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Thread: Frustrated...

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    21

    Frustrated...

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    So this is my first real post, and I was hoping to get some input from other female mountain bikers out there.

    A little background: I started mountain biking over two years ago shortly after meeting my mountain-bike-addict boyfriend. He was really cool about introducing me to it, and has never pushed me to ride. We started out on fire roads, and after he built me a new bike (Giant XTC hardtail), started doing easier mountain biking trails. The roads, with no obstacles, wide areas, and no rocks were fine. It was after that when we both realized I am a complete mountain biking wimp.

    We ride about once a week when the weather is good. I do enjoy getting outside, going up to the mountains in the cooler air, and spending time with my boyfriend. For the last year or so we've been sticking to the same 2-3 (relatively easy) trails because he is reluctant to take me to anything else. Early on, he attempted to take me to some of his favorite trails and things didn't go well. I think he thought I would get the hang of mountain biking relatively quickly. He has been very patient and instructive and tries to explain to me how to get over obstacles (rocks, logs, waterbars), crank uphill, and go down steep sections. But still, I end up walking quite a bit. I get to a section of rocks, even little ones, and if I can't go around them on the trail, I get off the bike and walk it over. If the trail is steep, I panic and get off and walk down, even when it is smooth. Forget about going down a steep section and over rocks at the same time - makes me anxious just thinking about it.

    The few trails we ride repeatedly now have a few of these elements - one more than the other. After numerous times on the same trails, I have not been able to make any progress on riding the difficult parts. I always end up getting off the bike. My boyfriend does not harrass me about this at all, but I am really frustrated that I am not able to actually ride the trail after two years of riding, and feel like my slow pace is annoying to him.

    I really do want to be able to do these things, but I think I just genuinely suck at mountain biking. I am out of shape so have difficulty even going uphill without A LOT of breaks. I can't go over rocks or other obstacles on the way up or down. I can't turn switchbacks at all. I can't go down steep sections at all. This really limits what we can ride here. We also don't do group rides because I know my BF knows everyone else would just be annoyed with me going so slow. I have crashed a few times, mostly from not paying attention (and then there was the clipless pedal experiment). I flipped over my bars on a not-so-steep smooth downhill section because I reached up with my right hand to scratch my face and pulled the front brake too hard with my left hand - endo. Pretty stupid. We tried clipless pedals once - I would stop and fall over on my side every time. I could not get out of the dang things, even though they were well worn cleats and pedals from my BF.

    I just wanted to get some input on what to do or try. I have completely plateued and am not getting any better. I really want to ride some of the other trails here, and not have my boyfriend worry that I will be a major obstacle to other riders on crowded trails. Is it possible that some people are just not cut out for this sport, no matter how long you try? It seems from reading these posts and others that most people get the hang of these things relatively quickly.

    Thanks in advance for anything you all could help me with!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
    Posts
    4,367

    excuse me if I am off base here

    How is your basic mountain biking skill set - do you even have one?

    Do you have an understanding of basic body position, neutral/attack, body bike separation? Do you understand how to get out of the saddle and be a dynamic rider? Are you fearful, tentative, tense, death grip on the bars? Also, how is your fitness level?

    what you are describing sounds like to me like a fearful, tense rider without a basic skill set, trying to keep up with helpful but clueless bf. All the "you need to pull up on the bars and bunny hop this log" in the world won't help if you don't have dynamic riding skills, or understand that it's not about pulling up on the bars at all.

    Group rides.. there's not a slow or newbie or girls group? There should be. Sometimes getting away from the relationship dynamic can be a really good thing.

    I sucked for years until I went to a women's mountain bike skills camp that essentially changed my life. Where are you located, that might be an option for you too!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    21
    Thanks Irulan...Yes, I understand the basic mountain biking skills, like moving around on the bike, leaning forward, getting off the back of the seat, etc. I do have trouble getting off the back of the seat as I feel like I am hanging on by just the brake levers since I can't ride clipless.

    I am fearful.. of falling.

    My fitness level is not so good. After two years of riding it seems to have actually worsened instead of improved. I get out of breath quickly going uphill and have very little upper body strength. I am told that if I just keep riding it will get better.

    I don't know about newbies or girls groups - I have only ridden with my boyfriend. As it is, I haven't even been taught how to put my bike on my roof rack. I am in the Denver, CO area.

    My boyfriend, being the expert that he is (he also works in a shop) really thinks he is a good teacher. Everything he tells me is in agreement with what I read.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Location
    the dry side
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    4,367
    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox View Post
    Thanks Irulan...Yes, I understand the basic mountain biking skills, like moving around on the bike, leaning forward, getting off the back of the seat, etc.



    I am fearful.. of falling.

    My fitness level is not so good. After two years of riding it seems to have actually worsened instead of improved. I get out of breath quickly going uphill and have very little upper body strength. I am told that if I just keep riding it will get better.

    I don't know about newbies or girls groups - I have only ridden with my boyfriend. As it is, I haven't even been taught how to put my bike on my roof rack. I am in the Denver, CO area.

    My boyfriend, being the expert that he is (he also works in a shop) really thinks he is a good teacher. Everything he tells me is in agreement with what I read.

    fear of falling
    1. get some elbow and knee pads
    2. lose the clipless for now
    3. find a group/club/womens ride. it's good to get away from the bf every now and then.

    Lunachix of Boulder are supposed to be great, I am sure with shop connections you can find some other rides. It just takes the relationship dymanic out of the equation. if hes' the "expert" ( dimestore analysis, I know) there's always that pressure to do good to please them.

    You might also try going solo, just to enjoy the ride on an easy trail. And grrl, learn how to rack your own bike!!

    I do have trouble getting off the back of the seat as I feel like I am hanging on by just the brake levers since I can't ride clipless.
    I don't really understand that. You shouldn't be back behind the seat unless it's really steep. Many riders go too far back when they should be extended themselves up, standing up more. You should be able to feel comfortable when just standing on the pedals and holding the handlebars - how your feet are attached to the pedals in this position are irrelevant. Also, if you are too far back you lose control of the front of the bike.

    Anyway it's all food for thought. I've been assistant coaching women's skills clinics around here lately and it's a lot of fun.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Location
    Jacksonville, FL
    Posts
    186
    Quote Originally Posted by Paradox View Post
    I do have trouble getting off the back of the seat as I feel like I am hanging on by just the brake levers since I can't ride clipless.
    Maybe the bike doesn't fit you? Irulan would know more than me but maybe the reach is too far? I dunno, just throwing out suggestions.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    719
    I would suggest

    1) take a short mtb course.

    2) DO NOT let your partner teach you it can/does lead to arguing

    3) being scared is natural. see 1)

    4) what pedals are you using? i know time people using Time, tend to get stuck a lot. my Sister in law dislocated her shoulder her first year riding, because she couldn't get out of the time pedals..
    "The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."-Moliere

    "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." -Thomas A. Edison



    Shorty's Adventure - Blog

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    mo
    Posts
    706
    Do you ever go urban with your mountain bike? Nice long rides where you can get comfortable on the bike without worrying about roots or rocks and you can ride for as long a time as you can stand and build up from there? Urban riding isn't quite the same as mountain biking and I'd personally rather crash in the woods but it is nice for building a fitness base and spending the time necessary for getting used to the way your bike handles, maybe even popping over things that are very familiar to you such as very low (at first) curbs or riding off a low (at first) step or two. Riding with a group of other people below, at and just above your skill level also helps too. It is easier to relax and just ride if you don't feel you're the one holding things up, no matter how nice your riding companion is about it.
    Two years, schmoo years. It takes what it takes.

    Ride. Lots. Sing a few jaunty tunes while you're at it.

    Really.
    I used to have an open mind but my brains kept falling out.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2008
    Location
    S. Lake Tahoe CA and Marion Mass
    Posts
    359
    When I first started, I used to joke to my friends who introduced me to the sport that it was more mountain bike pushing than riding. We would ride at lunch behind where I worked on the NV/CA line and the first thing you would hit is this HUGE hill complete with loose rocks, etc. I was way overweight, but I kept at it. After one year of riding (alot!) and a knee surgery, I finally rode from the bottom of that hill all the way up. And the down part was just as pathetic, I was so scared...

    I didn't go to a class or anything like that, I just rode. Alot. I rode every day. I would visit my hill by myself and get as far as I could. I set little goals "ok get to the first big rock..." and I would see progress. If you are really going out once a week and for the warm weather, I would say 'seat time' is against you. It takes alot of practice to get even half decent, to where you build your confidence. And it definately builds upper body strength!

    I would ride with a group of people too and was soooo slow, I just told everyone to go ahead of me and I would turn around when they came back. Sometimes they would wait at the end for me and then we would all turn around. I think the main thing is for you to go at your pace, not try to keep up with his. Find stuff that challenges you and keep going for it, go on your own and ride it over and over and over. Practice going over small logs and build up to bigger logs. CO is similar to what I ride in Tahoe and Nevada, so I know there are some great places to work on your skills. hit up your local bike organizations (IMBA should point you in the right direction) and look at trail recommendations for novices. Also, are you shifting all the way down to the granny gear (the easiest gear) when going up hills? Believe it or not I was trying not to do this because I thought I would get stronger and tried to stay in the middle ring. HA! Hit up the granny gear when you need it!! And learn how to pace yourself-go slow don't try and climb a hill at some crazy pace!

    As for the descent, I have a really strange recommendation. Load up an mp3 player or iPod with your favorite 'kick butt' music (mine is techno, Beck, POD, and Better than Ezra) and put your headphones on while you descend. This gets part of your brain to just relax on over examining and getting bent out of shape of being out of its element. This is what got me to go up and down the big hill, no amount of cheering would get me to push off. It almost sounds like a crutch but for me, it worked. It got my mind off of screaming "STOP"...after that I told a couple of people and they tried it and found that they had luck with it as well (for snowboarding and skiing!). I know that music gets people through hard parts of their workout, so to me, that was a hard part of the workout.

    Lastly, is mtn biking really for you? Do you really want to do it? I used to think that running equated fitness. And since I wasn't a good runner and HATED IT I just sat on the sidelines. And got really overweight. I used to laugh at the guys at work because they spent *so much money* on their bikes...that's nuts! But they kept on me, talking about their riding and how much fun it was...and one day after lunch they took me to a bike shop and I sort of was curious about it, so I plopped down my $350 for a Specialized Hardrock and rode that thing into the ground. If your heart isn't in it, it's hard to really get good at it, because to me, you have to spend time in the seat to get that practice and stamina that you need.

    And a roof rack...can't you get a different rack for your car that you can actually reach? I have a hitch rack, there is no way I could reach my roof.

    There is my story...It is good that you are taking this time out to figure out what is going on. I found my frustration of being slow eased up once I just got out there and rode alot more. I probably rode every other day and one long ride on the weekend. No shame in walking either! I still do it when I am learning a new trail or...just because...I have some parks here that I go to that are out of my element and challenge me, so there is walking involved but the same thing applies. Set little goals and keep going!!!

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Southeastern PA
    Posts
    80
    Ok, you sound JUST like me a few years ago. I owned a mountain bike for a long time before I really started to feel comfortable. There are lots of different things you can try if you're really dedicated to sticking to it and improving, lots of good suggestions have already been posted. What really helped me get over that hump from "scared beginner rider" into "slightly adventurous intermediate rider" (haha, I'm not great but I do ride harder trails now!!!) were two things...1) being in better shape and 2) having a bike that I really like and worked well for me.

    I got in better shape by road biking and commuting to work on my bike. I am on a bike almost everyday and it really helped my comfort level...even before basic skills I think you just need to feel strong on two wheels. And if you really hate riding obstacles maybe you can talk your BF into becoming more of a roadie! for a long time I thought you'd never see me on a mountain bike again

    Then I bought my Santa Cruz Julianna, and having a beefier full suspension bike made a HUGE difference for me (lots of rocks and roots in the northeast!), plus it was a better fit than my old hardtail. Now I was strong and comfortable, and I've come a long way. But I think I bought that first cheap hardtail...shoot, at least 5 maybe 6 years before I started feeling great on a mountain bike! Just hang in there! I wish you luck, stay in touch and let us know how it goes!!!

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Ohio
    Posts
    151

    Talking You can do it, be kind to yourself, find women riders near you!

    As with the others, I highly recommend a clinic specifically for women, run by women! I did one and loved it and I'm doing another tomorrow!! The first clinic had men from the club as spotters at log piles, the rock garden, a substantial mud pit that was slick and near the boardwalks as safety nets to catch if needed.

    Ladies group rides are also great. Most are 'no one is left behind'. Some riders may go ahead, then there are some that consider the rides teaching rides and ride w/you in front to forewarn obstacles and ride behind you to guide you.

    This is a great forum, hang out with us. The tips and encouragement are awesome! I also belong to a forum local to my area (Columbus, Ohio) and also in Rochester, MI where I visit often. Colorado is for mountain biking ... you'll find women who have/had the same fears and insecurities about mountain biking that you have.

    Hang in there!!
    PJ

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Posts
    29
    I feel your frustration! I consider myself a beginner mountain biker (even though Ive owned my MTB for about ohh 7 years now!). My husband is an avid roadie but started out as a MTBer. I got my bike when I graduated HS so I could ride with him, and the BF teaching GF thing didn't always work out. I was frustrated, we'd ride and hed be yelling "SHIFT" and I'd be yelling "I AM!!!!" then fall lover sideways cause my bike stopped going uphill. I could tell he'd want to take off since hes VERY brave and VERY fit. Even though I was fit coming off cross country and track seasons, I still just. didnt. get. the. bike.

    He got me a road bike. I still didn't like it. The seat hurt, he told me to get over it, was very tough on the teaching. And telling me hes only going 50% while my HR is over 200bpm and I can't talk I'm breathing so hard was not encouraging! I got a new seat, learned some handling skills and now I LOVE IT.

    But for some reason, this summer it has ALL changed. I love my bikes, road and mountain. I've been riding at least 2-3 days a weeks, and if not riding I am running. I am going over the hump from scared beginner to slightly adventerous intermediate rider. You are very lucky that your SO has brought you on beginner trails though!!! I have always ridden difficult trails even from the very start (more like mountain walking/pushing bike). I went from walking the uphills cause I couldn't shift efficiently, and walking down the downhills cause I was too scared, to riding consistently, letting go on the downhills and pushing myself on the uphills.

    What I think also helped push me over the edge was to ride with my iPod once with some heavy music (metallica, bon jovi, rob zombie, etc). It made me FORGET about overthinking every rock, every root, every hole. Made me realize its not that scary and is a LOT of fun. It was after that ride that I've really enjoyed my mountain bike.

    I also have to say I made my husband sound like a jerk, but he's not. A big part of the problem was my attitude towards the situation. I was frustrated with not being able to do it, frustrated with holding him back, and frustrated with being scared of something. I recognize I was hard to teach and I think I've grown up a little (I hope!) since then and I think taht has also made a huge difference in just enjoying my time with my husband and my bike(s).

    ETA: the "turning point ride" with the iPod was also with a group of my husbands friends and his brother... I pretty much had to get over it because I am too proud to be a pansy in front of a group of guys. I think that helped too. Try riding with other people, its much easier to wuss out and be scared with someone who cares about you and you can be vulnerable in front of. Maybe that is backwards advice, but it worked for me
    Last edited by BlueVet11; 07-11-2008 at 08:20 AM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    21

    Thanks!

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to provide some input and tell me your stories. I will look around for a mountain biking clinic here, hopefully one for just women, because the way I see a lot of men riding around here is just too intimidating.

    To answer some of your questions - I think the bike fits me pretty well. We have been over and over that and adjusted things over the last two years. My boyfriend just put hydrolic brakes on my bike a couple months ago. He has told me when going down stuff to get way off the back of the seat, like you are sitting on the back tire almost. That is how he rides. I can reach, but with flat pedals, feel very unsteady.

    We tried the eggbeaters once. I did okay on a fireroad, but then we rode a new trail that was rather steep with switchbacks and I had trouble getting unclipped when I wanted to get off the bike. I would slow down but then just get stuck and fall over sideways. I got very frustrated so I went back to flats.

    I know I need to ride more. Time is against me there with a full time job and an hour-long commute each way. I don't much enjoy riding in town, and I've heard too many stories of road bikers getting hit by cars so I'm not that interested in riding on the road. I am a bit afraid to ride alone in the mountains, too. I don't have any other friends who are into this sport.

    My boyfriend always waits for me a little ways up the trail where he can still see me in case I fall or something. But I do feel bad for making him wait all the time, even though he says it is fine. He almost always rides ahead so that when I get to something he is usually up or down the trail enough that I am too scared to tackle things on my own, so I just get off the bike.

    I do use the granny gear ALL THE TIME. I know I am out of shape so the getting out of breath part obviously I know I need to be in better shape to fix that part. I would just like to be able to stay on the bike more when I'm not completely gagging up a hill... especially going downhill.

    I do want to ride... I just want to ride gradual smooth singletrack with lots of trees in beautiful mountain scenery... and that doesn't really exist here. Most of it is steep and rocky (it is the Rocky Mountains).

    We have discussed me getting a full suspension bike. I feel like I shouldn't spend that kind of money until I ride better, and more. But my boyfriend has 8 bikes to my one so maybe I shouldn't feel so bad about adding one?

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    Location
    Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
    Posts
    719
    its ok to use granny gear on climbs

    it drives me BONKERs when people think they shouldn't be...

    mtb is different than road -
    "The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it."-Moliere

    "Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time." -Thomas A. Edison



    Shorty's Adventure - Blog

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Southeastern PA
    Posts
    80
    whatever! I use granny gears on road AND mtb, and i have no shame, lol. (Going from a triple to a compact double on my road bike almost made me cry though...i LIKE to ascend at 5mph, I don't know why this is an issue....)

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    Location
    Colorado
    Posts
    21

    Clinics

    I didn't really find any half day or full day clinics for beginners in Denver/Boulder. There are some camps, which cost waaaay too much money and are for up to a week! (Can't take that much time off work.)

    When I typed "Women's Mountain Biking Clinics Colorado" into Google, the first thing that came up was the Rocky Mountain Urgent Care Clinic - for injuries. Pretty funny.

    I guess I will just keep at it. I think we are going to ride on Sunday.

 

 

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