In a ditch called dignity*

Mountain Biking is a sport in which dignity in short supply. Regardless of your own self-image, most normal people find boys dressed in tribal clothing pedalling bicycles in circles to be quite silly. And odd when they find, peering out from under the helmet, a creased middle aged vista peppered with a 1000 yard stare.

That short supply is rapidly reduced to out of stock when now creased body is lying upside down encumbered by bicycle. And that’s good because there is absolutely no way an individual with even a smidge of dignity could demand his friend to stop laughing RIGHT NOW and instead expend some energy to fetch him out of the ditch.

Some days you ride and can’t believe you didn’t have a proper crash. This day was exactly like that except for the crash. On the last obstacle before joining a muddy track signposted for tea and medals. To be honest, it was on a trail with questionable legal status pretty much in line with every hidden gem we ride in this wood. Absolutely no problem on natural tracks upgraded from badger runs, but probably not so where the local kids are being extremely enterprising building all manner of huge jumps and drops.

You cannot help but fell all their hard work may be rewarded with a frown and some flattening from the forest rangers, but nice to see teenagers away from xbox’s eh? Our building is more stealthy. With far less RAD, SICK AND GNARR as befitting men of a certain age and bone fragility. A happy half hour was spent with mark 1 organic theodolite constructing a trail in our minds eye that worked the steep slope and lightly wooded hillside. Without feeling the urge to clear it in a single bound.

Eventually, tired of pointing and plotting, we decided to ride these bikes we had brought with us. But it really wasn’t coming to me today with More grip then you think, but far less than you need. My lungs were full of London Smog, the air was full of Asthma inducing iciness and the sky was darking. Time for a last blast on a shortcut I’d never seen before. And based on what happened, I’m not mad keen to see it again.

Deep and steeped in mud and leaf mulch, the fall line descent was going averagely well – bike side up, rear tyre sliding, trees passing inches from the bars, all of which required maximum concentration and committment. Which is why it wasn’t until the last moment I saw Martin standing by the drop onto the fireroad looking mildly concerned.

It certainly looked a bit imposing, crossed roots marinated in liquid dirt – guarded by an immovable tree on the right and a vertical looking drop out front. Still, we’re here now so brakes off, relax and a smooth weight transition will see you safe. Except Martin then moved aside exposing the second tree. The one I was heading for. With my comedy 711mm bars. Too late to change direction but maybe squeeze through if I squeeze my eyes shut. I made it, the bars didn’t.

Pain in my knuckle registered the impact point although the accident was nothing more than a vague memory of a parabolic exit over the bars, and into the ditch.Which left me with 5 milliseconds of peace before the bike turned up showing its’ displeasure by beating me with spikey bits.

Couple of slow breaths, accept a hand out of the ditch and conduct the standard damage report.Left hand has the look of a bare knuckle fighter, behind the knee has a stump tattoo bruised in, and Mr Scaramanga has visited me in the nipple department via the end of that stupidly long bar. Dignity? Last seen limping off into the twilight.

Anything not requiring hospitalisation is nothing more than tomorrow’s tall story. Yeah it’ll be sore for a bit, but will live forever in my pantheon of “look at me” anecdotes. And it’s riding bikes which is always better than not riding bikes. Even if you’re not riding bikes, and lying in ditches instead.

Hello 2012, going to be one of those years is it?

* Ah Ricky Ross of Deacon Blue. There’s almost no limit to my extensive 80s “it all sounds the same” back catalogue.

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