I’ve been riding mountain bikes since the late 1980s and have spent countless hours in the saddle. That time has allowed me to develop some decent bike handling skills and, while I haven’t had too many serious crashes, I accept that the law of averages is bound to catch up with me once in a while. In my mind, when someone rides enough, whether it’s on a cross country bike or a full-on freeride machine, they’re going to meet the ground at some point or another and that fact is something all mountain bikers need to understand.
Getting knocked around is part of the game when it comes to mountain biking and I’ve experienced my fair share. Along with a regular assortment of scrapes and bruises, I’ve lived through the odd broken toe and one or two slightly separated shoulders. But this entry isn’t about these little dust-ups. Instead, I want to talk about the biggies, the crashes that you describe with relish and the ones you don’t need to embellish with any sort of superlatives. So without further adieu, here are three of my worst and scariest crashes:
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The Bike Breaker
In 2002, Whistler Bike Park was really coming into its own as THE premiere biking destination for gravity nuts from around the world. Trails like A-Line were fixtures on all of the major biking videos and almost every rider who had a chance to rip down the groomed runs were floored by the speeds they could reach and the distances they could jump.
That year, I was riding a new Kona Stinky DeeLux with Marzocchi Super Ts — the freeride special — and was filled with confidence while dropping off of everything in sight. During one of my trips that summer, I headed out with some buddies for a day on the hill. On one of our runs, we were booking it down A-Line and I launched off the infamous rock drop. Things were going well — I landed the drop without any problems — until I blew the next turn and flew over a berm, through another biker, and head-on into a tree. All this while crusing along at about 40km/h.
I thought I was fine and grabbed my bike to get it out of the way. When I hopped back on, I looked down and noticed that I’d folded my fork under my frame and crumpled the head tube of my beloved Stinky. After a quick trip to the clinic, where I was diagnosed with a slight concussion and a fractured wrist, I was left to mop up the remains of my $2,500 frame and fork. Ouch.
The Oh-I’m-Going-to-Make-It Crash
In the late 1990s, I had serious thoughts about getting into cross country racing since my fitness level was great and I was riding faster than I’d ever ridden before. Spending most of my time on a Fisher Paragon (replace on warranty by a Supercaliber), I was super stoked on flying up and down local xc runs.
On one of those fine mornings, I ended up underestimating a steep section and was forced to jump off of the bike. I cleared the bike and thought I was going to make it out scott free but, since it was so steep, I couldn’t keep myself from running down the hill and straight into, you guessed it, a tree. I sat down for a few minutes, recovered my breath and climbed back on my bike — I was sure sore, but it was nothing that kept me from finishing the ride.
It wasn’t until I was peeling off my clothes before jumping into the shower that I noticed the unhealthy-looking bruise that extended from my rib cage down to the middle of my thigh. The verdict? A couple of badly bruised ribs and the ugliest hematoma that you’re ever likely to see on a cyclist. Fortunately, I was younger then, and my recovery was quick.
The Big and the Bad
I consider a crash Especially Nasty if the results keep a cyclist off of their bike for more than a couple of weeks. Usually, crashes of this magnitude involve broken bones, displaced shoulders, and anything else that creates severe discomfort. Fortunately, most riders never experience this type of crash and they can be thankful for that since, speaking from experience, I can say without reservation that the consequences ain’t too much fun.
My big one occurred last October. If you’ve followed me over from my last biking site, you’ll know that I stacked hard on a jump that I helped build and had hit many, many times previously. I don’t really feel like going into the details of the event, but the crash involved blowing a jump and piling into yet another tree. The end result of that crash was a badly injured neck and upper back, and a bunch of inconsequential cuts and bruises. Since then, my recovery has been steady, if a bit too slow for my liking.
What’s my point?
I think it’s useful for people to talk about their crashes — especially their bad ones — because I think that it helps others realize that theirs aren’t the worst out there and that there will be a resolution, one way or the other. In most cases, full recovery is just a question of time, mental discipline, and patience. In others, people need to realize that crashing comes with the territory and, while cycling is generally a pretty safe sport, riders need to accept that every time they strap on a helmet and head out onto their local trails there’s a chance that they’ll go down. Hard.
Now, here’s the interactive part of this article: I want you all to write about your worst bike-related crashes in the comment box below. At this point, I don’t want to hear how you dealt with the pain afterwards — save those thoughts for next week. In the meantime, bring da ruckus!