Hello and welcome to a special edition of ‘oh fuck, really, again?’. What’s going on up there has a couple of triggers. One half a second before best thought of as ‘what kind of sick bastard left that tree there?’ and another a day prior where I was going large on small achievements.
Let’s start there. Keen to extend our skills day into actual riding, we ignored the mercury rising and headed out to our favourite trails. Perfect summer conditions primed for my best friends and a possibly inappropriate hardtail. Not everyone had got the memo, so just Matt, Rex and I sallied forth on a single sprung end.
These are not XC race bikes tho. They are long forked, fat tyred, slack angled bruisers. Lean into the front end and there’s pretty much no reason to ride a full suss on these trails. As ever, the bike was not the issue.
I kind of was. Leading the first couple of trails I was struggling to put theory into practice. Too much external stimulus, some of it from behind wondering if I had a major stake in brake pad commodities. Obviously a breezy ‘fuck off’ deals with that but even so, limbs and brain were wondering if they’d ever met.
I hid mid pack until things improved. Which, considering conditions were perfect, is hardly a critique on my riding skills. Even so, flow was occasionally sighted if not consistently maintained. There was a lot of shit being talked, dust was harvested from every turn and laughter echoed through the summer leaves.
Life stuff right there. A small part of me was hanging back, going steady because in four days our postponed King Alfreds Way was fixed with non movable deadlines. But on trails I know, and in conditions I ride pretty well this was not going to be a problem. Do the right thing, back off 10% and revel in some serious adulting.
About that. We switched sides of the valley after a fantastic few hours tearing up the Doward. The symbioses of hardtail and rider under sunny skies had me over-rating my ability. You know the old saying “coaching can only take you far, but talent is limitless‘.
Or possibly limiting. We dragged ourselves up a white road climb where melting was a definite possibility. As ever Matt has an itinerary that suggests we might finish before nightfall if all goes well. It went well early doors with an adequately brisk descent of a trail we’d loop back to access a well loved option.
I have ridden this trail *checks strava* at least 50 times. In the pissing rain, sideways sleet and endless dampness transforming every root into a mortality vector. And while I’ve had moments of ‘woooah woooah WOOOAH‘ I’ve never properly stacked it.
Until today. Matt sends me out first so – because my ego is still anchored to being about 15 years old – I go full GoPro gimp*. There is nothing to scare me on this trail. Fast and smooth, leave the brakes alone, lean into that front end, remember what you’ve been taught.
What I hadn’t been taught is ‘don’t crash your bike into a tree‘. Which is no fault of coaching as it’s pretty bloody obvious. We must ride past a thousand on every ride and we’ve all experienced what happens if you clip one. Earlier that day I’d castigated Matt for his 800mm bars explaining he was sure to be splattered by a handy trunk.
What’s that they say about Karma? It points you at four sinewy interlinked corners where everything has to be perfect to nail fast shifting apexes. I was thinking about exactly how I’d be nailing those with my new technique and confidence. This was going to be GoPro gold.
Never got there. Mistimed a simple turn and smashed the bar into a sturdy sapling. The bike went sideways, I went horizontal. Physics, being a bit of twat, double teamed with gravity to punt me into geology defined by organ splattery bedrock.
Had an extended lie down. “Are you okay” / “Fucked if I know“. Gingerly got back up. Took a while. Tangentially aware left hand had taken a beating. Ignored that and rode the double drop a few minutes later one handed on my hardtail. Felt good about that. Didn’t feel good about much else that evening.
Two days later I tried riding the gravel bike. Two seconds of off-road confirmed four days of riding was a fantasy. I felt shit about it and letting Adam down but there’s being brave and being stupid. So we postponed again. Come September I’m bloody determined to get it done.
Roll forward five days. It’s still not great. I swerved A&E by asking my long suffering physio to have a look ‘Scaphiod probably okay, don’t ride on it, it’s properly swollen’. Obviously, I rode on it, just tried the HulkHand(tm) in the field to see how it felt… not too bad. Maybe I could ride tomorrow?
No, I really can’t as my wrist and thumb are screaming for attention. I can’t quite hear what they’re shouting, but the gist seems to be ‘don’t be a fucking idiot’.
Well, that’s fair I suppose. Could have been a collarbone. Really, lots of outcomes way worse than this. But shit I’m grumpy. Missed a four day bike tour because – and let’s just be honest here – I really am an idiot.
Will I ever learn? Probably not. Am I okay with that? Absolutely.
*If you want to see this post in real time, then this YT clip starts about 2 seconds before the crash