Crash and Learn

Grimace like your whining

Here’s a picture of me not crashing. I’m having a griggle* instead during the brief passage of time at Mountain Mayhem not spend carrying/pushing/slithering/launching myself headlong into trees.

Since then I’d ridden just the once. During which I first laughed in the faces of those complaining that the trails were so horrible and muddy, and secondly beseeching those very same people to carefully right-side-up me after things went quickly wrong and subsequently painful.

Before the inevitable narrative of skilled riding being mistaken for unplanned exits, let us first turn to the wider issue of the history of crashing. I’m not sure that Mountain Biking is a real ‘sport’ but, having participated in whatever it is for more than ten years, I’m pretty much un-persuadable on the immutable fact that falling off bicycles is a nailed on certainty.

For me anyway. Mostly through cowardly mincing, sometimes through over-confidence, occasionally due to nearly-terminal stupidity and latterly senior moments. Take this year; crashed due to a total lack of commitment on a muddy jump, cracked a rib failing to show adequate ‘bristleness‘ over a rock drop, catapulted myself into unsuspecting shrubbery due to unforeseen external factors** and – last week – throwing myself into a muddy abyss with no thought of personal safety.

A singular theme emerges- most of my crashes are on jumps and drops. This is either because the skills and commitment required for these technical obstacles are way beyond my ken and bravery, or a hard-wired brake reflex preventing the bike lobbing itself happily into the safety zone regardless of the klutzy busybody on top.

I’ve convinced myself it is the second, which goes a little way to explaining my frankly heroic – if somewhat misdirected – attempt to clear a favourite jump in the forest chasing much-faster-than-me Matt. It had been one of those nights. Being so close to midsummer, we struck out without much thought of where we were going or how much light we might need to get there. And that’s fine; light we had lots of it even if it was steely grey under a grumpy cloudbase pregnant with heavy rain.

What we didn’t have, summer-wise, was anything close to dry trails. It was more a green winter with every plant straining in the fauna Olympics (biggest, strongest, most stingy) anchored into slimy dirt, itself retreating under the water table. I’ve never been so warm yet so wet and muddy, and it wasn’t an experience I was keen to extend. One more climb, one great trail to finish, decamp to the pub shaking a mucky finger at the weather.

Six hours of Mayhem had sharpened my mud skills to the point of transcending the normal terror of two feet forward, one foot sideways. I placed myself line astern from the fast fellas and pretended not to be frightened of conditions ready to file those playing clever-buggers in a tree-shaped cabinet. All was mostly well, if occasionally rather too exciting, before a jump that is nothing more than a fab mid trail up’pause’fly’over on a normal ride.

What wasn’t normal was the deeply trenched run in, garrisoned by mud soldiers, guarding a dirty protest where the take off used to be. I saw Matt slither over at exactly the same the ‘ego/ability‘ alarm rang loud in the part of my brain I like to think of as ‘the accountant‘. ‘Risk Assessment suggests a 73{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} chance of injury followed by the 100{45ac9c3234d371044e23e276755ef3a4dde8f1068375defba7d385ca3cd4deb2} chance of humiliation. Bear right or bare your arse with scar tissue

I’ve never liked accountants. Six years of working with the dowdy buggers proved that. So after installing ‘Mr Ego‘ in the driving seat, he immediately decided a couple of pedal strokes’d improve things massively. They didn’t, really. Wheel hit the jump on the piss by five degrees – an angle which had tippled all of one nanosecond later. I seem to remember sighing at this point, as it all gets rather linear and predictable once you’ve passed from pilot to victim. Bike leaves the jump, bike hits the ground some time later with the front wheel perpendicular to the frame, rider is framed in perfect parabola before arriving head first in the dirt.

Upsides? Bike didn’t hit me. Helmet took the impact. Didn’t Die. Downsides, smacked my shoulder, gouged a hole under my knee and received a double helping of arse rash. Oh and smashed my helmet as well. Got Up. Made UUURRRGGH sound. Sat down again. Worried faces swam into view. Hearing okay as laughter very evident. Mooched about for a bit looking for excuses. Kicked bike. Kicked Jump. Hurt toe.

I rode back to the car rather gingerly before dispatching myself to A&E located at “The Anchor, Lydbrook” where medicine and ribbing were provided in roughly equal amounts. On waking in the morning I could remember the crash really well, but not the bit where I’d been hit by a freight train.

Twice since I’ve had the chance to get back on the steely horse. Twice I’ve looked at the rain, the cloud, the mud and concluded ‘fuck that’. It’s not the accident that’s keeping me off the bike, it’s the fact that April, May, June and now July have piled on so much rubbish weather, it’d wear even the unbloodied down.

I’m consoling myself that this is ‘happy crashing‘. Because falling off while having a go in the great British Tradition trumps a comedy mince or craven obstacle refusal.

It’s not much of a consolation if I’m honest. Roll on Winter. At least the mud is frozen.

* Cross between a Grimace and a Giggle. Anyone raced at Mayhem will know what I mean. The rest of you count yourselves lucky.

** Rider crashing in front of me. Leaving me just to choose exactly where I should have my accident.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *