Another weekend where riding through mud and gloop is happening to almost everyone I know. Gloaters the lot of them, struggling through trails rendered unrecognisable by Wintersâ€™ glacial ascent over the hard packed singletrack of a forgotten summer. Like a monster from the deep, brown slop rises inexorably over your favourite tracks and the water table rises with it.
So while those lucky bastards are sliding about in freezing conditions and condemning their wallets to hard day at component replacement central, I was left to muse on an inability to bounce which seems inescapably linked to increasing age.
Back in 2001, when the world seemed a simpler place and mountain bikes replaced motorbikes as my mental illness of choice, I hardly ever hurt myself. Sure I fell off â€“Â often â€“ but never injuring anything other than inflated pride and wearing the scars as this years accessory to tight lycra. Thatâ€™s another thing that has changed, any attempt to squeeze myself into those riding garments would see great swathes of extra flesh trying to get back out again.
Still being rubbish will eventually catch up with you and it didnâ€™t have to run that hard when I swapped fitness for fun. Hereâ€™s an abridged chronology of who broke what where from 2005.
Jump going badly wrong resulting in a â€œtesticle slamâ€ that broke the saddle. Yes thatâ€™s right I bent and broke a steel railed saddle with my bollocks. Feel free to grab your sack and go all cross eyed. I know I did.
Failing to lower the saddle when pitching into the â€œpit of doomâ€. Spat out forward in accordance with laws of physics. Sharp flint created additional arse crack and 35lb freeride bike added all body bruising as it fell out of the sky from a great height. Onto my head.
Target fixation on a tree while clipped in for the first time in four months. Practical experiment testing the theory that if canâ€™t tear your eyes away from an impending tree you will hit it. Hypothesis confirmed at the cost of a cracked rib.
Refusal to admit that crappy balance centre and fear of heights above 6 inches prevent a man from being a North Shore God. Plank bites Man. Some blood and recently repaired rib much disturbed. Sleeping optional for a week or so, breathing less so but I wish it had been.
Six months of atheism when the â€œCult of the Mongedâ€ was calling to others. Made a bloody sacrificial offering to Altyr Of The Broken when a tyre lost a battle of traction with gravity, and knee lost a battle of abrasion with a spikey flint. Was latterly awarded â€œOrder of the Mong, first classâ€. Became a fervent believer in Fate, to whit her specific irritation that with yours truly.
Second day back on the bike after interesting â€œnoughts and crossesâ€ motif inscribed on kneecap by man with wire brush and needle. Courageously removed one arm from bars on flat section of trail and was instantly transported to the horizontal. Smashed up recently healed elbow due mainly to arm pads protecting the inside of the car. Sown back up by GPâ€™s son whoâ€™d â€œgot a pretty good idea of what to doâ€ and medicated entirely by Nurse Stella Artois for days afterwards.
A doomed attempt at a stylish takeoff ended â€“ unsurprisingly â€“ in a footless landing with limbs vigorously attempting to escape the host before a head slam to dirt bank brought home the full meaning of deceleration trauma. Adrenalin painkillers got me home at which point pain turned up and hung around for a few days.
Stuffed a front wheel into a muddy ditch. Ditch deeper than anticipated with a groundhoggy â€˜here we go againâ€™ exit over the bars. Bars provided the perfect foil for soft flesh and bruises marched from the toes upwards.
Stump bites man. Shoulder now on disability benefit and showing no signs of wishing to return to work.
Now thereâ€™s a school of thought much aired in the Leigh household than maybe, just maybe, this hobby is too expensive both in terms of time, hard cash and body parts. Hah, I would rather chop off the offending limb that brook even a tributary of that argument.
Because between the accidents, I was having the time of my life and until the risk/reward ratio tips firmly towards being to broken or too scared to carry on, itâ€™ll be business as usual.
Although can someone else have a turn at crashing? Thanks.