Episode 165- Ryan Leech and navigating the Risk / Reward Spectrum

Location: North Vancouver, BC Athlete: Ryan Leech

Ryan Leech has been a professional mountain biker for 25 years. Although he would never call himself this, in his sport he is a legend. He’s performed stunts in thousands of shows, including Cirque Du Soleil, IMBA World Summit, and Crankworx and has appeared in dozens of films. Ryan has been teaching mountain biking for over 24 years and is an avid explorer of human potential and is a certified Integral Master Coach. In this episode we explore the four types of Flow, the risk of entering flow through risk, developing the mind to increase performance, how a professional athlete has to ride the often very narrow line between risk and reward, making inexpensive mistakes, getting intimate with risk, maintaining a professional athletic career, accurately identifying risk (not inflating it and not ignoring real risk), being at peace with the dangers, and a lot more.

Ryan has an incredible website and online instructional presence. Learn more about his teaching and follow Ryan here:

website: https://learn.ryanleech.com

facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ryanleechconnection

instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ryanleechconnection/

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Topics we discuss on the show:

  • Taking risk to get noticed/ sponsored
  • Successfully riding the line between success and failure
  • The four types of Flow: Forced Flow (it’s a gamble), Chance Flow (random), Vicarious Flow (transportational), Choice Flow (the gold standard)
  • Getting in and out of Flow and the developmental process of Flow
  • The risks of “Kodak courage”
  • The dangers of following a formula
  • Developing the ability to read risk
  • DO NOT DO THINGS for the accolades or sponsors, do things for the love of the sport
  • Developing a map for improvement and progression
  • Developing a deeper connection to nature
  • Red Bull Rampage
  • “The mind writes checks that the body can’t cover”
  • Why do we take risk?
  • Sacrificing well-being in the pursuit of progressing a sport
  • How risk changes when you have kids

Mentioned in this show:

AirNomads, Steve Kotler, Will Gadd

Ryan Leech

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Speaker 1 (0s): Hi there everybody welcome to another episode of Cloudbase Mayhem just returned last night from Columbia and the world cup down there, which was very much like a super final, crazy, fast, very, very high level, and started rough couple of days of pretty bad weather in the beginning, but ended really strong in super fun, always fun to get down there. And the air nomads crew Hawaii always put on a great event and go her to Columbia. The flying is Ms. Pretty epic down there. No, the certainly did not disappoint this year, but now I'm home back to podcasting business.

And my guest today, we've been doing a lot of different shows lately, and this is certainly one of them. My guest today is professional mountain biker of 25 years. It's still going strong, Ryan Leech, who does a lot of online coaching and his specialty is kind of the risk reward continuum or a spectrum. And so a very good friend of mine and mentor Nate scales. Who's been on the show and you've heard me talk about a bunch live straight down the street from me here in sun valley. He has gotten really into mountain biking last few years, and he follows Ryan online and balls all his coaching and sent me an email by a few months back.

Just said, Hey, what about doing a podcast with this guy? So I reached out to Ryan and he was, he very generously agreed. And we had a great talk, his, his knowledge of risk and how to navigate it. I mean, you basically take out mountain biking, put in paragliding, it's all the same stuff we're dealing with all the same decision-making and egos and peer pressure. And that's what we get into in this talk really how to have a long career and stay accident free and be smart about what we do of course, paragliding and is, you know, with the aviation aspect and the ground aspect, the injuries tend to be a little more severe than they are in mountain biking, but in mountain biking, there are a lot of injuries.

So very relevant. Like I said, we had a ton of fun. We talk about inherent risks and we talk about the why some lessons are very hard to learn. And we talk a lot about the subconscious versus the conscious and how that can, you know, how handling over things to our subconscious is just what we want to do. If we want, if to get into flow as a good thing, we can also be a kind of a dangerous thing. So think you're going to do it. I had a lot of fun with this.

We really kind of hit on a good wavelength and, and had a blast. So enjoy the show with Ryan Leech, professional mountain biker, Ryan, welcome to the ma'am. It's, it's

Speaker 2 (2m 59s): Great to connect with you happy new year. And we've been trying to do this for a little while, but this is kind of a very different show than we typically do. And I thought where we might start is your email. I, I, a very big mentor of mine guy named Nate scales, who everybody listens to the show is pretty familiar with he's my neighbor. And he has been really instrumental in teaching me a lot of paragliding over the last couple of decades. He, he, he's a mad mountain biker and he's totally into it.

There's a whole big group of them here in sun valley who ride all the time and he follows your stuff and your coaching and training and follows you on Instagram and stuff. And I've been doing that last couple of weeks. Just prepare that for this show. You put out a lot of great content and a lot of great instructional stuff, but to give our listeners just a little bit of background on you and to give them an idea of what we're going to be talking about. I thought I just read your, your email that went out to your followers about your webinars.

So I've maintained a twenty-five year long pro mountain biking career by successfully navigating the risk reward continuum. It's a slippery and surprisingly complex slope. And one, we all must work through in a personalized way. If we desire to ride mountain bikes for the rest of our lives, there's no doubt that biking can be risky. How risky is up to you? Well, sort of you see how risky is tricky to determine as there are many myriad influential and subjective factors at play. We were making an endless stream of decision when riding and many of them may be subconscious or automatic kind of sounds like flow.

They're based on our past life experiences and adverse events from childhood. For example, we are social creatures with egos and despite our conscious intent to ride within our ability level, we may inadvertently increase the amount of risk we're willing to take for the reward of being part of a part of or accepted into the pack. The classic example is that when you successfully conquer a challenging section of trail, the reward is undeniable. It feels incredible. Naturally we seek that same reward again, and that seeking community, coming insatiable for a variety of personalized reasons. So riders may continue to increase the risk until they crash and some push it so far.

They end up in the hospital, not just once, but time and time again, without learning their lesson because it's subconscious, there are many more conscious and unconscious negotiations. We make moment to moment when riding and more, we can become aware of these dynamics through curious exploration, the better equipped we can maintain an injury free and rewarding life riding life, man, this is just, I read this over and over again because you take out riding or mountain biking and insert paragliding or Free flight. And it's the same thing that we deal with.

And I guess I shouldn't be that surprised with that, but anyway, welcome to the show. And I'm excited to talk about all this with you. Cool. Gavin. Yeah. It's nice to hang out with you in this new year about things we love. Yes. Welcome 2022. Right?

Speaker 3 (5m 58s): Totally. Totally. Yeah, no, I'm so curious about chatting, being that we are passionate about different sports, but we're still in the same arena of a sport that has risk and how we navigate that for a long enjoyable life. I was always so worried that mountain biking was going to be just a short phase of my life and I'd be too injured or hurt or sore and not be able to do it for the rest of my life. And my mindset change.

My mindset changed early in my pro career to figure out a way to make sure that wasn't the case and whether you're a pro or a recreational athlete. I think that's a good thing to ponder because our health and wellbeing for the longterm is so valuable. How have you been

Speaker 2 (6m 50s): Well, the maintain that health and that perspective for such a long period of time, is that, is that been kind of a continuum of learning or you, you talk about, you kind of had to change your mindset. Can you dive into that specifically?

Speaker 3 (7m 4s): Yeah, for sure. You know, getting know as a pro, I think it's, you know, as I, you need to get, you noticed as a pro rider, especially early in your career as a pro, you want to take risks, say for a video segment that really gets you noticed. And usually the more you risk, the more you get noticed. And, you know, I was barely fortunate not to have any major injuries.

You know, I think my ACL was about the worst I had blew my knee and that, you know, knock on wood. I haven't broken any bones throughout that entire time. And pros job really is riding, you know, pun not intended kind of riding that narrow edge, riding that line between success and failure. I mean more so it's like disaster and major reward and pros are really good at staying on that, that line for, and, and, and the long careers they're really good at it.

And I feel I became really good at knowing exactly when to take a risk. And when not to observers might think, God, you know, Ryan, you are so reckless and careless and you took risks that were way beyond your ability, but, you know, that's, you know, that's their sort of objective viewpoint. My subjective experience was not that way. You know, there's certain things that subjectively you just know, you can pull something off and that knowing is something that allows you to do that move that may seem unattainable or too risky.

Does that make sense?

Speaker 2 (9m 3s): I mean, and that's something we talk about in our sport a lot that I find really fascinating knowing you've got that move, that subjective call is different on different days. You know, there, there are days where you're so in flow you're so in the moment that, and there's so few distractions and for whatever reason, and I've, you know, I think it's really hard to just make that happen. There's just, you know, it just sometimes does.

And you know, whether it's the training and all the things that come together, but the glue heres, you know, the uProxy sets that day and you're in and you have every move and there's not a ton of fear involved with it. There's just enough. Right. And, but, and there's other days where you're just, yeah, I don't, I really don't have it today. And I think, you know, when you're, aviating, it's similar to mountain bike is you, you guys, statistically, as I understand it, have more accidents, but they're less severe.

And you know, when you're, aviating you get that create an equation wrong, it's a bad wrong. You don't ever want to miss that. And that's the problem, you know, you don't have that one time to go. Ah, yeah, I fucked up that day, you know, but that could be a bad day.

Speaker 3 (10m 23s): Sure. No doubt. Yeah. I mean, so actually it'd be interesting. I, I wrote an article about flow quite a while ago and I kind of broke it down. I kind of saw four different types of flow that we might experience. And I don't know if it will map on to aviation or not. Maybe, maybe it will. I'll see if I can recall what they were. There was forced flow. There was, and, and forced flow is when you basically have to scare yourself to get into the state of flow.

It's like, okay, my life and wellbeing depends on it. I have to pull this off. And then boom, that sort of snaps you into that flow state.

Speaker 2 (11m 9s): Your subconscious just takes over for survival instinct.

Speaker 3 (11m 12s): Yeah. And it's a gamble because it doesn't always happen. Right. So, so, so that's, so that's one, one type of flow. Then there's cherubs flow where you're just doing your thing and then you just randomly drop into this flow state and everything just clicks and happens. This is, those are quite common. Those both, both those first two in mountain biking, for sure. And, and then another, another type is vicarious flow, which actually I throw, I threw that into the article I wrote just because it is so common in, in these sports, we have an audience, right?

There's so many people, even, even as, you know, pros or recreational riders, we're always watching other athletes. And it becomes fairly clear when a rider is in flow and when they're not. And when they are watching them is just this, it just transports you into this beautiful state of vicarious flow. And that's a really cool thing. And, you know, that's, that's for pro riders, making sure you develop your ability, such that you're in flow state is, is, is really key.

You can pull off some amazing moves and not be in flow and you can pull off those same amazing moves and be in flow. And I believe that the viewer has the ability to know the difference and it's most likely an unconscious knowing, but they can tell that vicariously when you're in flow and it's more pleasurable to watch. And then the fourth type of flow that I identified was choice flow.

And I see this one as sort of like the, the golden one, you know, this is the one that we all want to be able to, to choose an enter the flow state anytime we want, we don't. And that's not by choosing to risk so much that you might end up in hospital. It's like, no, you're just, you're choosing to be in flow for, you know, there's nothing that gets in your way.

You can just enter flow. And that's an interesting one. And that's something that I've really pursued, especially in the later phases of my career. And, you know, I don't have to, for, for me, performance, isn't the only sort of ingredient for choice flow. I don't have to be at the edge of my ability level in order to choose to be in flow. There are so many other elements that are contributing to that.

So anyway, that's kind of, I just wanted to kind of share that overview.

Speaker 2 (14m 9s): I love that. It's almost, I kind of see that as kind of a staircase of hierarchy of a flow. I've never heard that as well. I like that. When you talk about choice flow, this kind of the, the, the tip top one, do you have any specific, you know, do you have mantras words, anything that helps trigger that? Because I, when I think about with flying it's it's, there are times I think everybody listening to this has had that moment of just, you know, wicked flow you're in flow and things are just working.

You're finding the thermals before they're there and you're going to the right place. You're making the right decisions, but it's in paragliding. There's a lot, especially when you're racing or when you're flying cross country tend to kind of piece together a big day. There are times where you actually have to drop out of flow and, and think, you know, let the conscious mind take back over and, you know, assess the sky. And it's, I'd say it's just a, it's a little more conscious than just feeling it, but then you've got to snap back right away.

And I think it's that, that continuum or that it's, I dunno, it's not very linear. It's, it's hard to, it's hard to kind of jump in and jump out of that. And I think that that's what many pilots really struggle.

Speaker 3 (15m 36s): Yeah. Well, I mean, that's where the choice comes in. Okay. Well, you're in a flow and then at some point you might have to choose to exit it, to make some crucial sort of decisions or to acquire some data, for instance, to make the next move and then to be able to have the ability to snap right. Back into it. Yeah. I mean, that's, that's kind of the move, right. That's kind of the, the, the hope so, yeah. In terms of your question, you know, I found, I found that, well, one thing I've really found useful is getting out of the, the measurement realms of our current culture.

So leaving the phone at home, when I go for a ride, I'm not on Strava, I'm not checking trail forks. You know, I'm not taking photos, you know, no heart rate, you know, no,

Speaker 2 (16m 35s): Just pure

Speaker 3 (16m 36s): Nothing. I don't have any of that. Yeah. So I just leave that all behind and then, you know, that's, that's been a good practice because obviously this is not something I've mastered. It's something that I'm continuously working on. I, I would say that for me on a, on a ride that, you know, there's the distinction between solo rides and riding with a friend or, or, or group ride and there's yeah, there's certain kinds of, so when I'm with a friend, I find it's when I can choose to be in flow when I'm meshing with them and their, their energy, and I'm not trying to compete against them, you know, I'm, I'm re I'm really trying to ride with them, whether I'm following or whether I'm in front, there's this, there's this, there's this fun element, not trying to show off, you know, again, just for me choosing to get in, to flow, I have to get out of that competitiveness, which ironically is a big fuel for the earlier parts of my career where force flow was a little more prominent.

And so there may also be this. And then there's some that I'd like to think about this developmental process, to the experience of flow, these higher qualities of flow that I feel that I'm experiencing more of and this ability to choose flow later in my career. And later in my life, it's richer, it's deeper, it's more, more fluid and full, you know, there is, I believe a developmental aspect to be able to hold more. You're, you're able to just have a much, the energy can flow through your being at a much higher bandwidth.

And so that, yeah, so there's that developmental aspect. And so, yeah, I find, I find risk actually, ironically as something that I, you know, the forest flow that I have, you know, I can still do it and I still do that every once in a while. But the feeling when I come out of that state is more of a relief kind of feeling rather than this really

Speaker 2 (19m 2s): Just rich

Speaker 3 (19m 5s): Beauty. So I dunno. Yeah, it does any of that.

Speaker 2 (19m 10s): It does. I mean, I, I just, I think when we get into the flow conversation, it's, it's so hard to articulate it because it's something that is subconscious. It is something that, you know, right now talking to you, we could have a flow session right now, maybe, you know, something could just happen and we're in there and, and it, you know, and maybe not, you know, it's just, it's just hard. It's one of these things that, you know, I think for most people, it's pretty hard to turn off and turn on, you know, you need, like you said, you know, the easiest way, you know, Steve coolers written about this a lot obviously is by, is through risk.

You know, it's just when you're, when you're suddenly presented of this.

Speaker 3 (19m 54s): Yeah. I know. And I don't want, I don't want to reinforce that. Yeah. That's the forced flow. Sure, sure. It's yeah, it's great. But you know, it's not, and I, and I get it and it's rad and it's great way in, but I don't want it to be like the only way or sort of the key way people are sort of reaching for striving for,

Speaker 2 (20m 19s): When you look back at your career, you said something earlier that kind of made my hackles come up. Cause I think about this, my first big film project was with we'll get who I'm sure you're aware of. And he, you know, he re you know, kind of red bull OJI, and he had done a ton of big film work. W when, when I went and did this project with him across the Canadian Rockies, and one of the first things he said, and I don't know if he just read it in me or not, but he said, you know, turn off the cameras in your mind, you got to forget about these guys.

You know, I mean, basically what he was saying is this is super risky, what we're going to do right now for the next, however long, this taken ended up taking 18 days, but it was, you know, this is dicey and it's dicey enough. And you got to not think about those guys for the, you know, from now all the way through, you said earlier in your career, you know, one of the things you gotta do to be a pro is get noticed and, you know, you gotta get the sponsors, you gotta make the films. And you know, one of the theories, and one of the things we talk about a lot in our sport, that's creating a lot of mayhem are GoPros, you know, just cameras, you know, people that are first getting into flying and they're stepping off the hill.

It's crazy pretty. And you gotta go pro on your head and you just said, you know, you gotta leave all that stuff behind it. I mean, when I see newer pilots with cameras, I'm just thinking, that's just one more thing to manage. You got to turn it off, turn it off. You've got to think about the stuff you're creating. And man, your head is, that's not where you want your head to be.

Speaker 3 (21m 53s): Yeah. Yeah. Kodak courage back in the film days.

Speaker 2 (21m 59s): Yeah. Gosh, I'm just curious when you went, you know, looking back at your career, how would you tell people to navigate that space when they're trying to? Cause that's dicey. I mean, you're, you're, you're talking about you, you've got to learn how to ride that line you were talking about earlier and, but how do you learn it that he, you know,

Speaker 3 (22m 20s): Yeah, totally. Yeah. I was going to say the latter conversation in terms of choice flow. Meditation is also a major thing that I've invested a lot of time in that has had a direct effect in the quality of flow state. So, so that's one thing, but to, I mean, and then so jumping back to earlier career, so yeah, I mean, it's, it's one of these things where it's like, it's easy to, to put more complex, meaningful thoughts onto my younger self.

It's easy to have this retrospective vision of what I did and how I did it and why it worked as if it was, you know, my, you know, like almost like taking too much credit. It's like, anytime someone's successful at something, and then they give you, Hey, you just got to do step one through 10 and you can be successful too. Right. It always kind of bothers me because it's like these formulas.

Yeah. Anytime you follow a formula, it's like, well, it's, yeah, it's great. And it's helpful, but we all have such unique paths. We all have such unique sort of drivers. We've had all these unique life experiences that, that lead to different realities. And my reality happens to be this insatiable desire to learn technical mountain bike skills.

And that's what I, I lived and breathed that I thought about it, you know, in school I would just be riding my bike in my head constantly, and then I'd get off school and I'd be practicing on my bike, working, working on all these skills. And I've always, I've done a lot of sports and every, every sport I've done a lot of manual labor, all these physical things are contributing to my ability to read risk.

Right. And so, as I, you know, developed this, you know, as a, as a, as, as someone that was just loving the sport, I didn't have to take risks to get noticed. I just loved the sport. And that, that, that passion drove me to get very intimate with how my bike and body moves together. And, and then that allowed me to that. I mean, just that got me noticed.

And then as I got noticed, I was able to apply those skills to more sensational moves and tricks on a variety of different terrain types. And I enjoyed that creative process. So there was always this, this real passion and desire to pull off moves that no one else had pulled off. So there was this deep alignment with my purpose through those years, you know, and it was only at a certain point in my career and it happened fairly early that I started to notice, Hey, this is not something I would do if there wasn't a camera.

And I that's the crucial moment. That was the crucial moment for me is like, I'm doing things that I wouldn't choose to do if it wasn't for a sponsorship paycheck or to get in the film or, or magazine. And so that begun, you know, a decade long process of navigating sort of that, that sort of continuum

Speaker 2 (26m 14s): You, you talk about, you know, this, the classic example, when you, when you conquer a challenging section of trail, that reward is undeniable. So this, the, you know, the, the hop to flying is we, we often tell, well, we have a database, you, you, you have Strava, right. We have a database that we can upload our flights to. And it's fantastic because you can look at these flights and analyze them and look at other people's flights from all over the world. It's, it's a, it's a world database and, and all the big flights people put them in there, part of it's bragging rights.

But part of it's just, you know, it's, it's a contest it's called X contest. And so, you know, you're six flights of the year add up to it. So, but it's also the dark side of it. It has created that. We're talking about, you know, this, this striving in a sport that we really shouldn't be striving that hard in, you know? And so it's, it's, it's, it's interesting because it's, you know, it has, it, it's a very kind of good and bad side. And, you know, when you talk about this conquering a line that that's exactly the word we would use and flying, you know, we, we conquer a line.

We, we, we see the day we have the forecast and we try to get a certain distance, you pull it off, you know, it's an amazing feeling. And then what, this is always the problem that, you know, then if you conquer and another amazing line, that's not as far, it's not as amazing. It just doesn't feel as good. And it's, which is totally incorrect. I mean, what we should be chasing is the aesthetic always and, and not distance, but

Speaker 3 (27m 56s): Right. Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, that's a crucial distinction. What, what is your, your measurement? What are you measuring? What is the overall structure of the purpose of your sport? And having a little deeper map would be really helpful, I think, in how we progress in a sport. And I think that the tool that you're talking about is really important. That should be on the map.

And, you know, I see these tools as incredible vehicles for the progression of our sport. I mean, it's, it's, it's unbelievable. But if, if that was not me thing, but part of a more holistic picture of the sport that is referenceable that we can sort of work with, then I think we can more skillfully use those, those tools and thus gain much deeper.

Yeah. It's like, I know, I know what you mean. It's, it's somehow those on those, on those flights or on those rides when we're really striving to achieve something. And that is the goal. That's the one goal we, we actually don't register. We don't actually experience, we, we leave an experience behind that is perhaps of a richer, deeper, longer lasting sort of satisfaction.

We sort of almost bypass that because we're so focused on the goal. I don't know if that makes sense. I'm just making it up.

Speaker 2 (29m 47s): No, it does. It does. I just, I have found this hard thing in my own life and to articulate on the show is that, you know, when you, when you nail that line, you know, that feeling of ecstasy, obviously we're human, it dissipates. Right. And then I I've, it's dangerous to keep chasing that it's D you know, as we get older and

Speaker 3 (30m 12s): Yeah, well, that's where the deeper, the deeper, yeah. That's where it's like, yeah, it doesn't do it. It actually doesn't do it anymore. It's like, that's, it, it doesn't matter. You know, good for you. You have the first and, oh, you had another first good for you. And you got famous for it. Good for you. But, but it's not, it's not, it's it doesn't, you know, you, you can gain these high levels of achievement and notoriety in a sport. And it's awesome. I don't want to downplay that because I've, I've had my own experience in, in mountain biking.

You know, I I'm so grateful for that, but it, the experience I'm having on my bike now, there's just a much more satisfying, deeper level of enjoyment that I derive this connection with nature. Like it's better,

Speaker 2 (31m 6s): You know, it's better than it's better than when you had the big goals and the more risky, huh?

Speaker 3 (31m 12s): Yeah. It's bad. It's like, it's, I mean, it's not a replacement. It's like this transcend and include move. It's like, yeah. It's yeah. It's better. It's better.

Speaker 2 (31m 28s): Was this w was, was, was getting to this place in your career really conscious. Was this something you recognized earlier? Okay. What's the, what's the red bull event where they're jumping off all the cliffs down rampage, you know, was, was, okay, this is just, this is inevitable where this is going, and I'm going to, I'm going to consciously choose something else. Or was this just kind of how your career evolved?

Speaker 3 (31m 58s): No, it was, it was a conscious, it was a conscious choice.

Speaker 2 (32m 2s): Yeah,

Speaker 3 (32m 5s): It was. Yeah. I recognize it meant, yeah. Yoga, yoga allowed me to be more familiar with the messages. My body was giving me and I began to learn to honor those and then adjust my writing to better honor what my body was trying to communicate to me. So the big question for me was how can I maintain a pro career and do really cool things on my bike so I can continue earning a living without being at odds with my body's wisdom.

Speaker 2 (32m 46s): I just got an email this morning from a friend of mine that said the body writes checks that are sorry. The mind writes checks that the body can't cash. I love that.

Speaker 3 (32m 57s): Yeah. And we can, we can blow that, that we can blow that early in life. And we pay for, we were in debt.

Speaker 2 (33m 4s): So the rest or depth of the rest of our lives. Yeah. Ryan, you're B below what I, in your email there, that the topics that you tackled in, in the webinar, I'd love to jump into those. The first one is I can't, I'm so thankful. No, one's asking me this specifically, this sounds really simple, but this would be hard, really hard for me to answer what exactly is a risk and what is a reward. It's not that simple.

Speaker 3 (33m 36s): No, no. It's not just do talk about Reward. The thing that comes to me in terms of that, that that continuum is, is accuracy is, is really, I think that that's, that's really, that's really key because it becomes really mental. And, and again, we can, how we perceive risk is massively important.

We might have a tendency to under, to, to not gauge a risk as, as you know, it's like, we overinflate the risk or we under inflate the risk and those, and so finding that accuracy is really,

Speaker 2 (34m 26s): I see what you're saying is one just identifying where it is on that spectrum.

Speaker 3 (34m 31s): Yeah. And, and it's not easy to do because there are so many other forces at play. There are other, you know, again, the cameras we've got our friends and peers we might have in mountain biking. We've got friends encouraging us, you know, at the bottom of the, the super technical sketchy line, that's got a drop halfway through and your buddies just clean it. You've got another one at the top. And you're the trying to decide what to do. Like, should I take this risk or not? And then you just kind of like, I can do it.

And then, then you go for it. And who knows, was that an accurate risk assessment or not?

Speaker 2 (35m 11s): That's good to hear. Why do we do it? W w we know there's risk in your next, your next thing you talk about in the, in the webinars, mountain biking, inherently risky. So I would think that's yes, but you know, maybe not, you know, for sure flying is inherently risky. There are just inherent risks. You can't get away from it's it's aviation and the ground is hard, but it's

Speaker 3 (35m 38s): Why as humans do we do it. If we know, if we know there's a good chance of getting hurt. Yeah. I mean, probably so many different answers, depending on who you are. The useful thing here is to no matter what this sport aviation or mountain biking to be at peace with the fact that injury is possible. And, you know, even, you know, for your sport, even death is possible.

And, you know, that's the same in mountain biking. Random, weird shit can happen that you can't account for you can't prepare for, you know, equipment failure is of course, no matter how particular you are with caring for your equipment, failures can still happen, and that can result in catastrophe. And so we have to be at peace with that ahead of time.

So we can just push, we, we, we just get that out of the way. Just, we have to really contemplate that and be at peace with that. And then we can push that aside and then get into the, okay, what areas can we control? And in mountain biking, I really don't think it has to be a risky sport. You know, I do believe mountain biking can be a lifelong sport for anyone who desires to ride well into their late years of life.

And you know, that that's definitely my goal, and that can be achieved very gradually. You know, you don't have to, you don't have to push yourself, you choose your trails wisely. You choose who you ride with wisely, and you get really intimate with who you are. You get really, you know, you get honest with you and your personality, and you start to, you know, obviously meditation, that's where that comes in, because then you can start to look at yourself from that third person perspective and catch some of these, these tendencies, these urges that are generally more surface level oriented, they're more image-based oriented.

They're, they're more like, you know, ego driven. And once you start to catch those, then pursuing the sport in a way that doesn't need to have injury as possible. That's a path. Some people may decide to choose to be at peace with injury based on choosing to take some risks. And that's cool too.

And I think this is really cool because as a sport, there's going to always be those people who are willing to sacrifice their physical wellbeing and their pursuit of progressing a sport. And this is the, this is the incredible journey of being this autonomous human, physical being. We have this curiosity of what we're capable of this mind and body.

And what we're seeing these days is just out of this world, the things that a mind can conceive in, in England, I think a mountain biking, I'm watching what people are doing these days. And it's like, holy shit. You know, you, you, you can't even comprehend how that's possible, the chance of a rider pulling off some of these things is just astronomical. And it's only that deep belief that rider has in their ability and in their ability to perceive that line and know that they can do it, that it's even possible.

You know, you can't, there's like, it's not mathematically. It's really not really, it's not possible, but yet here, here we are discovering the limits of this mind, body spirit vehicle. And, and it's really incredible to see, you know, I'm, I'm grateful for those people that are doing that. And, you know, so, so again, that's a spectrum. What are you comfortable with? What level of injury are you at peace with?

And based on that deal that you make with yourself will determine sort of how you approach your sport.

Speaker 2 (40m 14s): This is, this is something that is happening also in every sport. You know, it's, it's, it's, it's an phenomenally interesting time, I think, in sport where you have it in big wave surfing, you have it in flying, you have it in mountain biking. You know, the, the stuff we are seeing people do is, like you said, mind-boggling, you know, when I watched the rampage, it's mind boggling what these people are doing.

And do you think that that's mostly being driven intrinsically or extrinsically? Do you know what I mean? Is that totally

Speaker 3 (40m 54s): Okay, totally.

Speaker 2 (40m 55s): Is this cameras, you know, our young kids seeing this on YouTube and going, you know, but it's phenomenal. It's phenomenal what, what it is, and in a pretty short period of time, you know, just the ability level of, you know, I see it here. We've got an awesome park for the kids with the half pipe. I mean, it's world-class and you know, I see kids that are 10 doing stuff that I wouldn't have never imagined when I was 10 grown up ski racing. It's it's awesome.

But yeah.

Speaker 3 (41m 27s): Yeah. I mean, I mean, both for sure. We want meaning in our life and you, there's a huge, like, I think of mountain biking too. And the, the youth are watching w what the adults are doing, and in a mountain culture, they're watching the adults do cool things and get praise. And there's a lot of meaning derived from that. And they see, okay.

That's yeah, I see, I see what this is all about. This is, this is what I'm going to pursue because they, they want to achieve. And if, you know, they get some results early on, they follow the path and that just kind of creates this they're. So, so in, in this, this, this self perpetuating culture, and it's, it relies on both that internal and external force, like, it's this, it's this momentum that's being created here. And the ability of this in like social media and cameras and the ability to share it really is just added fuel to this cycle of progression.

And so, yeah, I mean, the internal is so key. It's gotta be internal. Like I look at like rampage and, you know, and I know those guys, a lot of those guys, the internal drive is, is, is real. It's, it's true. You know, that's, that's, you know, there's a, there's a deep, deep vision and passion and drive. If the cameras weren't there, if the sponsorship dollars, weren't there. If, if, if the comradery like the community is as well, we're pack animals where, you know, we're social creatures and being part of the meaning is being part of this community.

And if you can be the top dog in that community that, you know, that's a pretty amazing thing. And so there's that internal drive. Yeah. It's just really men. It's just, it's really happening right now. It's, it's, it's on fire. It's just got this momentum. I don't see that as a, a be all end all like, again, I, you know, when I step back, it's like, gosh, like what, what is, again, you're asking the big questions. I think you're at the kind of that that phase of is this the best we can do.

Speaker 2 (43m 52s): And I feel it, it feels to me a little bit, and this is only, I feel it in myself that you're walking out to the end of the diving board and there's no water in the pool. You know, you just, you just keep I, where I struggle is where, where is the end with that? These guys that walk in rampage, you know, and they win, and they're at the top of their sport, and they're getting the comradery, they're getting the accolades, they're getting the sponsorship dollars. You can't keep that up forever. And so you gotta, you, you sound like you and your career, you have found a bridge to nature and contemplation and, you know, footing there.

But I, I remember

Speaker 3 (44m 35s): It's hard to get out of though. It's not necessarily easy and that's not, that's not just pros, that's recreate your recreational riding crew and pack as well. The same dynamics are at play.

Speaker 2 (44m 48s): Yeah, for sure. That's, that's a tricky one. I don't know if we can answer that now, but it's, it's a tricky one. It's something I think about a lot.

Speaker 3 (44m 56s): Yeah. Yeah. And I, yeah, there is a point where, yeah, you got to step off that cycle because are we, we are our bodies, we're eight, every moment we're aging, you know, these bodies aren't designed to, to last in that way. And sure. It's cool when you're in your fifties or sixties and seventies and you, you, you, you break through the norm. And again, I think that's great, but it's gotta be from that, that deeper place.

It's gotta be from that. You've transcended that game of trying to prove yourself in this measurable way to gain something, especially if it's trying to gain something sort of tangible. Yeah. Gosh, you know, this conversation, it really makes me want to write a little bit more so I can articulate myself a little more clearly.

Speaker 2 (45m 53s): These are hard things to articulate though. I mean, there's things that I think, you know, any of us who leap into things that have risks are thinking about, you know, if you're not thinking about it, you're just ignorant. And so you're, you're thinking about it, but it's a hard thing to, it's an easy thing to think about. It's hard thing to grasp.

Speaker 3 (46m 15s): So I'm actually expecting my first child, you know, in, you know, basically like within the month, I'm actually a bit uncomfortable exposing my child to the, the hype of the mountain bike industry. I don't necessarily, there's a lot of parents that are so pumped to get, get their child in mountain biking and really help them, you know, get good and go through the ranks and get into competition.

I'm not quite, you know, our child is going to be what it's going to be, choose his path. But, you know, I definitely in glad to bring an energy to expose my child to the energy of the stage of mountain biking that I'm currently at, because it's, it's not necessarily something that the mountain bike culture and the mountain bike media give a lot of energy to you don't see it. You don't see it on social.

It's not even in that's where social media, you just see the biggest baddest gnarliest crash. That's what you're exposed to that's what's seen. And so I'm glad to, to be in like to inhabit the energy of this deep passion for riding my bike in nature, breathing, enjoying flow, not needing to push myself or prove anything to, to go out mountain biking with friends and to have good conversation and to enjoy the views and to, you know, go on a big day and, you know, to, to be able to share and the experience that true, that true sort of in that true nature of, of being on these wheels and propelling yourself through the forest.

And, and to, to share that with my child and to, you know, I hope I can enjoy that mountain biking experience with my child as, as they grow through life. And, you know, maybe they will choose, you know, like most young people they'll have a drive to achieve and pursue and to push themselves and test themselves. And, you know, that will take them where it takes them. But I'm glad that I'll be able to give a, an example of where the sport can lead someone later in life, like to have that example that, okay, it's not just, you know, go until you're a cripple.

It's like, no, there's a way to navigate such that there's this long trajectory of enjoyment and deep satisfaction from, from a sport like mountain biking.

Speaker 2 (49m 9s): Yeah. I can see your reticence. I had a little girl, my little girls for now, and you know, I'm not going to be that disappointed if she doesn't become a pilot, I'd be terrified. I will let you know, like you said, I will expose her to it. You know, if she wants to get into it then great. But man, I'll be terrified very hard to watch that happen. But on that, on that note, you, one of your next topics here, what is risk perception?

And it talks about the Whistler bike park phenomenon. You don't have to explain that to listeners that don't know it, but I know he used to live there. So I think I know what you're talking about here, but going to that. Yeah,

Speaker 3 (49m 49s): Yeah, yeah, sure. And I talked a little bit about perception, risk perception earlier on, but Whistler bike park. I mean, any, any bike parks on, Valley's got a bike park, the rider will go to the bike park. You know, this is just typical general average kind of rider. They don't hit the bike park very often. Maybe they've got a three-day vacation up at the bike park and you know, they're just riding a ton and they're just looping, looping, looping. And you know, they're on their bike, they're on their bike. And I mean, this actually gets a little closer towards sort of the, the aviation risks where you don't get that slow gradual feedback.

Instead you're like on, on the list, the runs are faster, the airs are bigger and longer. And the amount of riding you can get in, in a short amount of time on meticulously designed trails that are designed to flow, you beautifully into the air and the land, everything's just so mint. And so the rider will just experience this rapid progression and experience a rapid growth of confidence until they take that big slam, which without the bike park would have been probably quite minor.

But because of that Whistler bike park dynamic, that injury is more often than not much more catastrophic. You know, it is the separated shoulder, broken collar bone. It's, you know, the, you know, broken arm, wrist, broken wrist, you know, and, or, and, or worse. So that's what I mean, it's like this false sense of confidence. It, yeah, it's, it's a, it's this classic common thing it gets.

Yeah, yeah,

Speaker 2 (51m 41s): Yeah. We call that intermediate syndrome in our sport. You know, when you think you're better than you are, and it's something everybody goes through, you know, and you, you know, you mail a few flights or, you know, you have some success, whatever that's defined by and you haven't really gone through the steps to get it. And then now you're in a dangerous phase and it's, it's something we all go through in that.

Speaker 3 (52m 7s): Totally. Yeah. And I, you know, that's what part of the reason I'm passionate about my, my business. So, you know, for the past seven years, I've run this online mountain bike skills coaching business. And so basically it's these detailed step-by-step lessons that have practice drills that gradually increase sort of the difficulty level while at the same time, helping you log hours on your bike, exploring all sorts of different bike body and mental movements.

And so, you know, I really, that's what I, I really encourage writers to really take their time in the learning process and to, to experiment and get creative. And that's something I think that can help riders avoid that intermediate syndrome.

Speaker 2 (53m 4s): Yeah. That's great. We need the same kind of thing. There's some things like that in our sport, but it could be really like the idea of taking it very much. Step-by-step, that's, that's important for sure. You just talked about this with your little one on the way, but how do responsibilities in life influence risk and performance? This is a big, you know, I think we, we all have life and distractions from flow and from doing what you're doing,

Speaker 3 (53m 39s): We've got responsibilities as we age, you know, some more than others. And we have to determine what's important and consciously think about this too. Again, it's part of that same negotiation I was talking about earlier, what level of injury are you at peace with? And then from there you can then, and part of that equation is your responsibilities in life, right? And as an adult, you know, we do have those responsibilities in that, of course, for the, for the adult, getting into a sport, that's going to affect how we progress and how we learn.

It's going to affect how quickly we are able to progress, because one, you know, we might not be able to afford an injury. And then two, we're likely not going to bounce back from injury. And, you know, those injuries are probably going to be worse because we're just not quite as quick and fluid at getting it out of those tricky situations. And again, I'm talking more, more mountain biking, but maybe there are some sort of similar things going on in aviation. But yeah, I mean, I don't think there's any way around it.

We can lean on that. Beginner's mind. We can lean on sort of that childlike, playful learning process and bring it into our sort of adult ways. But we can't fully inhabit that part of our life. That's that's past that ships pass. If you're an adult, you know, you can't just pretend you're a teenager or kid learning the sport.

Yeah. It just, we need to, we need to honor the place that we're at in our lives.

Speaker 2 (55m 32s): You framed this as a riddle and this is truly a riddle. We talk about, you know, making the importance of making inexpensive mistakes in our sport. You know, you kind of hard to learn without making mistakes, but mistakes in aviation are not, you know, you don't want to make mistakes maybe, but how do you, how do you focus when not pushing your limits? This is a tricky one. You frame this as a riddle. That's, that's hard. How do you not be complacent? In other words?

Speaker 3 (56m 2s): Yeah, totally. It is. It is interesting. Again, every part of our life is connected to every other part of our life. And we have busy, like we've busy minds. A lot of people have a lot of things on their mind. And when, when now writing the mind might be, might be racing and, you know, so that of course inspires us to get a little bit more into that forest flow state so we can get rid of that internal dialogue just for a moment.

And we can have that, that peaceful flow, even if it's not super peaceful. Cause we're just like going for it. Of course, when you stop pushing yourself and you're just riding like this easy part of trail, and then the mind starts getting busy. That's that's often when writers make that stupid mistake and have a really bad injury. It's like, it's, it's again, it's one of these classic stories that I hear time and time again. I was just riding this easy bit of trail and, you know, I just like, I just wasn't paying attention and then boom.

I mean, there's something okay, what's going on here? Why, why are our minds so busy? You know, can we, can we learn to orchestrate our lives such that there's less complication? What does that require? Does it require, you know, some, you know, some therapy, does it require a meditation practice? Does it require some interpersonal work with our family or loved ones or, you know, does it, does it, what, what what's needed here to get out of the stress cycle hits?

Yeah, totally a tricky thing.

Speaker 2 (57m 43s): Yeah. It's funny. The two, the two good examples you've given have been my two mountain biking injuries. The first was on a downhill park here in sun valley, second lap. Maybe it was a third. I'm not very good on a mountain bike. I was having a blast and I decided to try to double jump this thing. And tire went out and went over the handlebars and blew my shoulder and it was incredibly painful and the surgery is awful and you know, I grew up ski racing.

So I've had a lot of surgeries I've been there. This was a familiar place. And, but that shoulder's bad and it was awful recovery and it was a few years back. And then a year and a half ago I went out on the mellowest ride. It was so nice. And I was just talking to my buddy behind me and we were coming down this really gentle thing. I was literally going about five miles an hour and just wasn't paying attention complacent. And again, lost the front tire, went over the handlebars and that one, luckily it didn't end up being surgery or anything, but it was the same shoulder hurt like hell.

And, and I thought in my mind, oh my God, I got to go through this all again. And since then, I haven't really written it. I just, for me, it was just, okay, the reward isn't worth this for me. I'm not very good. And I don't want to take any risk anymore with mountain biking and which is kind of a bummer. Cause I live in a great place for mountain biking and it's it's I love doing it. It's for the lungs. And it's like you said, it's great to connect with nature, but it's just, yeah, it was just a real slap in the face, you know?

Hey, you're not that good. And yeah. So it was those two things overconfidence on the first one and complacency on the second one. And that those two things get, I bet that's at the root of some huge percentage of our accidents in aviation,

Speaker 3 (59m 45s): Right? Yeah.

Speaker 2 (59m 47s): There's two things. Yeah. They correlate

Speaker 3 (59m 51s): And they're largely preventable.

Speaker 2 (59m 54s): Yeah. They are larger than I think most accidents are. Yes. Most accidents are preventable. Aren't they? I mean, like you said, even in aviation, it's just a matter of, of what gets us as the weather. And that's probably not something that gets you as much, but it's, you know, the weather gets us getting into a situation where like running rivers, you can't hit a stop button. There are no brakes on while we have breaks, but we can't, we can't just go magically get out of the sky when things get dicey.

Speaker 3 (1h 0m 30s): Yeah. Yeah. And I guess each, you know, it's how do you, how do you, how do you choose your lights, your flight paths, the, the, the, the weather patterns to gradually gradually enter some of those more unknowns, like, and it's not, I mean, I'm guessing it's quite there's to gain that you, you know, the more time you've logged in the air in different places, you start, and the more time you've logged in the air in your similar go-to spot, the more intimate you become with all of these patterns, the more easily you're able to read those patterns and the safer it becomes, but how do you, as someone newer, gradually gain that experience.

And so choosing so wisely, the, I mean, for mountain biking, you got to choose so wisely, the trails that you're on and the people you're riding with and aviation you're choosing so wisely, you know, hopefully there's guidance, you know, you know, having that guidance from a professional or someone really experienced to help you make those choices. Okay. Yeah. You know, this is a great, this is a great launch spot location and weather. And so, yeah, this is a great next step.

And so, you know, definitely seeking that, that guidance, not having to sort of reinvent the wheel and, and take risks, you know, to get yourself into a risky situation that you didn't, you didn't even realize it was such a risk, but you, all of a sudden, you're in this situation where you're, you know, you're on this, this trail that got nasty, or you're in this area with sort of, you know, the weather is working against you. And so do you,

Speaker 2 (1h 2m 17s): In your, in your webinars, your teaching, and we'll, we'll wrap this up with this one, Brian, this has been fantastic, but the I'd be curious. Do you talk much about kind of listening to that inner voice in what you, when it comes to risk?

Speaker 3 (1h 2m 34s): Yeah, actually I just, I, it's funny. I just made a post about this to my coach team yesterday. And in my courses I build in, you know, there's an there's instruction where, of course you're more mental and you're working on a specific drill and it's really mental. And so I then ask riders to just let go of all those, those specific movements and to dues. And instead, just let go and just, just play, just play on your bike.

You know, you just no goals at all. And then that builds, it starts to build, you have to build your own authority within yourself. Right. You've got to, you've got to start to trust yourself. You've got to trust going out and on your bike and noticing when something feels right. And when something doesn't feel right, and you can't rely on the coach, you can't rely on the instruction. You have to begin to really own that yourself.

Speaker 2 (1h 3m 41s): I was thinking about animal house, you know, you've got the devil in the, in the angel on each shoulder and you know, which one are you listening to at the right time? You know? But I think there's often, there's kind of internal, safe keeper. Who's looking after us. And I don't mean in a religious way or something, but I mean, in a, in just a there's something in there that knows, you know, totally and learning how to listen to that when it's rational versus irrational is a hard thing. Sometimes there's just totally irrational fear that doesn't have any basis on the day.

The weather's good there isn't, you know, that's just our brains messing with us. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (1h 4m 21s): We can, we can stop. And assess with that sort of verbal sort of dialogue about whether, you know, whether something is, is risky or not, whether we should go or not, whether we said launch or not, we can sort of have that English communication in our head about it and discussion. But the layer deeper is the knowing and that knowing I don't think necessarily is reserved for someone with experience.

We can, we can have that early on something doesn't feel right. It's that sense. And, you know, honoring that is really important. And often that's something it's easy to ignore. We, then we can not response. Right? It's like, we, we, we, it started the next time. We might be less likely again to, so how do you, how do you start to build trust in that deeper knowing I think is really key and it's tricky because often that, yeah, we w we want to want to build that trust.

And if we have a few wrong, if we make a few wrong calls, you know, we might get a little disoriented in that.

Speaker 2 (1h 5m 50s): Yeah. That relationship gets severed.

Speaker 3 (1h 5m 53s): Yeah. Somehow gets yes. Get severed. Yeah. Personally, I find this kind of conversation really, really inspiring and useful. It's a kind of stuff I really enjoy chatting about. And I'm grateful that you got in touch to, to riff about all of this kind of stuff. I think it's important.

Speaker 2 (1h 6m 12s): Yeah, man, fun, riff. And I really appreciate it. I think that's a perfect place to wrap it up. You've left me with a lot of things to contemplate as you know, those are good conversations to have. So thanks, Ryan. Thanks for what you're doing in the show notes. I'll have tons of information about all the things you are doing and your coaching and your webinars and everything. So for those of you listening, go to the show notes, check that out. And Ryan, thanks for your time.

Speaker 3 (1h 6m 40s): Yeah, I know. Really appreciate it, Kevin. Yeah, I enjoyed it too. Thank you.

Speaker 1 (1h 6m 48s): If you find the Cloudbase Mayhem valuable, you can support it in a lot of different ways. You can give us a rating on iTunes or Stitcher or however you get your podcasts that goes a long ways and help spread the word. You can blog about it on your own website or share it on social media. You can talk about it on the way to launch with your pilot friends. I know a lot of interesting conversations have happened that way. And of course you can support us financially. This show does take a lot of time, a lot of editing, a lot of storage and music and all kinds of behind the scenes costs. So if you can support us financially, all we've ever asked for is a buck, a show, and you can do that through a one-time donation through PayPal, or you can set up a subscription service that charges you for each show that comes out.

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One thought on “Episode 165- Ryan Leech and navigating the Risk / Reward Spectrum

  1. Love cross pollination episodes! Especially in a “cousin” sport most of us can also relate to directly. My camera is getting put away more…

    In my 50’s, I have also escalated my “mitigation” game on snowboard and mountain bike – then adopted parts to mini wing/waga at Southside (Salt Lake).

    Would love to hear both your opinions- will dig for his in that huge library! I have 2 different strengths of MTB upper body armor – usually just use the sweater pad type, but shell has its uses (more for icy, trees on snowboard)
    Same for full face helmet often.

    Thanks always, Gavin for your hard work and stoke!

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