Best. Crash. Ever.

02.20.2006 | 4:03 pm

The details leading up to the crash are fuzzy. Was it five years ago, or seven? Was it spring, summer, or autumn? I don’t remember.

I do remember the crash, though. Perfectly.

Our riding group was pretty large: Dug, Rick, Bob (visiting from Seattle, turning the ride into an event), Jeremy, Gary, and me. There were a couple others, too.

We were doing a semi-epic ride: Begin the ride by climbing up Frank. That’s about 1800 feet, right there. Then, instead of hanging a left and going down, keep going up Francisco. That’s another thousand feet or so. And then the Five Fingers: Drops into and climbs out of five ravines of varying difficulties. That’s probably another 1500 feet of climbing.

Which brought us to the terraces.


Left or Right?

The terraces are strange. Created as part of the WPA program back in the 30’s (ostensibly to stop erosion, but really just to give some people work) these giant stairsteps are now a more-or-less permanent feature on the grassy slopes of several mountains in Utah.

When we got to the terraces, we had an option. Turn right, toward Little Baldy, keep climbing for another twenty minutes, then drop down into Pleasant Grove Canyon. Or turn left and begin descending immediately, riding the ridges of the terraces, eventually winding up in Dry Canyon.

Either way promised to be a fun ride, but when presented with the option of climbing now or descending now, well, what do you think the group decided?

Of course, we turned left. We’d ride the goat trail along the terraces, then hook up to Dry Canyon.


Unfolding Drama

I’m the acknowledged slowest descender of the group, so I generally don’t even volunteer to ride sweep; I just wait until everyone else has started. Ordinarily, this means I’ll watch everyone else disappear as they distance me.

This time, though, it meant I got to watch something extraordinary.

Just about the time I got a full head of steam, Dug — riding first — hit a dip that had been well-hidden by the deep grass. That dip wasn’t bad enough to knock him off his bike, but it was bad enough to throw him to the left, off his line. And since we were riding on the lip of one terrace, that meant he got shot suddenly and immediately down the steep slope to the next terrace level, at which point he endoed, flying high over his handlebars and landing on his back.

And then, a quarter-second later, Rick did the exact same thing. Ride. Dip. Jerk. Flip. It’s like they were synchronized swimmers. 

Then, as fast as you can read this, Gary, Jeremy, and Bob. Each person landed with their own special sound effect. Each separated from his bike in his own way. And they all went down so close together that things started getting crowded. One would be wise to pick one’s landing spot carefully, which one would obviously do if one were at all in control of oneself whilst being thrown keyster over teakettle.


I Will Not Fall Down

Of course, I’m writing this with clear hindsight. I now know what caused everyone to get flipped off their bikes. While it was happening, though, it was the strangest thing I had ever seen. When one guy goes down, it’s no big deal. But everyone was going down. I swear, it looked intentional.

I slowed down, cautious. Already, I was forming a plan. I would pull alongside all these fallen riders, shake my head in mild amusement, make a “tsk-tsk” sound, and then continue ahead, in a most dignified manner.

Then, just like everyone else, I hit the dip, jerked off course, flew off the terrace, and flipped over my bike. Just like everyone else had. To my relief, I landed in a clear spot.

I had made it unanimous. Every single one of us had crashed in the exact same spot. Lemmings on mountain bikes.


Back on Your Bike, Soldier

So now, like everyone else, I was lying on my back in tall grass. I sat up, startled to find I was completely unhurt. It had been the rarest of crashes: a no-cost endo. I looked over at Dug, who was just now stumbling to his feet, unaware — I think — of what had happened to everyone else. Then he looked around, seeing the around a half dozen bikes and riders scattered on the ground.

Dug sat back down, laughing. And within moments, we were all laughing, sitting where we had landed. A passerby — had there been even a remote possibility of passersby up in the terraces — would have certainly suspected substance abuse.

But it wasn’t. It was just a bunch of guys caught up in the moment of what was without a question the Best Crash Ever.

Eventually, we’d finish the ride.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 02.20.2006 | 4:37 pm

    i get this image of catapaulted cows from another monty python bit, piling up in the meadows below, and you above shouting: "i wave my private parts in your general direction," with a goofy, haughty french-ish accent.

  2. Comment by Unknown | 02.20.2006 | 4:37 pm

    i get this image of catapaulted cows from another monty python bit, piling up in the meadows below, and you above shouting: "i wave my private parts in your general direction," with a goofy, haughty french-ish accent.

  3. Comment by Tyler | 02.20.2006 | 5:50 pm

    I can just hear Phil Liggett exclaiming "And now Fatty’s down!  What  is happening?  And another one!  This is just outrageous, Paul…"
    (Though I know it’s mountain biking and so not entirely appropriate,)

  4. Comment by Sue | 02.20.2006 | 5:53 pm

    I’ve never even heard of such a thing.  Every rider crashing.  It’s disgracefuLl.  I’m SURE if I had been with you I wouldn’t have wrecked.  MY LIVER!  I THINK I’VE LACERATED MY LIVER!

  5. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 02.20.2006 | 7:31 pm

    In the Trucking Industry, we referred to this phenomenon as :The Silver Eagle Maneuver" after Silver Eagle Transportation out of  Connecticut losing their ENTIRE fleet of 15 trucks in a single accident in NY on I 84. In heavy fog, they were all running to the same destination in convoy in Fishkill Summit and the lead truck went off the road and the rest followed his tail lights in the fog through the guard rail and down the side of the Mountain! No driver was killed, but I’d sure hate to explain to the insurance carrier just how I lost my entire fleet and 15 cargo’s in the same accident! They went out of business because they could no longer even get insurance!

  6. Comment by Fatter Cyclist | 02.20.2006 | 7:50 pm

    Well ‘Fat Cyclist’ – I just came across your blog and must say congrats – it looks like you achieved your goal.
    You’ll see that I loved your idea so much… I copied it with .
    I’m in much worse shape than when you started your goal.  215 – wanting to get down to 175/180.
    A LOT of work ahead of me, but thanks for posting the inspiration.
    All the best,
    Fat(ter) Cyclist

  7. Comment by Zed | 02.20.2006 | 7:56 pm

    Did anyone pull the ‘three-try’ rule on that one?

  8. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 02.20.2006 | 8:26 pm

    Hey, that looks like fun.  Fellas, wait for… aagh, ooof.
    Te he.

  9. Comment by Unknown | 02.20.2006 | 8:34 pm

    MTB features some pretty good crashes, but a lot of times, you land in the dirt, which is softer than car bumpers, steel lane dividers, and your buddy’s titanium-framed Litespeed.  I’m not mocking MTB-ing here, just noting that if you can hit the tall grass and avoid the rocks & trees, the landing can be only mildly painful.  But can you imagine what a similar road crash would be, if the lead rider ran the paceline into a pileup? 
    "Rick got up and was laughing really hard because Rocky’s ankle was at a 90 degre angle – sideways!- to the rest of his leg.  Rick laughed, at least until he realized that his shoulder was separated and his collarbone was shattered, at which point he sat down in the fetal position, started crying and rocking himself and went into shock.  Rocky laughed at Dug – well, it was sort of a groan – when Dug tried to stand up and his tibia – sticking downwards out of the skin – got stuck into the muddy ground at the bottom of the ditch like a tent peg.  Ooooh, that’ll leave a mark.  Al apparently swerved out of the paceline with his usually crummy line discipline and hit a car [had to write myself in somewhere] and the lucky bugger got away from the pileup with just a bruised knee, and his face left a dent in the hood.  The ambulance driver beat him up pretty bad when he lipped off, but those injuries weren’t really crash-related.  And as for me… well, this is all second hand.  I had a really bad concussion and some road rash that totally wrecked a set of Etxe Ondos.  I remember something about drinking the clear fluid that was running out of my ears…  Oh, and they tell me that I beat up Dug with the bloody stump of my own arm for failing to call out the road hazard that made the whole group crash, and for wrecking my $5,000 bike.  And we never did identify whose fingers got taken off by the aero spokes on Rick’s Mavic Ksyriums.   Good times, man.  Good times." 
    I think the rule is MTB crashes are generally pretty funny, although occasionally punctuated by horrifying injuries, while road crashes are generally horrifying and only occasionally punctuated by humor.

  10. Comment by Tim D | 02.21.2006 | 11:22 am

    A bunch of us were out riding up in the Lakes.  The guy at the front hit a really soft boggy patch that grabbed his front wheel and pitched him into the mud.  The following three guys were so close behind that they had no choice but to ride over him.  No lasting damage was done, but for the rest of the ride, whenever we came across a boggy bit, it was "Mark, can you throw yourself down there so we can get across."
    My other favourite crash was a different Mark.  It was a very cold day and all the ruts and puddle were coated with ice.  We hit one particularly long stretch of ice and all came down with varying degrees of grace.  Then Mark hit it, on a different line, cracked through the ice and was pitched into the puddle, having to break up through the ice to get out.  He was frozen and soaking.  We got him dry and managed to find some dry clothes for him to put on.  As he was struggling to pull a jersey over his head, he stepped back off the trail and fell 6 or 7 feet into a stream.  How we laughed.  Fortunately we were fairly near the end of the ride and he was only slightly shivering uncontrolably by the time we got him to the cars.

  11. Comment by Andrew | 02.21.2006 | 4:42 pm

    I think you should have left Mark dead on the trail as a warning for others.
    Perhaps that would have been a bit harsh.

  12. Comment by Tyson | 02.27.2006 | 8:46 pm

    Ah yes, the story of Mark(#2) brought back memories of some great times.  Is there anything more hilarious than the onset of hypothermia? I think not!


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