Mind over matter

Some healthy tips to keep your mind in the game and make you a skilled and successful rider.

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Tatum Evans riding ATV.

If you think you can, you will. — Trish Drinkle photo

In power sports, it doesn't matter what you are riding—success is quite often determined by your thought patterns. All the skills in the world will not aid your efforts if your attitude is one of fear and defeat.  Here are some healthy tips to keep your mind in the game.

Realize your fears

Everyone has a nemesis. Conditions that chip away at your confidence level create an environment inhospitable for skills development. Realize your fears by confronting them head on.

Sand was a huge stumbling block for me as a dirt biker. The slip-sliding instability left me almost paralysed with fear, resulting in an epic crash as I failed to navigate the terrain. After that, on each ride I looked for sand until no more was it a weakness.  Avoidance isn’t the answer, confrontation is. Familiarity led to increased skill, which led to confidence—to the point I hardly noticed the change from hard pack to sand on the trail.

Positive people

Ride with a group or a riding partner that is encouraging, welcoming and confident. It is contagious in a good way. The Negative Nelly or Raging Randy does nothing for your state of awareness, but leaves you mentally exhausted after your ride. Sometimes stuff happens: it could be breakdowns, stucks or navigational issues. No matter, a positive attitude is always an asset in any situation. 

I found myself lost on an ATV trip with some Honda executives as we were testing the upcoming line-up. Our guide had somehow disappeared, leaving us disoriented and confused. The positive attitude of our group is what saved the day, allowing all of us to eventually find our way back to staging happy and unscathed.


Seems simple. But in the face of fear, our first reaction is to hold our breath. This can be dangerous for many reasons. When we stop breathing we tense up our muscles, impairing our ability to manage the machine. Freeze up and you may find yourself upside down in the rhubarb. Breathing restores and facilitates mental clarity, helping you to make wise choices. 

I tend to sing when I am scared. It was explained to me by pro rider Dan Adams that the reason I sing is to keep breathing. When I’m really scared, my ditties are belted out louder than Pavarotti—confusing many spectators at our hill climb events. If you are scared, breathe. You’ll figure it out.

It’s not who’s going to tell me I can’t.... it’s who’s going to stop me

I love that statement. Now taking safety into account, the sky is the limit for skills development. If you believe you can you most certainly will, and do not let anyone tell you otherwise. No matter your age, gender or experience, you can!!

Keep a clear head

Alcohol does nothing for your ability to ride. Save the spirits till after the ride and you’ll ensure your safety as well as that of others around you.

Match your machine with your comfort level till you are ready to grow. A machine that is too aggressive for you will mess with your mind and create a timid, fear-based rider out of you. It’s better to start modest in horsepower and to grow in skill, rather than have a machine that overpowers you. Ride your machine, don’t let it ride you.

Armour up 

Helmet, body armour and protective footwear will help you to feel safe and secure, and perhaps save your life. Knowing you are doing everything within your power to ride protected helps you to ride with confidence and self-assuredness.

There will be days you feel off. We all have them. If this is the case, adjust your riding for this mind set to prevent unnecessary damage to machine and body. The most powerful tool you can take on your rides will be your mind. Use it wisely.

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