Last week I had the distinct pleasure of twice riding the Mt. Falcon/Five Parks loop in Jefferson County, which is quickly becoming my favorite loop that I can ride from the house. Mt. Falcon starts with a somewhat grueling 3.8 mile, 9% grade, 1,700 foot climb up a rocky and water barred-trail. (Translation – this is steep and technically challenging climb).
The climb up Mt. Falcon is as follows: first, switchbacks littered with water bars; then a steep section and last a steep and unpleasantly rocky section. The first two sections are tough but pretty manageable.
By the time you get to the last section, your legs are heavy, your lungs are burning, you’re wondering just exactly why you are doing this. (On my last trip up I actually heard a woman say “Why do people do that, he looks miserable!”) One thing will be the key to get you smoothly up the last bit of the climb: good navigation, what mountain bikers refer to as “a good line.”
A climb like Mt. Falcon requires that you ride a good line on the way up. You need to choose the path of least resistance, avoid steep rock faces and head-on water bars, you have to meander your way around the trail to seek out smooth surfaces. You can’t afford to lose momentum by jamming your front wheel into the face of a 8″ boulder in the middle of the trail.
The key to success is to both choose your line as you approach a rocky section and then to hold that line throughout. it won’t do you much good to blindly push your way up the trail without choosing a line, and choosing a line won’t do you much good if you don’t hold it.
Can you see where I’m going with this yet? We’ve had nice, complacent markets of late. Large cap US stocks are up some 150% from the bottom in ’09. The S&P 500 seems to be setting a record high on a daily basis. Volatility is asleep on the job and we haven’t had a significant daily decline in the markets in weeks. So before we get to the rocky sections, before we get our inevitable correction or the next bear market, choose your line. Know how you’ll make decisions about your portfolio before it comes. Then, the tricky part: hold your line. Having a plan won’t be worth a thing if you abandon it. So however rough and rocky things seem in the moment, just remember that you knew this was coming eventually and you already made a plan for it. Giving up on that plan is probably the worst thing you can do.
Abandoning your line when riding a rocky trail might result in a face full of dirt, but abandoning your plan in a bear market will have more serious consequences.