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.
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.