I must go down to the woods again

Einstein may have said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. The internet seems fairly clear on the attribution, but the internet also thinks that it was Marco Simoncelli who said “you live more in five minutes on a bike like this than some people do in a lifetime” when I’m pretty sure that was Burt Munro, or at least, Antony Hopkins as Burt Munro in The World’s Fastest Indian.

I am on holiday. Holidays are for having fun and trying new things, so I have booked two days of off-road training with the very lovely Jim Bryant of Enhanced Riding.

Readers with long memories will recall that 4 years ago I booked two days of off-road training with the BMW Off-Road Experience.

I didn’t enjoy that terribly much.

I hoped this time would be different.

I want to take part in the VINCE next year, riding the trails in the Spanish mountains. I want to go on  social rides with my local TRF branch, who organise regular outings as far afield as Devon and the Peak District.

Group training gets away from me very quickly – my learning curve is more of a flat line – so I thought that learning on my own would get me started and soon I would be trundling round the dirt with grace and power.

But of course, that was bonkers.

“Why are you so hard on yourself?” asked Jim.

Because ten-year olds can do this. To get used to the bike, Jim asked me to make a big figure of eight – left round a tree, down a gentle slope, right round another tree, back to the first tree and repeat. Four hours later I’m still trying to manage the left turn. On day 2 I could do it sitting down but couldn’t persuade myself to stand on the pegs, which is also bonkers because I was quite happy last week standing up on the lanes behind my house. We never got onto riding up and down slopes or bumping over obstacles.

I hate myself on days like this. It is, I think, a mental block. People talk about having a mental block when they can’t think of a name, or find their keys. This is something different, a huge, visceral, and absolute refusal.

Turn the bars and look where you want to go.


Stand on the pegs so we can do this properly.




It is my mind, it belongs to me, and yet it will not do what I want it to do.

This is disappointing.


Filed under Introspection

7 responses to “I must go down to the woods again

  1. pegmonkey

    Were you nervous? Performance anxiety? I know I'll sometimes look at a hill climb and not be able to talk myself into doing it even though I'm sure I can make it. And sometimes, if I plan to do something, like a wheelie, I just know I'll screw it up, and do. If I just let it happen, or don't think about it and do it on a whim, it works.

    I think it's best to not force these things. I'd say keep riding around the figure 8 for weeks (metaphorically) if you have to. You'll know when it's time to stand up on the pegs. You'll get so used to doing it sitting, then it'll just hit you. I'm going to stand and do it. It'll happen on a whim.

    I think it takes way longer than 2 days to learn to ride in the dirt.

  2. HWL:

    I am just as stubborn as you but I have a fear of gravel and dirt.

    You are so brave to take a 2nd course.

    Riding the Wet Coast

  3. I can't even do gravel drives! I think though, if its something you really want to do, you'll do it….eventually. Keep at it and good luck!

  4. Kids have it easier, they just do, and not think about the potential consequences. My off road experience is rather limited. I once had taken a trial course, and I also couldn't get it right, couldn't block out the thinking. The bruises I suffered taught me to stick with tarmac.

  5. Thanks everyone! Pegmonkey, I am sure you are right, I just need to take it as slow as necessary. When I learnt to ride on tarmac I had to spend a lot of time in car parks and housing estates, just trundling round. That's OK, isn't it 🙂

  6. I bought an F650 Dakar after only ever owning sports bikes. It was a revelation. Every time I can I go off to find green lanes and practice.

    Can't believe that I spent 8 years biking before learning of the joys of riding off-road.

    Just enjoy it.

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