How to Fall Down

09.6.2005 | 2:03 pm

In my last post, I breathlessly recounted how I had failed to clean a technical move while mountain bike riding on Friday. A couple commenters got right to the heart of the matter. Kenny said, "You, crash? I can’t imagine." Steve wondered if "maybe that bike committed suicide. It looks like it’s had a long, hard life."

Yeah, I’ve taken my share of falls. And I’ve taken your share, too. Here are a few of my favorites.


My First Ride

I managed to get a concussion the first time I ever rode a mountain bike, which put enough fear into me that I didn’t try again for several years. Really, I suppose I should thank Stuart for saving me from all the crashes I would surely have had during that time period, had I been on a bike.


Face Plant

The second time I tried the Leadville 100, I did something very stupid: I tried jumping my bike 85 miles into the ride. This is stupid for two reasons.

  1. It’s stupid because 85 miles into a race, I didn’t have the coordination or strength to do a jump properly.
  2. It’s stupid because I never have the strength or coordination to do a jump properly.

So I landed hard on my front wheel, bounced off the side of the road, and plowed a furrow with my face. The effect was horrific and I admit I loved the attention.


Dislocated Shoulder

A few years ago at the Leadville 100, I was very close to getting the sub-9-hours time I’ve wanted so badly for so long. I had lost time, though, due to a bad case of the barfs for about 45 minutes.

I was feeling better on the descent, though, and was pushing myself. I took a gravel patch with too much speed, washed out, and went down. I caught my full weight plus some momentum on my right arm, which dislocated with a nasty-sounding schkrukkk.

I sat up, yelping in pain, and then in fright at the fact that I could not move my arm at all. I was convinced my race was over.

Not having any idea of what I was doing, I used my left arm to lift my right arm, which settled back into place with a fwop. The sudden and complete transition from agony to relief was so intense I started giggling, and couldn’t stop. OK, maybe there was a little shock and a lot of adrenaline in there, too. In any case, I finished the race (9:20), and my shoulder swelled up impressively before the end of the day. It’s never been the same since.


Fall at Gold Bar Rim

I knew I shouldn’t try this. Everyone I was with knew I shouldn’t try this. And yet, I tried it. Basically, I was tired of being the guy who couldn’t do technical moves, so I took a shot at a double ledge drop on Gold Bar Rim, in Moab, Utah.

Everyone else I rode with made it, no problem. I approached too slow, hit with my weight too far forward, my front tire blew, and I flew forward over my bike, landing about six feet below on my face, wrists, ribs, palms and forearms.

For what it’s worth, I surprised everyone by finishing the six hour ride. (I may be clumsy, but I’m also remarkably stupid.) Plus, if I hadn’t tried that move, I wouldn’t have this, my all-time favorite photo of me:



Unexplainable Faceplant

This next wreck is hard for me to talk about, because I don’t have a legitimate reason for why it happened. I was just zipping along downhill — alone — on the trail I rode more often than any other trail. One second I’m consciously happy — actually thinking something like "I’m so happy riding my bike on a perfect trail on a perfect Autumn day" — and the next I’m sliding on packed dirt, gravel and embedded rock…on my face.  

Later, I would explain to friends that scree washed into the trail from a recent rain was the cause of my fall. They didn’t believe it, and I don’t either. I just fell off my bike at 20mph. I’m stunned, I’m bleeding profusely, and I don’t know what I ought to do. OK, I should get home. What’s the fastest way home? I don’t remember. No, the best way home is to just keep going the way I was going anyway — finish the ride.

The bike was OK, so I got on and finished the ride, my face bleeding onto my top tube. The whole way home I never checked to see if I had all my teeth, because I was certain I had lost some (I hadn’t). I got home. Nobody was there. I looked in the mirror. My lip was split all the way up to my nose. I called my wife and told her to come get me, but to drop the kids off at the neighbor; they would be freaked out if they saw me this way.

Several stitches later, I was all fixed up, though the resulting scar means I will never look quite as good in a goatee again.


Fall coming down Alpine Loop

This fall’s different in that it was not my fault, and it’s the only time I’ve fallen while on a road bike. I was flying downhill on a mountain road — the Alpine Loop, above the Sundance ski resort in Utah — when a Geo Metro trimmed a corner, coming into my lane and forcing me off the road and into a ravine.

Luckily I was wearing gloves, because now they — not my palms — were shredded. I was bruised and bloody, and my front wheel was taco’d. To his credit, the guy in the Metro was horrified at what he had done. He apologized over and over and insisted on giving me a ride back to town. This meant, sadly, his girlfriend would have to wait on the side of the road for him to come back; the car was not big enough for the three of us and my bike to fit.

On the way down, the guy apologized several times more, then confided he was distracted on the road because he was taking his girlfriend up to a scenic spot to propose to her. I had him drop me off at Sundance so he could get back to his proposal appointment.

My wedding gift to them was I never called to take him up on his offer to pay for damages.


Fall Asleep, Fall off Bike

When Brad and I did the 24 Hours of Moab as a 2-man team, I was cooked by the final lap. I didn’t realize how completely cooked, though. I had noticed for several minutes that my head kept drooping and snapping back up.

Then, suddenly, I was skidding on the sand and my bike was 20 feet ahead of me. Of all the places to fall asleep on this course, I had picked a pretty good one. I was unhurt, and my bike was fine, too. As a bonus, I was once again fully awake.


One Beautiful Moment

From the accumulated clumsiness, one could reasonably conclude that I have no business on a bike, or at least that I should have very high insurance premiums. And yet, one time — just once — I did a move nobody else would try, and I stuck it.

We were at the Timpooneke parking lot after a great ride. Everyone was jousting, fooling around. People had been eyeing a drop — about two feet — between two levels of the parking lot. But you couldn’t just drop it, you’d have to jump over the curb, then land on the flat pavement below. People rode up, then turned away. Finally, everyone went back to their cars to start putting their bikes away.

That’s when I rode up to it, jumped, and landed perfectly. (Okay, really I landed front wheel first, but it was no big deal.)

Nobody could believe it. The cautious guy who nevertheless stacks it up regularly had just casually done a high-consequence move. Better yet, nobody followed my lead after I showed it could be done. It stood unchallenged.

And that — the hope that I will once again, some day, surprise everyone with a moment of agility — is why I keep trying the technical moves.


Today’s weight: 166.2lbs.


Bonus Fake News: Tyler Hamilton’s appeal begins today. I cover it in


  1. Comment by Strawberry | 09.6.2005 | 2:28 pm

    Must be difficult to fall asleep while biking. Sorry to hear about all your mishaps. Hopefully they are all behind you. Have an excellent day and happy biking to you.

  2. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.6.2005 | 4:40 pm

    drbjaded – you know, for someone with "jaded" right in your name, you’re nowhere near cynical enough.

  3. Comment by tayfuryagci | 09.6.2005 | 4:48 pm

    great post once again. reading that another REAL person wipes out just like me is a relief (sorry).great blog fatso

  4. Comment by Richard | 09.6.2005 | 5:21 pm

    Hey there, I love a good crash story. Those are great. Sounds like you have had some doozies. Any concussions resulting from those? BTW: What was your first MTB Race? I would love to read a blog about that. I am considering entering my first MTB Race so the perspective would be helpful. Take it easyRichard

  5. Comment by Fat | 09.6.2005 | 6:17 pm

    You must be made of steel! I can only imagine what those falls must have been like for you. Some times I’m a big wuss and therefore would have given up cycling after one of those. Good going! You rock! and as always great post!~ Fat Chick

  6. Comment by Karen | 09.6.2005 | 6:39 pm

    Note to self: Make sure that NOONE has a camera anywhere near me while mountain biking so that there is a record. Other note to self: Don’t ride behind or beside fatcyclist…..Don’t want to end up as fatpancake.

  7. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 09.6.2005 | 9:04 pm

    Your crashes are precisely the reason I don’t own a mountain bike. When I go down I want people watching. Not so they can laugh, but so they can get help. FAST. Over 20% of all events involving me, the ground and the bike vacating the space in between, have resulted in 1 bone becoming 2 bones (or many shards). Congratulations on staying alive and mostly in one piece despite your dubious record.BIG Mike (skinny on the inside)

  8. Comment by Chris | 09.6.2005 | 9:23 pm

    Excellent! I have always wanted to hear your (and other’s) most spectacular bonks/blowups and long crawls back to the car or starting point. Got any good ones?Chris

  9. Comment by Unknown | 09.6.2005 | 10:27 pm

    Hmm. From these stories, I suspect that you have murdered more than one bike — does this make you a "serial" bike killer? No queston that you are obsesed. You are certainly delusional (defined as fixed false idiosyncratic belief — which is an adequate description of your faith that you will ever have any hope of mastering the "technical moves" — um, not that I even know what those are.) And you are crazy — defined as doing the same thing over, and over, and over again and expecting different results (not face planting, eating dirt, or other forms of self mutilation). Very suspect, a mon avis. We will be on the lookout for bike carcasses at your premises. Who knows what we will find…;)

  10. Comment by Ariane | 09.7.2005 | 1:33 am

    I *heart* inexplicably finding yourself face-first to the ground, skidding to a bone-rattling, blood-letting halt. Not that that has ever, or will ever, happen to me. (Suspiciously glances left, right, and left again, then runs to the lavy to check on supply of Bactine.)

  11. Comment by Unknown | 09.7.2005 | 4:41 am

    Lord Eldon of Embonpoint triumphs again! As I read, I can feel every bump and noggin bonker, every rip, gash, smash and tear. I was going to chide you, and men in general, (like it’s a man thing, eh?) but then I had to consider my own guilty past. In my prime, I used to have a lot of similar incidents, only in dubious vehicles, with dubious friends, in the Baja 500 and 1000 and/or pre-running same, but I was drunk at the time—ALL the time.Hmmmmmm… if I ever finish Bumpkins, I guess I’ll have to start on Drunkkins! Bumpkins, really, is just another part of The Sordid Adventures of Ditsy Drunkkins. Or maybe I could just sprinkle them in here and there to stave of the dreadful monotony.

  12. Comment by Fat Cyclist | 09.7.2005 | 5:14 am

    embonpoint \ahn-bohn-PWAN\, noun: Plumpness of person; stoutness. thanks for the word of the day.

  13. Comment by EricGu | 09.7.2005 | 2:02 pm

    It wasn’t suicide. In a moment of the highest service that a two-wheeled mode of transportation can aspire to, your bike selflessly sacrificed itself so that you would be hurt no more.

  14. Comment by Robert | 09.7.2005 | 4:46 pm

    Two pieces of information concern me: (1) You are aware of your propensity not only for falling down but also for falling down and getting hurt, and (2) You are purchasing a track bike that has no brakes. Are your life insurance premiums paid up?

  15. Comment by Unknown | 09.7.2005 | 8:13 pm

    Good comments today. I have two things for you: spinecho says these crashes are the reason he doesn’t own a mountain bike. I am of the opposite faith. I have crashed many, many times on my MTB’s. One time so violently all I remember is the laying on the ground on my back with my bike on top of me and my light broken (night ride) and shining directly in my eyes. I’ve been a little banged up but I always dusted myself off and finished the ride. I have fortunately never crashed on a road bike. I was behind a frind of mine of a short descent when he crashed on his. It was a simple crash (as crashes go); all he did was mis-judge a corner and bounce once on the pavement. he tore all three ligaments in his left knee to one extent or another and lost six months of riding. Before you say it, yes – I acknowledge that any crash can have the worst of consequences but in my opinion, MTB is much, much safer than road riding.As for the pride MTBers have in their crashes – I was lucky enough to interview young California downhill racer Kathy Pruitt a couple of years ago (She just won the NORBA women’s downhill series). We got talkng about her various crashes and she seemed so proud of her injuries, like they were somehow medals she recieved for the hard work she put into her riding, that we put this list together to go along with the article:Bones Broken: Left Hand, pre-race, 2003 World Cup FInals, Kaprun, Austria. Left Collarbone and Rib, pre-race, 2003 Sea Otter Classic, California. Left hand pinky knuckle, round #2 dual slalom, 2000 Norba National, Park City, Utah. Left Collarbone, pre-race, 1997, Norba National, Big Bear, CA (my first ever National. race). Left middle finger, rollerblading down a hill, 1994. Left ACL, pulled my bone apart when I hyperextended it riding moto-x, pre-race, 1996. Right elbow, racing moto-x as a 60cc intermediate, Sand Hill, CA, 1993. Jaw, racing moto-x 80 novice, 1995. Left wrist, racing moto-x, 1994. I’ve had a few concussions ;-Thanks for sharing your space.

  16. Comment by Unknown | 09.7.2005 | 8:57 pm

    Okay…I have been witness to some that weren’t mentioned, and they were no less entertaining than those cited in the BLOG. I guess when you have such an impressive collection some are certain to be omitted. The Elden/Bob Kokopelli "the trial is mine" blunder on Baby-head Boulder Hill stands out…as do(es) the accompanying explitive(s). Or the Soap Creek Wash thunderous shoulder/face plant. Or…wait, that’s not very nice! But hey, I can’t remember many of them since most of the time FC hands me my lungs when I finally catch up (and he has stopped to wait). That’s usually ’cause I have to stop to knosh a block of cheese or a ringding something.

  17. Comment by Christina | 09.8.2005 | 4:57 pm

    The Tyler Hamilton article is super funny. I hope someone’s paying you good freelance money for all your creative writing submissions. It’s rare to read something genuinely funny in magazines. Some humor columns can get a weak smile but not a deep belly laugh. Hey, I have an idea for you regarding the Friday weigh-in: You should start weighing yourself with one of your bikes. Preferably the bike you want to upgrade to better (lighter) components. Get my drift?-The Beast Mom


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