The 3 Types of Riders You Need in Your Life

One of the things that has always fascinated me are the habits and mindset of successful people. While I have studied people as varied as John D. Rockefeller to Spartacus, I always seem to to come back to the philosophy of the fighting man. Something about pitting yourself in a physical struggle against another person seems to really hone your mental skills.

One of my favorite books on this subject is The Fighters Mind by Sam Sheridan. In it he interviews a who’s who list of trainers and fighters and while there are a lot of great insights, one quote from Frank Shamrock in particular really stood out for me. Frank Shamrock runs a training school and had a very successful run as a fighter before the letters UFC and MMA became synonymous, so he knows a few things about helping people improve.

“It takes three people to make you the best person you can be – someone better than you, someone equal to you and someone less than you.”

While Frank was talking about improving as a fighter, I would argue that you need to apply that mindset to the trail as well. Here are the benefits to having these three riders in your life:

– Someone better than you: Social proof is a very powerful psychological tool and seeing someone else do something proves that, on some level, you can too. You need this rider to help show you what is possible and give you the insight about how to do it. We need someone to push us out of our comfort zone and inspire us to try something new if we want to continually grow as a rider. It is all too easy to avoid good riders to protect your ego but you need someone who can show you the next level of riding and help guide your progression.

– Someone equal to you: This is your riding buddy, the guy that you know “if he can do it, so can I” in the least egotistical way possible. You need this rider to grow with and help give each other confidence as you both progress. However, this can also be the rider(s) you make an unconscious pact with to stop progressing – it can be all too easy to ride the same trails, the same way and with the same core group of riders for years with nobody making any real progress in the process.

– Someone less than you: Nothing makes you understand the art of mountain biking more than teaching it to a new rider. You need this rider to help you understand your art better and to give you a way to grow the sport. However, this is far more than just getting a friend or significant other to borrow a bike and come on a ride with you. Taking the time to instruct new riders on basic body position, braking, shifting and descending skills would go a long way in helping people enjoy riding more. Helping a rider figure out how to do something you know how to do is a gift to both of you.

So, I have to ask, how does your regular riding group stack up to this list? If you find that you tend to ride a lot with people who are equal to you (and most of us do), how can you seek out riders better than you and learn from them? How can you get involved with new riders to help them progress safely into the best sport on earth?

As the mountain bike community it is up to us to grow and progress our sport. Getting out of your comfort zone to grow as a rider and help others grow is the type of effort that we need more of.

-James Wilson-

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  1. Mark P. says:

    So true! Very well said.

    Reply • March 8 at 10:05 am
  2. RennyG says:

    I’d like to share with you that after MANY years of riding clipless and introducing many newbies to mountain biking with clipless I have had to do some serious “back-pedaling” since I have gone flats!I sure had a lot of explaining to do and discussions about the merits of flats – “Ya But you Said!” So far I have switched two of them over and I will keep on introducing my newbies to flats! Thanks James for giving me the knowledge and info to talk the talk and walk the walk! Three of us are very happy converts!!

    Reply • May 23 at 11:14 am
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      The way I see it, being able to change your mind based on new information is the sign of someone who is interested in the truth and not defending their ego. I once thought clipless was the way to go as well, glad my journey can benefit others.

      Reply • May 26 at 10:03 am
  3. Gregg Howard says:

    Interestly, you seemed to have nailed it this time, James. What was, what is and what will be… I find as my life’s journey gets closer to the end and I see That light at the end of the proverbial tunnel, I tend to spend more time dealing with the what will be aspect. Pass’ it on… Paying it forward…
    In my 40s and 50s I was wicked fast and delighting in setting the pace for riders half my age… In my 60s, although slowing down somewhat from the two back surgeries and emergency room visits, I still held my own… But the 70s have made me realize I will never be at the front of the pack… Not even in the middle most of time… But ensuring that the next generation and the one after that enjoy this magnificent sport we all love.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from stepping away from the single speed….That will probably come in my 90s.
    I’m taking a group of Georgia rednecks to Moab for a week this coming Sep. (73rd birthday)
    just want to thank you, James for continuing to challenge us as riders to be the best we can be… For making use that other muscle in our body, our brain.
    Your friend,
    AKA Old Man Riding
    PS: thanks for getting me off clipless pedals 3 years ago! Haven’t looked back since…

    Reply • May 23 at 5:42 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      Thanks for the sharing your perspective, Greg, and glad I could help out with you journey. Have fun in Moab, I hope I’m still charging hard on 73rd birthday.

      Reply • May 26 at 10:06 am
  4. Christo Van Smaalen says:

    What do I do if I always ride alone? The time of day and the days that I ride there is no one else on the trail. I always ride on a monday, that’s the only time I have to ride. Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks.

    Reply • May 23 at 5:55 pm
    • bikejames bikejames says:

      I ride alone a lot as well but you can always make an effort to go out on a shop ride once or twice a month. You can get usually gt exposed to a lot of different levels of riders on them. You can also take a skill clinic and get exposed to someone better than you who can teach you how to elevate your riding.

      Reply • May 26 at 10:08 am
  5. Q says:

    Great points. I tend to ride with equals or someone that’s learning I tend to shy away for better riders especially when there’s a lot of climbing involved which is most of the stuff around me , as I don’t want to hold them up. Even when I go with the betters , they always are ok with waiting. Well cept that one guy , he wasn’t pleased. Lol. I will make it a point to get outside my comfort zone to


    Reply • June 30 at 5:52 pm

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