Give it Horns! Riding with Megan Griffiths
“Give it horns!” A South African expression for being bold and brave and attacking one’s fears.
For many African creatures with horns, the solution to confronting anything menacing or uncertain is to charge at it. If you’ve ever had to look for a tree to climb while desperately fleeing from a more than 5000-lb white rhino, you can relate. The threats usually disappear without contest.
I’ve seen this attitude exercised in Canada
Megan Griffiths, also known by 130,000 Instagram and Facebook followers as Megs_Braap, displays that wonderful blend of courage and defiance in her approach to dirt bike riding and coaching. Though her instruction consists of some very sophisticated and functional technical advice, she leads by example with the attitude that sometimes one needs the guts to “Just gas it!” to overcome certain obstacles.
As a newbie rider who has only two races to my name, I had the pleasure of being coached by Megan for a day back in February 2020, in her native British Columbia forests.
It was one of the funnest and funniest lessons I have ever had for anything.
In what other sport would your coach hop up on a big boulder and shout down at you: “Ok, easy approach, soft on the intro, little buuurp to lift your front wheel over that rock. Another clutch blip when your back wheel hits, then when your front wheel comes down, give it a good braaaap to build momentum for this steep part, but keep the traction with your weight over the back, then zzzzzzt to pop over the top of the hill... ok??!”
Ok, I think. But then, like a good coach, she recognizes the spot that scares me most and points straight to it: “If you hesitate here, you’re toast!” Yeah, I recall hearing something like that in slightly more Shakespearean terms.
OK, Here goes
Easy approach... soft intro, little buuurp... clutch blip... am up over the rock (YASSSS!)... front wheel down, (tiny little voice in the back of my head) braaaaaaaaap onto the steep part (a little too zealously out of fear for that scary section), weight not quite over the back enough, lose traction and balance... WAAAAH... CRASH!!
The bike and I are an entwined, mangled mess, wedged between rocks in the muddy stream bed. From the top of the big boulder, genuine coach concern: “Are you ok?”
“Groan... uh-huh... yep”. Then a wave of bubbly, relieved laughter from Megs. Even I have to chuckle when I realize how that must have looked. ‘Rather entertaining, I’m sure.
Encouragement from my coach
I know she’s been in this situation MANY times too. There’s no other way she has managed to master all the skills she has collected in her extensive tool box over the years.
I take a few moments to just lie there, relieved that nothing on the bike is broken or damaged. Oh, and my body is ok too. I’m pinned under the bike in a rocky stream, surrounded by the most picturesque forest scenery, many varieties of moss and ferns, while staring up at the majestic tree canopy above me, thinking it must surely resemble parts of the “Lord of the Rings” locations. But Frodo isn’t going to let me stay here.
Let’s go, try it again
Amazing strength and recovery technique from my coach, helping me turn the 230-lb bike around and get it back down the ravine, ready for Take 2.
A few more tips and a word of encouragement brings me back to “Ready” mode. Since I know I can survive the worst case scenario, my second attempt is slightly more confident, just the right amount of braaaap this time - and I make it all the way over the top of the hill.
Biggest cheer and fist pump from my coach up on the rock: “YEAHHH...!!” echoes through the forest with my triumphant extra engine rev. Despite me being many years Megs’ senior, I’m like a little kid rejoicing inside at making my coach proud. YEEEEHAAAA!!
I think much of the beauty of this sport is captured somewhere between failing and then making the mental progress which helps one conquer that exact same obstacle, just moments later.
This animated, pint-sized little ball of energy and laughs understands that only too well. It is the “stoke” with which Megs maximizes her instruction to riders of any skill level, that enables her to now have followers in over 45 countries.
We continued buzzing through the BC forests for several hours and I fall over more times than I care to count. But when we finally arrived back at the car, I had a collection of bruises, valuable lessons learned, and a smile which did not fade for days afterwards.
It is what makes Megs a great coach
In addition to guiding one to improved technique and skill, great coaches somehow manage to re-ignite the passion for a sport through the victories over “self”, as much as the victories over opponents, circumstances, terrain and other challenges.
It is what makes us so fortunate that she is on her way to the Maritimes, to come and deliver several coaching clinics and to share her brand of “braap” with us, which I think would be fair to call the Canadian version of “Give it horns...!”
This blog was written by NSORRA’s Marijke Nel, a woman who knows something about “Give it horns!” Marijke is a cancer survivor who decided to take on another big challenge - learning to ride a dirt bike - THEN setting a goal to compete in Canada‘s Toughest Dirt Bike Race - the Corduroy Enduro (September 2021), to raise awareness and funds for the Canadian Cancer Society. For more information on how to support Marijke in her quest, go to https://www.facebook.com/Conquest4Cancer/