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Overcoming Obstacles

By Lowell Anderson

One of the toughest and most enjoyable things you can do while riding off road is clearing obstacles. Now it doesn’t have to be a jump, but most of the time, that is what you are doing. I personally love to ride moto, and because of that, I have to be able to jump. Jumping obstacles is fun, but can be very intimidating.

I have friends who don’t ride, but follow the sport quite a bit, which is cool. I am glad they like to watch, but sometimes the comments are annoying. For example we will be watching a supercross on TV and someone will say, “Why isn’t he jumping that?” I have to laugh because they do not understand what it takes to ride at a pro level. Those guys on TV are risking life and limb every time they get on their bike. And they make it look so easy. Let me tell you, it ain’t easy! I wish I could get all my buddies out and put them on a bike in front of a jump and just let them try it. They would get a clear understanding of the risk real quick. Obviously I can’t do that because it would mean several trips to the local emergency room and I would quickly be out of friends.

I ride at different tracks all the time and that means I have to get used to different obstacles. The jumps I attempt are much smaller in scale of course, but still challenging to me.  I often find myself battling with one obstacle on the track that I can’t seem to pull the trigger on, and that can be really frustrating. I really don’t have any issues not jumping certain obstacles anymore. I’m old and slow nowadays, so letting one or two go is not something I really struggle with. I do however get really pissed off when I can’t pull the trigger on a jump that I know I can do. Sometimes when I ride I wear a Go Pro so I can watch the video at home and show the wife and kids what I did all day. It’s funny how depressing  that video can be sometimes. Seeing myself pass an obstacle lap after lap and wondering why the heck I just didn’t do the stupid thing.

When you find yourself struggling with that one jump, there are a bunch of things that you can consider in your mind. There are usually two different conversations that I have with myself inside my helmet.  The first one usually goes, “Well there is that jump again… I don’t have to do that thing. I’m no spring chicken anymore, and I gotta work tomorrow.” The other conversation is much shorter and to the point; “You Pussy! Freakin hit that thing!” Now If that second conversation happens, that usually means come hell or high water the next time around the track I’m going to do the jump. It’s not always the best decision, but it’s what I love. The challenge to overcome your fear is a rush, and it makes the accomplishment that much sweeter!

Anytime you jump something for the first time, there is a sick feeling you get in the pit of your stomach just before you hit the face of the jump. Kind of like when someone tells you something really bad is going to happen. It’s a fear of the unknown. To clear any jump, the first thing you have to do is commit. Committing to something without knowing the outcome is one of the hardest things you can do. Scary as hell, and all you can do is keep it pinned and hope for the best. If you make it, the feeling is great. If you don’t, it usually means a trip to the hospital or, at the least, you are gonna experience some pain. Coming up short hurts! I seem to come out on the good end of the stick most of the time, but on occasion the cards don’t fall my way. It’s amazing how long a few seconds can feel when you are in the air and you know you are going to eat crap…not fun.

When you do finally clear a jump for the first time, there is a huge feeling of accomplishment that you get. The feeling instantly changes and a sense of relief overwhelms you. It’s got to be one of the best feelings you can experience. I guess that’s why people love this sport so much. 

Next time you catch some motocross on the TV, try to picture yourself really doing something like that. It changes the way you watch the race.

(Originally published  in Go For A Ride Magazine – May 2014)