Rebuilding confidence

I’m 5 weeks post crash that I broke my hip from, the physical rehab is actually going very well. I was back on the turbo 2 weeks post operation, doing easy workouts at ~ 60-75 max ftp with my physio and surgeon more than happy with progress. So that’s going well and I have no issues with the physical… the mental is another matter.
This ain’t my first crash, unfortunately, normally after any crash I would get back on the bike and ride the area I had my off just to prove I can and not let it get to me but I have never had an crash that forced me to stay off the road for as long (I don’t expect to ride outside until February/March).
I have found that I’m nervous at the prospect of riding outside, I don’t trust myself in my bike handling . My making jokes about I can’t ride a bike has become half hearted and full earnest and even watching CX races anytime I see a crash I get a sick feeling in my stomach.
I’m almost ashamed to admit I’m scared, but I am and I have a few months of this, I fear that this will eat at me more and more and I will struggle to get confidence back.
I know others have came back from far worse than me, so I ask what can I do to try and rebuild my confidence and reduce my fears.

For me, when coming back from a broken femur, it was critical to understand why the crash happened and then make sure I took steps to minimizing it happening again. In my case, this was borrowing a bike from a friend for a ride and not giving it the once over before using…

It’s hard and getting back up to speed can take a long time - don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

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Take. It. Slow.

Unless you are paid to ride your bike professionally you are riding for the fun of it, whether that’s recreationally or racing. If you don’t enjoy it then don’t feel pressure to do it.

You clearly enjoyed being on the bike in the past and I’m confident you will get back to enjoying riding. The fear of crashing does eventually go away. I got hit by a car almost 18 months ago and I’ve only recently started to ride as confidently as I used to. Don’t worry about trying to re-build confidence or reduce fears because it will happen all on its own.

In the mean time, be prepared to get the fittest you’ve ever been by doing all your riding indoors :wink:

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As someone who has the legs but not the reflexes or feel for MTB I’ve taken my fair share of crashes, some leaving me with mild concussions and my most recent last July that blew out my back for 3 weeks, I do find it hard to regain the confidence too. What I did last time is went back to the spot I crashed and just sessioned it over and over each time going faster, which helped me realize the crash was just unlucky, and kind if “cleared my head”

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+1 to taking it slow

How did you crash? I’ve found in the past that the nature of the crash has a big impact on how long it takes to get my confidence back. On crashes where it wasn’t my fault (e.g. taken out by a rider in front, mechanical failure) then I’ve had no issues with my own confidence, but obviously has an impact on nerves in a group ride. On crashes where I’ve made an obvious mistake (e.g. hitting a wet manhole cover on a corner :man_facepalming:) then I’m a bit paranoid in similar situations, but at least I know what I did and can avoid repeating it.

Think the worst I had was hitting an almost invisible oil patch on an early ride where the sun wasn’t up and the road was a bit damp. Didn’t quite break my hip but was on crutches for a week and not able to ride for nearly a month. That took quite a while to get over as I just lost faith in my ability to judge how much grip I had. Even in good conditions I was being overly cautious, in wet conditions and low light I was a liability for a while. Just took it steady, gradually extended my comfort zone, had to park my ego and go at the back through technical sections on group rides if I felt too uncomfortable and that I might put other people at risk by hitting the brakes. Though on the flip side group rides with people I trusted and could follow through a corner also helped rebuild my confidence. I reckon it took me a couple of months to fully get over that crash, and even a few years later I’m still a bit more cautious in low light, wet conditions than I used to be.

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That’s part of my problem I don’t know what happened to cause the crash, i was knocked out immediately and can’t even remember making the turn that I crashed at but I do suspect it was my bad hitting a wet man hole cover.

Many thanks for the replies all, think I’m just feeling a bit low at the moment and having lost my confidence in cycling too is a killer for me. Will try to take it easy, get physically ready and once I am able to, get back to riding outside and start to rebuild confidence to where I was.

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I had a rough stretch couple summers ago where I got doored on my way to work, then 3 weeks later went over the bars on my road bike after sliding out on some gravel inside a downhill corner. As others have mentioned, understanding why the accidents happened was critical.

I got doored in a separated bike lane (between parked cars and the sidewalk) when a Lyft driver pulled too far over and the passenger opened their door without looking. While I wasn’t strictly liable, I knew this stretch was sketchy, and know to be very careful where I position myself in the lane especially when I see a car that far over; my mind was just somewhere else. Initially I was mad at myself for not paying attention, and that really shook my confidence. Fortunately I wasn’t going very fast and was able to sort of control the fall and not put my face in the curb, but I was angry at myself.

As I was just a bit bruised (thanks to bar end plugs!) I was back on the road fairly quickly but was riding angry at myself. Because of that when a bit gravel caused my back wheel to slip out a bit coming down a hill at the entrance to a right hand corner I over corrected and ended up going across the lane. Hit the grass and went over the bars. In retrospect it really wasn’t a big slip at all and have recovered from worse. I was so tense and anxious to get my confidence back I forced the overcorrection.

I had to really step back and look objectively at how I could have prevented the crashes, but also forgive myself because even though I could have prevented them I also was able to minimize the damage to myself. It’s an innate risk in riding bikes, and all I can do is control what I can control. Once I got there (which took a while because I’m a stubborn brute) it was just a matter of slowly building speed and confidence back up naturally. I took the lessons learned from the crash and as I felt myself applying them the confidence slowly came back. I also did a few proper technique days on the cross bike which helped as they were at a lower speed and the impacts are very obvious.

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Try heading out with your friends for a casual ride, go and find some easy trails whilst chatting away and hopefully that will help you get over your fear or at least make a start.

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There’s a lot to unpack with mentally recovering from an accident. I also had a bad accident years ago and I’ve learned to better handle my stress and anxiety about riding. But often times that means riding indoors, even if the weather is nice.

Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with talking to a professional about ptsd and anxiety around coming back to riding.

Here’s a good article that articulates a lot of this better than I can:

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Many thanks for the link, I will mention my feelings to my medical team this week. Still got a bit before I cycle outside so hope that I get my mind in shape before this point.
Thanks

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I know where you’re coming from. About 5 years ago I suffered a catastrophic fork failure while tooling along at about 17 mph on flat pavement. It took me a long time to be able to ride without fear again—particularly on descents. (On the plus side, it was during the recuperation from that wreck that I bought my first smart trainer and was introduced to structured training).

As others have intimated, time heals all wounds.

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Like others have pointed out though, it comes down to getting back on the horse when you’re physically able. Even if it’s a gravel horse with flat pedals and a lower saddle, on dry grass, in a park…

It can take a bit more work though. I’ve acquired weak spots in my CX performance due to knocks to my confidence following less severe crashes. Some have gone away on their own. Others have gotten worse, like persistently avoiding hopping the barriers, and I’ve had to do something about those. Even if you don’t race, you have more fun riding around when you have more confidence.

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That’s pretty good advice–the first ride in the “real world” after I was done recuperating from my nightmare wreck was to clip in at a rented cabin and roll out onto a loong, sinuous, 50 mph mountain descent. :slight_smile: