — harharhar) and although there is no written rule that one must wear lycra while cycling, some won’t even hear of it because they think it will make them look ridiculous! Well, some may if aren’t at their fittest (although who am I to judge and why should you care)… but at the same time, you can use that as motivation to get into shape because fit people look pretty fucking good in lycra.
On the contrary…
While writing this entry, I came across many forums and articles providing evidence that one of the best ways to overcome anxiety is exercise. So do you want to overcome your cycling fears and anxieties? Stop over-thinking, dust off your bike and just do it!
If only we all had a “just do it” mentality which for me personally, were results of living a health-conscious lifestyle— it changed my life and most importantly, my mindset. Whether you lift weights, run or cycle, fitness develops mental toughness, confidence, discipline and self-awareness and this changes your perspective on the world and how your mind process events.
Don’t let your fears prevent you from doing something as joyful as riding a bike!