How to Watch Mtn Bike Videos

[3 minute read]

When I was young – only a few VHS tape mountain bike movies came out per year.

The users of the most popular mountain biking websites Pinkbike, sees 100 new video uploads per day! The content being produced is simply incredible: high quality, inspiring locations, and breathtaking talent.

This article has none of that, no whoa factor. However I do provide theory and an actionable practice that I hope will contribute to a more enriching and more mindful video viewing experience.

I often become desensitized and even hypnotized by the quantity of content online. A common story these days. Once our awareness is absorbed by the digital flow, internet algorithms are free to take charge and guide us. One video finishes and another is suggested or auto played in some apps. You are no longer choosing consciously, but rather being led by whatever is trending, which is based on others who may be unconsciously creating that momentum or on advertisers attempting to influence it. At this point are you holding your phone, or is your phone holding on to you?


My roles vary in videos: pro-rider and coach, producer, and advertiser. No matter the role there is only one chance for me to catch a viewer’s attention because the newsfeed keeps flowing. Intention is vital. For example, as a pro trials rider I have performed tricks when I was truly inspired and I have performed when it was the last thing I wanted to do. I have also taken sketchy risks due to various unacknowledged ego projects. Does the viewer pick up on these distinctions, at least at some level? In my experience they do. Which leads to the question: why are you watching the video? Do you even know? To be entertained or distract yourself? To be inspired to ride? To join in the comment thread community with opinions? To learn a technique? Or perhaps because a friend suggested you watch it?

I’m a huge fan of screen gazing. Our devices are truly magical. How can we not be enamored and even romanced by the riches of information now available? As we scour through this info-flow it’s easy to begin oscillating in and out of consciousness, which creates a more frenetic pace of glass stroking as we hope to find the next vicarious but real dopamine hit. This creates a certain kind of mental-momentum such that, when we turn our attention away from the screen our minds are still reeling. For me, the symptoms show up most clearly when I attempt to a read a book (remember those things?). I feel the gravity from my phone, sitting there, waiting to tell me if I sold a course on my website or if my friends are having some awesome riding adventure. It can even draw me in if I wake up in the middle of the night. And that just doesn’t feel healthy!

It’s strange. Mindfulness is a huge trend. People are ‘waking up’ with greater presence, awareness, and big picture perspective-taking abilities, while at the same time we’re being ‘put to sleep’ by electronic entertainment. Are these necessary opposites, or is there an equivalence to obesity for the consumption of online content? We know we are what we eat, but are we not also what we consume digitally (digital cookies are everywhere!).

Now it is sometimes nice to lose yourself online, just like in a book, but wouldn’t it be even nicer to have a choice as to when we do that? The strength of your awareness muscles determines this. In other words how often are you able to catch yourself habitually opening, closing and re-opening the same pattern of apps and sites on your phone ad infinitum? When I catch myself in these patterns it’s always a WTF moment! It’s just not satisfying. It’s just like scarfing down an awesome cookie and realizing you forgot to taste it. That sucks! I want to taste the cookie (or watch the video) with curiosity and appreciation for those who made it, and what they went through to serve it to me. However, it’s one thing to say that we should savour the experience and another to put into practice.

My ability for a more fulfilling video viewing experience is linked to how the rest of my life is going and most certainly how often I’m getting out for mountain bike rides! Meditation has been a massively important tool for maintaining some semblance-of-self while surfing. A regular meditation practice means that my ‘oh I’m lost online right now’ muscles are strong.


Here’s another seemingly simple practice that I think may contribute to the quality of your video watching time. Try it! Press pause a few seconds into every video you watch online. While it’s paused check in with yourself: “oh here I am sitting here watching videos.” Then you can ask “why am I watching this video?”. Based on the answer you can decide whether or not to press play again. If you do, then I trust it will be a more enriching video viewing experience!

By |2017-10-03T06:32:56+00:00March 6th, 2016|Coaching, Practice|8 Comments

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  • Graham Whiting

    Hi Ryan – good for you – this may not be your most popular article, but well done.
    I reckon you’re right about the unconsciousness or lack of awareness that gets encouraged by video content. It absorbs our senses. So much so, that we can carry on eating, be it food, or time, or both, without noticing our bellies or our minds are overfilled! Pinkbike is a terrific site if you are a mountain biker – but I have to ration it – and the other biking sites, to make sure I get enough riding time!

    • Thanks Graham, good point about the unconscious eating that often goes along with it… and yeah this article was really born out of my own attempts to more skillfully navigate online – it’s all so new. Cheers to riding time!!

  • Lora Curtis

    I will try this for sure Ryan. One of my goals for this year was to better use my time on my devices but it’s so easy for me to be scattered. I have found that some days I get ‘time anxiety’ over real life things I have not completed, and when honest with myself, I have often used too much of my time online that day.

  • Randy Spotts

    This is a good topic. However, I’ll use ski movies for the bulk my comment. I quit craving ski movies when the action became really death-defying. In addition, I got tired of viewing a speck of a skier on a vertical fluted mountainside in Alaska. The best cinematography for me is when I have a good view of the subject, and most important of all, if I can glean something from it. For instance, when they slow down the film speed of Steve Peat descending a downhill trail, I can watch what he’s doing. In conclusion, I primarily review MTB videos in my library. And my library includes instructional videos. On rare occasion, I’ll seek out video online, with the intent to gain inspiration.

  • Ryan, I’ve been more aware recently of my ego problems with social media *publishing*, not so much social media *consuming*, so your post was good for me to read.

    FYI, one of the best things I’ve read on the psychological impact of social media publishing is from the book The Road to Character by David Brooks:

    “… social media encourages a broadcasting personality. Our natural bent is to seek social approval and fear exclusion. Social networking technology allows us to spend our time engaged in a hypercompetitive struggle for attention, for victories in the currency of ‘likes.’ ”

    “People are given more occasions to be self-promoters, to embrace the characteristics of celebrity, to manage their own image, to Snapchat out their selfies in ways that they hope will impress and please the world. ”

    “This technology creates a culture in which people turn into little brand managers, using Facebook, Twitter, text messages, and Instagram to create a falsely upbeat, slightly overexuberant, external self that can be famous first in a small sphere and then, with luck, in a large one. ”

    “The manager of this self measures success by the flow of responses it gets. The social media maven spends his or her time creating a self-caricature, a much happier and more photogenic version of real life. People subtly start comparing themselves to other people’s highlight reels, and of course they feel inferior.”

    • Nice flip on this Griff – an equality important – How to Create Mountain Bike Videos. I love the description: ‘turn into little brand managers’. So accurate, and I can certainly relate as it has been an important component of my career – which started well before social media!

  • Ross Walker (Australia)

    I look for online video primarily for two reasons, to have a wider understanding as to what is possible as a rider and secondly how to develop the skills to perform at that level.
    My greatest frustration with the internet is that video presentation so often ignores those of the world wide web community that have to content with slow speed connections. So unless we can actually download then view the video we are subjected to hours of waiting for 10 minutes or so of very useful content.

  • Tim Johnson

    You nailed this Ryan;

    Your obesity metaphor is true, and scary! Is it any less destructive to be addicted to electronic devices than to fast food?

    Try monitoring your heart rate next time you spend your precious time online and you will see you were not far from comatose.

    Does watching gifted athletes do things I could never hope to imitate make me a better athlete? It might save me from the terrible embarrassment of being the only one of my circle of friends to not have seen the latest video.

    Electronic devises are tools, nothing more. Wonderful tools but tools all the same, and no craftsman will ever be good at his trade if he spent more time than necessary with the wrong tool.

    Life is so short, and there is so much to be squeezed out of it that it seems a shame to waste a moment of it. We seem to be spending more and more time with “virtual reality” and less and less within “reality”.

    There is a side bar to this, in the greater and greater risks the athletes are required to take to get the next million hit video. The fame is so meager and transient that a spinal cord injury is a poor trade off for you tube hero status. Just ask Martyn. Are we fueling this by constantly seeking the next sensation?