Keeping The Stoke Alive - Pedal Progression


16 June 2021

Keeping The Stoke Alive

Stoked – adjective – to be “stoked” is to be completely and intensely enthusiastic, exhilarated, or excited about something. Those who are stoked all of the time know this; being stoked is the epitome of all being. When one is stoked, there is no limit to what one can do – Urban Dictionary.

I started writing this post trying to describe my latest ventures in enduro racing, however things quickly went off course! Instead I delved into a state of reflection about my motivations with riding and the things that led me to subjecting myself to the overbearing stress, pressure and discipline of racing! I joke, racing was not at all this. In fact, all of my preconceptions were destroyed. Racing was an all round super fun thing to do, however i’m going to leave that story for another day. Join me now on this spontaneous tangent, as I try to grasp the question ‘what are the factors of mountain biking that get me so intensely stoked, all the time!?’

Photo: Lewis Gregory @lewisgregoryphoto – Rider: Phil Simpson – Where – Southern Enduro, Head Down (QECP)

As a mountain biker, I’ve refrained from subscribing myself to one specific style or discipline in the riding-sphere; I don’t want to let my experience or attitude be defined by label or type. More to the point, I don’t want to miss out on something because I’m this way or that. To quote riders from opposite sides of the spectrum, “I only ride park, man” or “I’m in it for the KOMs” are catch phrases that limit one’s realm of experience, that urge me to up-sell the many awesome elements they might be missing. But nobody likes a preacher.

Don’t get me wrong, I mean no disrespect to the die-hard bikepark shredders or XC junkies, they’re equally as passionate as I am. They’re out, having fun, keeping fit so fair do’s. However, I believe variety is surely the spice of life. Of course we all enjoy the novelty and ease of an uplift day from time to time but learning to love a gruesome climb to a summit as much as an unpredictable descent back down might yield you a greater sense of adventure and a real appreciation for why we call it “mountain biking”. Hard efforts are always rewarded, as is your self esteem on overcoming those physically intense or technically challenging sections of the ride. It’s character building stuff.

Photo: Ben Vowles @bingobenbanjo – Where: Mendips Black Down

Riding has provided me with a rich lifestyle. Funnily enough, i’m not talking about my bank account. It’s soul food that nourishes body and mind and I’m sure you’d agree. If you ask yourself why you do it, some answers that spring to mind might be: “It makes me feel alive!” and “I do it because it’s fun, pure and simple”. Statements which have never been truer than when I’m on my mountain bike.

On a deeper level, I realise that riding motivates me like nothing else. I push to be better on the bike and so, a better version of myself off the bike: finding fresh challenges and overcoming them, setting goals and reaching them. I find self satisfaction in going out of my comfort zone, through confronting something seemingly scarier or riskier than anything i’ve done before. As they say, “life starts at the end of your comfort zone”.

Adrenaline is definitely more-ish but it can often spur us to do things beyond our limits. We’ve all been there at some point, right? Fracturing my ribs on a large gap jump I probably wasn’t ready for, was my moment last year. I misjudged it and over sent the landing. In a heap on the floor with the wind smashed out of me, I squealed, heaved and gasped for breath. In the aftermath, my confidence was knocked 10 steps backwards. I had to overcome an insane fear of injury that lasted for many months longer than the slow healing process of a cracked ribcage.

The nervousness and hesitation that got in my head became the catalyst for learning better technique and overcoming my anxiety. The crash gave me a harsh but fair picture of where I was at and renewed motivation to improve. It’s all part of the process and we often learn the hard way. Through it we understand how to calculate risk, manage emotions and weigh it all up. Knowing the difference between what’s fluke or fool proof, fear or excitement, confidence or recklessness – it’s an exercise in MTB mindfulness any yogi would applaud.

Where: Forest Of Dean – Photo: Matt George – Riders: Phil & Harry

Recognising your gains, whether big or small, provides a thousand times more serotonin than any like, comment or share. Get off your phone and stop scrolling (once you’ve read this blog) and get on your bike. It’s more addictive and way more fun. There’s really no feeling like that gratifying whoop of progress when you feel things click into place as you session a section or skill. Adrenaline surges when you land that scary new drop, or rail that tight berm for the first time and equally when thundering your way down an untamed trail in some wild place. Getting to the bottom of a gnarly mountain descent, or completing some serious XC mileage in the back country provides the same stoke you’ll get from sending your first double. You feel good. Really good!

Arguably the best upgrade money can buy, skills coaching is a great way to keep stoking the fire. Maybe it’s something you’ve thought about for years but for some reason, the material options on your arm-length list of bike bits to buy, still take priority. Riding faster, jumping higher and being a badass, gnarly dude are factors that rarely come from how cool your new helmet looks, or the reduced friction of a $200 jockey wheel!

In the words of my favourite local bike shop, “Shut Up And Ride”. How good you look and feel on a bike is so much more about the skills you possess and little to do with tech specs and shiny components. So it’s really not about what you ride but it’s how you ride that matters.

Through coaching, you’re challenging and willing yourself to be better in more ways than one. The process may not be the easy option, but the easy option is never as rewarding. As a coach I always aim to inspire and give confidence because I understand where you’re coming from and why you’re here. From setting a goal for yourself, we figure out what may be holding you back and work together to get you there…

I guess what i’m trying to say is: Whatever you love on a bike, do it more! Those aspects you’ve ignored or avoided, open up and give them a go. You’ve nothing to lose and everything to gain. The learning process is fun if you remain passionate. Mixing things up will unearth new experiences and having a positive attitude about the obstacles you face will help you grow.

Keep it positive, keep it passionate and with time you’ll gain confidence to overcome that next feature on the trail. Once you’ve nailed it, it won’t look anywhere near as intimidating the second time round. Your perspective shifts as you eye up the next challenge, which you never imagined you’d do.

Photo: Harry Griffiths – Rider: Phil Simpson – Where: The Quantocks




Written by:

Phil Simpson