Inside the Flatlander’s Mind: Overcoming Riders Block.

Intro/Article: Effraim.
Photos: Bobby Carter, Kai Kuusisto, Alicja Korbinska, Tom Sevisual, Keith Mulligan.

All so often we only see the polished finished article, we turn up as riders at a contest and amazing riding, and flawless runs, or we see a “Must Watch” edit here on Flatmattersonline. What we don’t see is the blood, sweat, tears and psychological games that riders struggle with behind the scenes. I have faced this quite often over my riding career, and when it comes, it tells me “it’s time to switch things up”.
Every rider is different and that is one of multitude of things that we all love about flatland. I found something as simple in concept as learning something with bars forwards or backwards, learn something opposite or sometimes ride a different spot than I normally would. I have this saying in flatland, “learn everything you can, there are no bad tricks to learn, as flatland will catch up and bite you on the ass when you need that trick the most. I wondered about what other riders do to overcome this natural process of riding flatland over the years. ”

I caught up with a few pros that I hand picked off the top of my head and asked the question:

Everyone has a point where they don’t feel like progressing like they should or not creating like they should. How do you do you deal with it, do you have any tips for riders experiencing this?

Peter Olsen:
Probably every rider will feel like their progression or something about their riding just isn’t where they want it to be at some point in time. If I had any tips for other riders experiencing this I would try to first think about what’s actually holding you back and be honest with yourself about how to improve. For me, it’s usually either my mind isn’t into it, my body isn’t in shape, I’m not able to ride enough or I’ve been following certain concepts too long so I’m bored/over it. Or some combination of those things. If I’m mentally into riding, in good enough shape, riding a lot and on a path in riding where there’s a lot of fun new tricks/concepts to learn that’s ideal for me. If one of those things are off then everything is a bit out of whack then I have to figure out the best way to remedy based on what’s lacking. In my opinion, I think a lot of riders get stuck at different points if they’re bored of their current tricks but are maybe too scared to drop their old tricks for a while to work on some new stuff that perhaps they need to put work into in order to be able to do what they want with them. The flip side is that once you learn a couple pieces of a new style or a new position then so many doors open up which in turn makes you want to ride more. What’s amazing about some riders is that you can see them do this from time to time to really push themselves in new ways, I think Martti is a great example as he’s probably pushed himself into new territory to create really cool new shit more than just about anyone I can think of – he could have stuck within his comfort zone and only built on his contest riding but he didn’t that’s why he’s one of the most creative and progressive riders ever.

Viki Gomez:
Sometimes the progressive path seems regressive. But if you have the anger to learn something new everyday , maybe something so small and insignificant, then eventually something new will come. Be patient and enjoy everyday on your bike. If not, don’t ride.
This is the beauty of BMX that it is so wide and infinite that there is always something new to learn. So when creativity is not there, then use the technique of learning something new as a tool that will lead you again to some creativity. I have a lot of different tricks and styles because not all the tricks work everyday. Every single day is different. If so, how the tricks can be the same everyday? Don’t fall into routine because it is unnatural. Maybe ask yourself: Are you riding to go deeper in your soul and have Flatland as a life experience for your own personal journey ? Or are you riding to eventually show what you have learned to a surrounded group of clapping people ? Or to be in a video and look for feedback or comments? I ride because I love it. It has become my job. I constantly have to show it in both videos, shows and contests. But this is not the reason why I ride and it never has been. In fact I am a very shy person. At least this is my experience and I am happy when I ride and it has been 22 years of happiness already which I am so thankful for. Thanks for reading and enjoy riding!
And thanks for this article FM!

Scott Powell:
First of all…. Everyone, including myself is forgetful.
A way to prevent riders block begins days, weeks or even months earlier
How many times have you been riding, trying something new and vaula… A new idea for a trick pops in your head.
Or you are riding with a friend trying your own tricks and he says.. Hey why don’t you try this, or can you do this? Or oh I thought you were trying this…..
At that point you might say.. Oh it is possible and would be a good trick.. But you are so focused on what you are trying that you say in a bit after this one
And before you know it.. That new idea drifts off into the abyss
I keep a note pad with me, and when one of those times happen… I write the new idea down
On a short period of time you will collect a long list of new ideas to work on at some future point
Other times that new ideas will come to you or just an awesome trick you think would be great to do are when you are riding with guys… See something in an edit, or actually have a dream about it.
Always write them down…. That long list will probably double!
Next…. Sometimes you just don’t feel like riding or feel like you are stuck in a rut…. I rarely fall into this rut because I have several bikes.. All very similar but with very different purposes
Traditional bike, brakeless bike, direct drive bike, front wheel pedaler and rear wheel pedaler bike.
These different set up always have me trying widely different tricks which involves very different skill sets.
Working on such an array of skill sets will keep any rider so occupied that they will probably burn out before they get riders block because they will have so many tricks and ideas running through their head that they just will not experience block
Over load possibly. But not block.

James White:
Never force it. You can’t go out saying, I’m gonna create something new. Just let it happen, do whatever feels fun at the time. Doesn’t matter if it’s old or new. New things will only come if your having fun.

Terry Adams:
I believe sometimes you need to just go out and be proud of what you have accomplished on your bike up until that point. Riding flatland takes so much time, talent, and dedication that even some of the most basic tricks can give you a feeling of satisfaction. Sometimes I love to just go out riding with that in mind, Flatland is about creating and progressing but it is also about having fun. Do not let “not progressing” get in the way of why you starting BMX in the first place. it was because you wanted to know what it felt like to be able to ride a bike in all these crazy positions and feel free from the outside world. That is what did it for me anyway. So I always keep this in mind.

Pete Brandt:
Interesting subject, I actually have not felt like this because I always have something in my mind that I would like to do. Kind of like when learning a new trick I think of possibilities of thinking of what is to follow after I get the trick down. I will say coming up with new tricks at a rapid rate varies. Sometimes for me one small connects could open up the flood gates for new tricks and possibilities. I think, because of that reason it never gets old for me.

Sebastian Grubinger:
Yes when I have the feeling that nothing moves forward. It happens way too often!
Usually when it’s like that I just try to take it easy. Sometimes I take days off until I get really hungry again or I go out and just roll around. Wherever. Not even on the spot, not thinking about any special trick. Just playing like a kid on the bike.

I’m sure there is no time without progress. Sometimes I feel it more, sometimes less. But whatever I do on my bike, it helps to progress.
I like to fool around with ideas that seem impossible or far away. I also love to try tricks switch, in another direction or practice basics I never did before. But the most important thing is to have fun. That’s why I started BMX and that’s why I still ride.

Martti Kuoppa:
I need to speak from my experiences years ago and how I used to deal with stuff like that. Earlier I was not very good at dealing with any of that stuff. I would get angry, frustrated and depressed because I could not get consistent enough, I could not come up with new tricks and so on. It all became a vicious circle when the depression and anger kept me away from creating new tricks and having that natural flow to my consistency. See, the vicious circle works like that. First I would get angry, depressed, etc. for not learning quick enough, then having all those “negative” emotions keeping me down there kept me away from coming up with anything new and the clouds above just got darker. I spendt most of my “pro career” in such emotions and then I always took a break from riding to realize why I want to continue riding anyway. So, after I relaxed and got in touch with my roots I then begun being productive again. And story goes on over and over again until I realized none of that stuff actually matters and what matters is that being okay about not being productive, being okay not being progressive and being okay about failures in general. That is when everything switched into something very different in my life and progression itself got a whole new meaning in my life.

However, if there is a tip I want to share it is, that just ride a lot and learn as many tricks as possible and don´t force yourself to do anything. The best ideas comes out from your intuitive mind when they are ready to come out. And usually it works the best when the stress is gone. However, to be able to work with intuition like that, it takes many years of very fundamental practice.

John Yull:
I feel very lucky as I don’t think I have a problem with the creativity side of things. I always have a long list of ideas. Maybe that’s point one – always use the Notes app and add ideas as they come to you. I drive a lot for my job and my mind is always thinking of ideas. I keep my phone next to the bed and will sometimes wake up with an idea and add it in. Another big one for me is to never shut down a possibility from a mistake. Many times I have messed up a trick or the bike has gone a different way and I feel a natural path occur. Take that path. You may waste a session or you may come up with the best trick you have ever done.

This one is my worst enemy……. Know when to take a break from a trick!!! My style of riding is to show up to the spot and immediately start on what I am going for and keep going till I pull it. I don’t care about anything else. I’m 150% OCD. I pick the spot, the camera angle, and work till its done. This has been 5 minutes or 5 weeks. It usually takes someone else to push me to take a break. Usually Todd Carter or Martti. In my mind once you start your body learning something its pointless to stop and lose that momentum. But what happens is you start mind fucking yourself by changing slight things hoping it will help you. Like move your hand slightly down the grip, adjust your foot position, boost slightly slower or faster. The list goes on and on. WHEN THIS HAPPENS WALK AWAY. Go to the next trick. Sometimes when you do this you find a better trick or a better path that works or that next trick helped you find the missing part you needed. BUT this all goes out the window, when you are racing toward a MOC deadline.

Mix up your schedule if possible. Get up at sunrise and surprise your bike. For MOC I would try and do a sunrise session and evening session every Saturday and Sunday.
Take days off. I don’t understand that concept, but I hear it works…..

Thanks for reading everyone, hope you enjoyed this insight into something that is not often talked about!

39 thoughts on “Inside the Flatlander’s Mind: Overcoming Riders Block.

  1. Awesome read!

    I think all of us have had this issues sometimes. Frustration can appear and is hard to let it go. Of course there is a path we try to create, the way of riding we dream of, or the tricks that we want to learn, but not everyday is a good day for that.

    After all these years of riding I understood what I already knew when I started riding, and its the fact that I love learning. Even the most stupid trick has some kind of joy. And that’s the joy that keeps me riding.

    • This is a big part of what I want to cover with FM! These kind of issues are not talked about and I hope articles like this will become a reference point for Riders on the future.

  2. This is a great article. I like these “in the minds of practitioners” pieces.

    Prasheel and I have text conversations about prankers’ block. I feel that openly sharing our methods with one another has really helped us both progress. Definitely a great thing to have on The Interwebs.

  3. One of the most interesting and common subjects among flatlanders (and probably artists/athletes in general). Great insight on how one can reestablish clarity when the mind is confused with false motives and desires.

      • “if there is a tip I want to share it is, that just ride a lot and learn as many tricks as possible and don´t force yourself to do anything. The best ideas comes out from your intuitive mind when they are ready to come out. And usually it works the best when the stress is gone. However, to be able to work with intuition like that, it takes many years of very fundamental practice.”

        Great insight from Martti, this is so very true.

  4. Interesting ideas. Martti you he said on mental health a little bit. Maybe the need to ride otherwise we feel ‘worthless’ is a big problem. Feeling stuck could be a consequence of many things. Either wah it’s a shitty feeling, because riding shouldn’t be the way that you ‘unstick’ yourself from the repetitition of everyday life.

    In terms of not progressing, the biggest problem I see is that a lot of good riders try to maintain a dialled contest routine. They get stuck in it to the point where they can’t even do any of the tricks separately outside of their combos. Then their progression is only ever to the next ‘logical’ trick.

    Regarding that, it’s hard to break away and say “ok I’m not doing any of those tricks anymore”. You’ve worked so hard! You can’t just give it all up right? I think it helps to have a rule and go with it 100% for a few months. Like don’t touch the seat, just backwheel, no scuff, no pump etc. I kind of picked that up from riders that I like. Riders like Pete.

    • @Paul – Contest riding is a big part of it, like you say that is hard spending long time on something just throw it away. And if you like most of the riders that “do” original tricks stay with those tricks for years. Like Peter said, Martti for many years seemed to continue and continue pushing, but behind the scenes really struggled with this. On the surface it does not look like that, thats why subjects such as this are so good to talk about and we can all learn from them.

  5. First off, a great read! That being said, we tend to be our own worst enemy when it comes to flatland. I’ve gotten so focused on a trick, then frustrated at not being able to pull it, and allowed it to become a vicious cycle. Since flat riders mostly ride alone, it’s even harder to vent our frustrations. I’m glad this article came about. Although I know other riders go through this mental block, it’s nicer to actually have it in the open for actual discussion.

  6. WOW , was JUST thinking / going through this last sunday in the garage ! Viki / James , to me, explained it the way I had to start looking at sessions 4 months ago , DONT plan ANYTHING for sessions , freestyle with it . Whenever I try and FORCE progression , even small bits of it…………it just WONT happen…….I’m talking trying a trick over and over…… for over an hour ! Taking slams , not getting ANYWHERE close to it at all , HAHAHAHA !! Lately just going with the flow , letting any progression happen ……NATURALLY , on its OWN , then , and ONLY then will I learn / improve anything , even small little things !! Ive learned the hard way…….DONT plan , just ride , FREEstyle with it , let it happen ……when your MIND naturally HAS to have it !! REALLY great content , BIG E !!!!

    • It’s so easy Rodney to get yourself into a rut and find yourself just doing the same tricks everyday. Which is fine, I did this a few years ago when I was training consistency. What I did find was it was easier to progress with certain ideas when you were very consistent at certain moves, thats obvious of course. But like this article, the obvious is not talked about. You have so much skill Rodney, the world is yours.

  7. On the flip side to it………………………….SOMETIMES those sessions of NOT pulling ANYTHING……………trying a trick for hours , taking slams , NOT coming close to it , EVEN when my progression bug hits ………THOSE sessions can be an EXTREME high , and REALLY intense in a GOOD way !!! Chasing a trick ……….RELENTLESSLY trying to get close to pulling it……….just ONCE can be SUCH A RUSH , like as MUCH of a rush as a session when youre just ON IT !! When my mind IS ready to go into progression mode…………..the chase begins……………..and WONT stop………..177 FAILED attempts ……….1 time PULLED ………sweep the garage , get some food , watch flatland videos on this site, call it a night !!!! AGAIN , RAD subject matter , BIG E !!!!

  8. Really feeling Scott Powell’s thought on a multiple bike set up. It makes everything much more fun endlessly with so many possibilities and it surely open up so many doors. At the same time, it does help the small industry to grow a bit if a multiple set up is a norm to most people.

    Scott Powell’s note pad and John Yull’s Notes App really a basic stuff to do but not many willing to do it on a regular basis. Sounds easy but the discipline really high. Nothing really bother you most than forgotten the idea that you believe will work on you.

    To sums up from the great thoughts of our top riders, the keys are honesty, determination and calmness.

    Thank you very much for sharing this precious information that probably will stuck in our mind for a long time. Behind the scenes are pretty scary and dark.

  9. What a great article!! Really motivating.

    I work 36 hours a week in different shifts in a hospital. Im really happy that i have flatland in my life and i would like to ride more than i do now. Sometimes its just feels impossible for me.
    Still love riding, sometimes a new funny trick sometimes only failing. Doesnt matter!
    Thanks effraim!

    • This is great to hear Erik, I think for every rider it is a different approach and that is what makes flatland so interesting. We all come from different backgrounds, some riders work full time, part time, as a professional. One thing that seems to be common amongst everyone, it is different ways of having fun.Having fun, you progress. It’s the nature of what we do. Awesome comment Erik, thank you for sharing your experience.

  10. I’m kinda in a similar boat as Erik – running my own business is typically 12-14 hour days, 6 days a week, so just finding time to ride is really hard, yet alone progress. Being over 50 isn’t a big asset either, so my mind is always in a constant state of borderline panic that one day my body isn’t going to let me ride anymore and I’ve got to make use of the time now before it’s too late.

  11. Without reading every single post, in my view this is similar to musicians who can get ‘writers block’. I agree that pretty much all ‘dedicated’ riders can experience it, unless maybe you’re Scott Powell etc ,& have 4 bikes,& can dabble in different ways. And I relate to having outside personal things that affected me, in the way I wanted to go, and that’s been progressing in an original way. Having said that, I agree with Terry Adams, it doesn’t hurt to just be greatful we can ride,& even if we don’t progress certain times. I had a number of times, where I couldn’t sleep because I’d had an awesome session, & it was just going round and round in my head. Now, the opposite of that’s thinking of negative things. I know I would rather struggle sleeping because I’m thinking of a great session or new ides, links or completely new tricks to me, at least. When I’ve had sleep deprivation in this way, I get up,& write down the ideas I had. I take paper with me to wherever I may ride, & if the beauty of serendipity comes up, I’ll write it down. Again Effraim, great read,& great article. Thankyou. I’m not aware of any other site, past mags, that has come up with this subject. Again, you have a lateral way of thinking Effraim, you think outside of the ‘new circle’. I wish more people would think that way. So, like an old ad slogan ‘first in freestyle’.

  12. Kenny, if these words are a positive for you, then great. I’m 51, & it’s occured to me, that time will eventually catch up with me. But, for me, the fact I can still do everything from the 80s along with what I learnt since,& still going in the right direction, that keeps me happy. I don’t care to be the best,& haven’t really in my time in riding. I just ride for me, not trying to impress anyone. What I will hope to achieve’s inspiring younger riders take up flat. If I get recognition if for example, I submit footage to MOC, then great, if not, then that’s ok to.

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