Learning how to cope with fear requires an individual approach. This approach consists of two components: (1) a diagnosis, and (2) a treatment. Both in diagnosis and treatment we use the fact that the difficulty level of all exercises can be varied by adjusting distances (between chalk lines, pylons, …), diameters (of turns and circles) and numbers (turns and gates). For every exercise, there is a difficulty level at which the cyclist can still do the exercise with confidence. We call this the “starting exercise”.
- Take fear seriously.
- Assume that most people cannot or do not want to talk about their fears. Perhaps they do not even label their discomfort as fear. This can often be identified from the cramped position on the bicycle. With these cyclists one should not talk about fear but about the fact that it “does not go so well” or “does not feel so good” yet.
- Do not discuss the details of how the cyclist experiences his fear (“not feeling so good”). Instead, focus on the precise circumstances in which that anxiety occurs.
- Determine the starting exercise. Concretely, try to get a clear idea of the precise exercise (which distances, which diameters, which numbers) the cyclist can just do with confidence.
- Adjust the difficulty level of the exercise so that the cyclist can just do it with confidence.
- Let the cyclist do this exercise until the confidence is complete and any cramping has disappeared.
- Gradually increase the difficulty level of the exercise and repeat step 2 each time.
The strength of this treatment lies in the fact that overcoming fear gives the cyclist a very good feeling. The repetition that is needed to make the first progress (the first time step 2 is taken) requires perseverance from the cyclist and encouragement from the cycling instructor. However, the next times that step 2 has to be taken (each time with a higher difficulty level), the cyclist’s motivation is usually high enough to succeed on his own.