Today I was reminded of something I dislike about mountain biking: CRASHING!
I’ve had a pretty clear run over the last 2 years. A few awkward last minute clip outs, a couple of desperate grasps at tree trunks and plenty of emergency stops. But no “face meets dirt” time. And no blood. Not until today anyway.
It must be two months since I last hit-up the trails. This time last year it was a weekly ritual, but unfortunately this year my ride-buddy and I have had trouble synchronising. I need to get a few rides under my belt, to get the bug back, then I’ll be off!
So today was one of those “first ride back” rides. I had no feel for the trail. The track conditions in Nerang have deteriorated significantly with no rain in two months. The trails are rockier, ruttier and dustier than I remember. The first hour I was tentative and cautious. I’m no dare-devil and I always ride within my limits. As I misread lines through corners, and had to clip-out on little uphill obstacles, it became clear that today I was very limited!
But slowly the touch came back. A nice flowy downhill. A well-cleared tree across the trail. A wee bit of air-time off a jump. A precisely locked-up and slid rear wheel to get around a tight bend. I was feeling it, and it was good!
I approached the off-camber stack of tree trunks, lying across a left-hand corner in the trail, confidently. There’s a big trunk with several smaller trunks laying either side of it to form a rideable mound. I ride this section every time I come into Nerang. I’ve cleared this obstacle dozens of times. The only time I’m a bit nervous is when it’s wet – landing a front wheel on a sloping wet tree branch could mean a front wheel washout.
But today it’s not wet – it’s quite the opposite – super-dusty! Maybe even dusty enough that my wheel could slide out on the fine layer of dust covering the trunks. I come in wide to minimise the camber and quickly press down with my arms to pre-load the fork, just before I get to the first log. As I’m about to hit the log, I release my arms and lean back slightly. The fork springs back, completely unweighting the front wheel and sending it up onto the top of the big log. Perfect.
My eyes are already looking further down the trail to see what’s coming next.
And then things go wrong.
The front wheel doesn’t land and roll. Instead it twists violently to the right, as it finds a gap between two trunks and jams into it. The front of the bike stops dead. Me, and the rest of the bike, keep going. Up and over.
My last memory is looking down and seeing a big brown patch of dirt, rapidly approaching. I can still picture it now. My last thought as I sail through the air: “I’m about to hit the dirt”. Genius! And I was right!
My right shoulder hits the dirt HARD. My bike sails after me and the chainring introduces itself to my calf.
I’m lying in a tangled heap, bike and legs, in a bush on the side of the trail. Hang on. I’m lying in a bush… in Australia… SNAKES, SPIDERS, TICKS! I jump up and dust myself off. Some blood. Nothing broken. Sore shoulder. Front wheel’s not buckled. All good.
And wasn’t it fortunate that my ride-buddy was just behind me and is able to dissect my aerial antics? No quickly putting this one behind me and moving on! After overanalysing it for several minutes I decide I’ll have to re-attempt it or it will play on my mind. I’m certainly nervous and a bit more cautious this time, but the wheel rolls over as smooth as silk. Hmmm. I don’t know if that reassured me at all!
Of course, my confidence is shot for the rest of the ride and I manage to stack one more time – somehow riding right into a thin tree which appeared in the middle of the track. Tree, meet forearm. This time my ride-buddy is ahead of me, so I can quickly regather and catch-up.
So maybe not the happy welcome back ride I was hoping for. I’m grateful I haven’t done myself a real injury and buggered up next month’s triathlon and squandered two solid months of training. Hopefully this sore shoulder will quickly disappear and not hinder my swimming.
I wonder if I’ll be back on the mountain bike next week?