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Desire and fear

I’ve never quite managed to get past the feeling. I know some riders don’t feel it at all, and others can’t deal with it in any way, and stumble away from the feeling instantly.

The subtle fear, the tug of concern pulling at legs and wobbling hands. I always feel it when I size up those jumps that are just slightly out of my comfort zone: the lips just that bit higher than my head, the gap longer than I am tall, the speed just a bit quicker than I’d like. There’s always that funny running-up-the-lip thing I do, holding my hands in front of me clutching my imaginary handlebars just to get a feel for the transition. The “Yeah, be a’reet.” Or else indecisively scuffing the lip with a shoe.

Then the push up and the awful moment when I sit on my bike and look down to the jump, the drop or the chute. When you position yourself there, it’s all too agonising not to ride the damn thing. I always wipe my sweaty hands on my shorts, try and steady my breathing, telling myself it’s only ragged from the sharp uphill push. Then I reposition my foot on the pedal for a few moments, convinced that it’s not quite in the right spot, cursing sticky rubber and sharp pedal pins. More breathing.

And roll. Worry and rolling, and thinking of staying loose, remembering the feeling of the lip, the suck of the transition…

I know instantly if I’ve fucked it up or not, as soon as I hit the lip. The stiff back or the flowing shape…

There’s always a short pause, a sideways contortion where the bike ain’t going where I want it, or else is gliding just so…

Sometimes I can bail really cleanly, ditching the bike in the air and running out on the landing. That’s always wonderful, because then you know the spirit of the jump, you can feel what the bike will do, how to ride, the speed, the pop. Or sometimes, it’s just cleaned nicely, or maybe hung up a little or nose bonked a touch too much, but it’s all ok. But it’s the hard thwack of my body hitting the ground that gives the real feeling. When there’s no air in my lungs to shout that I’m fine to my mate running up the hill towards me, when I feel my body, check it’s all there…

And always that subtle anxiety, the little moments of fear layered at every stage. Big crash or not, the memories of aching muscles and scabs and blood on my bedsheets seep through every time, melting the glories of pinned doubles and flow feelings. I can never quite get past them. I can clean it three, four, seven times, and still it can linger there.

Desire and fear, desire and fear.

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