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.
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.
- It’s stupid because 85 miles into a race, I didn’t have the coordination or strength to do a jump properly.
- 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.
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.)
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 â€” alone â€” on the trail I rode more often than any other trail. One second I’m consciously happy â€” actually thinking something like “I’m so happy riding my bike on a perfect trail on a perfect Autumn day” â€” and the next I’m sliding on packed dirt, gravel and embedded rockâ€¦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 â€” 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 â€” the Alpine Loop, above the Sundance ski resort in Utah â€” 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 â€” not my palms â€” 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 â€” just once â€” 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 â€” about two feet â€” 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 â€” the hope that I will once again, some day, surprise everyone with a moment of agility â€” is why I keep trying the technical moves.