Two-Wheel Skills for Four-Wheel Fun
Like many others, I got back into biking during the summer of 2020. Why post about it on Everyday Driver? First, the guys are avid mountain bikers and discuss it on the podcast all the time. Second, if Ken Block is any indicator, mountain biking and auto racing go hand in hand—as do martial arts. [Ken, I also love all three! See you in the comments, okay?] Star-struck blathering aside, there are actually many benefits of taking up cycling--specifically mountain biking—if you are into motorsports. Our usual pastime, for one, doesn’t call us to enjoy nature. It can also demand we sit for extended periods of time, and science is showing how unhealthy that is. My love of the outdoors and passion for wheeled adventure led me to fix up an old bike and even to buy a new one. After a few months of pedal power, I can share some benefits that auto enthusiasts whom try mountain biking can enjoy.
Driving can be physically demanding. Anyone who’s driven hard knows this. It requires serious strength to withstand G-forces on track or bashing over a trail while keeping your vehicle right-side up. Old left-hand-turn jokes about NASCAR aside, you need to be fit to withstand the rigors of racing. Mountain biking definitely helps, as steep climbs and fast descents provide a full-body workout. Improving your fitness also builds and maintains sharpness and focus. To maximize your mind, you need a healthy body. Diet and exercise improve the brain/body connection, and it is obvious how a clear head and fast reflexes can shave lap times and keep you safe while pushing your vehicle.
Mountain biking can be scary. I crashed a few times this summer, and after each I had to force myself back into the saddle. I can’t say I enjoyed wiping out, but I was able to mentally replay each scenario to discern my mistakes. What did I learn? I needed to relax more! Like driving, mountain biking demands we follow the maxim “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Careful, deliberate inputs in pumping, steering, and cornering makes processing information much easier—just like with gas, brakes, shifting, and steering in a car. This in turn, helps the rider (or driver) to move fast and stay safe.
Entering the flow state, keeping your eyes up, feeling the machine move and react beneath you—sounds like driving, right? Mountain biking allows you to engage in movement and to express yourself similar to how you might behind the wheel. As in racing, canyon running, or off-roading, how your choose lines and approach apexes make each run exciting and unique. No two riders or drivers will attack a lap the same way. Mountain biking encourages more experimentation than driving even, since a bike can be more playful with speed and stunts. Trying new things with two wheels definitely encourages you to try new things with four.
Why Not Ride?
Buying a new bike and hitting the local trails helped me out a lot this summer. Aside from getting me outside and helping to clear up a pesky knee problem, it also encouraged me to push my limits. Being thoughtful about the three topics above led me to try a nearby bike park (plus jumps!) and to ride faster and more confidently. Biking more also taught me not only to think but also to feel my way through challenging terrain. Efforts to hone my skills and instincts are transferring over to my driving, and I look forward to learning more about your approaches to cross-training in the comments.
Bill hosts a blog and YouTube channel that lead him to think more deeply about what it means to drive. The views and opinions expressed here are his own and may not align with the founders of Everyday Driver.