On a bicycle you’re always looking ahead, scanning, anticipating, looking at the path forwards.
Your head is up, identifying obstacles, changes or hazards ahead, searching for clear space. It’s a very rare occasion you’ll fully look back whilst going forwards, it might just be the point you hit that pothole and get thrown off.
But have you ever tried it?
There’s a distinct difference between seeing the road rushing by underneath and looking back to see where you’ve come from, the horizon disappearing rather than becoming more familiar.
Mountain biking offers an even more unique experience. On the trail, in tight tracks, senses are on full alert. Rocks, roots, ruts, trees, twists and turns, and other countless features, Kangaroos even. You’ve got to look up and keep looking ahead, preparing for what lay ahead. Staring down at the ground in front, you see the detail but lack the flow required. You stutter and stall at everything.
Eyes up and you’ve identified, processed and anticipated what’s coming, you’ve given yourself every chance to be smooth and to act with the skills and abilities at your disposal. For most trails, there’s an obvious direction to travel, perhaps it’s clockwise around the circuit. If it’s a trail frequently visited, a ‘home trail’, the features become known and riding them becomes second nature. You become faster, more comfortable and confident, perfect timing and precision come closer. Your brain spends more energy on skills and abilities rather than assessing every trail feature. Much as shifting through manual gears in your car becomes subconscious, your performance on the trail similarly reflects less conscious effort.
There’ll be a point where performance on that home trail has peaked. You’ll consider riding it reverse and you do.
You know it well, the tricky bits, the features, the cruising stages, to your surprise however, it’s almost completely foreign. Unfamiliar familiar territory. It’s as if you’re on it for the first time. Confidence is high that you know exactly where you are but you’re uncomfortable, awkward, you’re confused; it should feel easy. Your senses light up once more. Going back the way you came, it presents difficulties you hadn’t considered or seen.
It’s like going back in time to the start of something else. You know the milestones, the easy bits, the unpleasant times and how you were at those points. They can be uncomfortable to live again, sometimes fun, but you understand much better how you got to where you are now, from where you began.
Going backwards or in reverse is a bit rough, but no less beneficial than going forwards and honing those qualities until they’re once again natural. The retrospective can help you see a different course, or enable the chance to realign thinking.
Keen for a shift in perspective, maybe take that tour in reverse?
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