Whether you’re an athlete trying to accomplish big goals, new to the scene and trying to navigate your first race, or just trying to find the best local trails and keep your bike running, it quickly becomes apparent that no one can find their way in this sport alone. One of the best things about mountain biking is the community you build through the challenges you’ve shared – and there is always something we can learn from one another. Then, why is it still so hard to ask for help?
“In the moment, asking for help can seem overwhelming, and maybe a sign of weakness,” says Liv endurance pro Serena Bishop Gordon.
It’s true. There are a ton of reasons why we might be reluctant to ask for help. Sometimes it can feel like you are wasting the other person’s time, or you feel insecure about not knowing or not being able to perform a task. You could fear rejection or have too much pride to reach out for help.
“When you take a step back and ask yourself, ‘If someone asked me for help, what would I do, how would I feel?’ Of course, I would be honored and would be more than willing to help,” says Serena. “If you can see asking for help as a way to learn from others, and to – at some point – help someone else, then asking for help doesn't feel like a weakness, but instead a strength!”
Gearing up for USA Cycling MTB National Championships this year, we set out to break down any notions that asking for help was a “bad thing.” Over the course of two weeks together, Serena competing in a 50-mile endurance mountain bike race at elevation, and the gravity squad racing downhill, enduro and dual slalom races, the team learned to lean on one another. From building bikes and making dinner, to asking a teammate to push your bike up a hill or help you scope a line, success takes a village. Here are some of the lessons learned:
1. Know your own limitations.
Simply put you can’t do it all. And even if you can do a lot, sometimes there is not enough time in the day! Be realistic and know when it’s time to reach out for help. You will save yourself a lot of headache and stress if you think ahead and don’t wait for the last minute.
“Although I’ve learned a lot in the last couple of months, I’m still the first to admit I’m not the most mechanically inclined when it comes to bikes,” says Dani Johnson. “I try and do as much as I can off online how-tos or directions from others, but somethings take a higher expertise and for those, I’m never afraid to reach out and ask for help.”
2. Build a support network.
The more you ask for help, the bigger your community will become. Reaching out for help is a great way to meet new people, make connections, and find a team of folks who will have your back.
“Having a support system physically and mentally has been super good to have, especially at big races like Nationals,” says Riley Miller. “Stress and pressure can definitely get to you but having others that care around you is always comforting.”
3. Be willing to learn.
Asking for help is not just about pawning off your problems on someone else. A lot of times asking for help is an opportunity to learn.
“I’ve learned to befriend bike work savvy people and barter for help and general maintenance lessons. People are more than willing to help when you’re willing to learn,” says Dani.
4. Be grateful.
When it comes to racing, or even just coordinating a group ride, there are so many moving parts and so many things that could go wrong. When people are willing to step in and smooth out the bumps, expressing sincere gratitude, understanding, and patience goes a long way.
“I have delt with a lot of bumps in the road during race weekends,” says Riley. “Learning how to deal with them has been tough. At Nationals, I kept getting the flat tires and there was a time crunch, I was so grateful for all the people helping me to try and get my wheel up and running.”
5. Return the favor.
Ask for help. Then seek opportunities to help others.
“A rising tide lifts all boats,” says Serena. “We all have something to share, and we can all learn from one another. If we support one another, help each other rise up, and achieve our goals, we all become better. Better bike racers and better humans.”