You want to know the fundamental difference between mountain biking and road biking? If you crash frequently while road biking, you’re doing it wrong. If, on the other hand, you don’t crash from time to time while mountain biking, you’re doing it wrong.
So, if we take it as given that you will crash from time to time on your mountain bike, what can you do to get the very most out of the experience? How can you turn your wreck from a display of clumsiness and negligence into the kind of story that gets told around campfires and office coolers?
By following these simple steps, that’s how.
Think of some generic injuries you can claim when the moment is right. Here is a brief list, to help you get started.
- Internal bleeding: Keep this one in mind for the occasions when you’re hurt — no, seriously, you really are — but don’t have an injury that actually shows. Insist that you need to be taken to a hospital immediately. Once you’ve made this demand, however, you cannot back down. Follow through, even though you’ll probably feel just fine by the time you get to the hospital. When you finally get out of the waiting room, though, slip the doctor a $20 and say there’s another $20 in it for her if she’ll play along and tell your friends it is one of the most harrowing examples of internal bleeding she has ever seen, and that they’re lucky they listened to you.
- Ruptured diaphragm, preventing breathing: If you get the wind knocked out of you, you can claim that you actually ruptured your diaphragm, and now have only moments to live before you suffocate to death. Explaining later why you’re alive may be difficult. I leave that to you. (Thanks for the idea, Tayfur!)
- Torn ligaments: Good general-purpose, believable injury, and practically impossible to disprove in the field. Highly recommended.
- High Altitude Pulmonary Edema: Use this if you’ve been riding clumsily the whole day. It’s best not to say you have this ailment if you’re below an altitude of 500 feet.
- High Altitude Cerebral Edema: Use this if you’ve been riding clumsily and saying stupid things.
- Total amnesia: Save this one for an accident you’d rather forget. You may want to consider downgrading this to Concussion, which allows you to say you don’t remember the events surrounding a certain time period. Which you choose should depend on how bone-chillingly stupid and predictable your crash was.
During The Crash
Sometimes, a crash is so instantaneous you have no time to react whatsoever. I once, for example, was riding along on my own when I suddenly found myself sliding on my face.
Other times, however, you may be luckier: you see a crash coming, and have time to add some theatrics. In this case, I recommend the following steps:
- Unclip from your bike, if at all possible. Separate from it to whatever degree you can.
- Flail. Wave your arms while you’re in the air. Flailing looks good on camera, and increases your chances on winning in America’s Funniest Videos.
- Twist. If you’re in the midst of a good long fall, take a moment to try to do a 360.
- Keep your arms and hands close to your torso. As your landing approaches, bring your arms and hands in close, so as to not snap them like twigs. It’s very easy for me to type this, although I have never successfully done it in my entire life. You would think that now that my right shoulder sometimes separates just for the fun of it, I’d learn. But no: I still reach out to catch my fall every time.
- Roll. Roll once on impact at a bare minimum. If you feel you’ve got sufficient momentum, keep rolling. As you roll, ask yourself, “Am I badly hurt?” If the answer is “No, not really.” Try finishing the roll by standing up with your arms held high. Bow smartly.
After the Crash
Immediately after the crash, you have to make a snap decision. Will you go for comedy, stoic resilience, or drama?
- Comedy is a surprisingly good choice, if you aren’t badly hurt and you’ve got an audience. Try saying, “Nothing to see here, move along” in your best Monty Python voice. Or, “I was pushed! I accuse you!” Or my favorite, “Ladies and gentlemen, the candlesticks are still standing!” Your audience is likely to laugh, even if you’re not funny, out of gratitude that they’re not going to have to perform first aid.
- Stoic resilience is risky. If, after you crash — especially if it looked bad — you get up as if nothing happened, you will gain respect from your peers as being tough, though perhaps not especially bright. However, this severely reduces your options. If you start out as stoic right after the crash, but then discover ten minutes later after the adrenaline rush fades that the bruises, lacerations, and compound fractures are hampering your ability to enjoy the ride, you still must be stoic. You can’t go from stoic to drama queen. That’s ten times worse than starting out as a drama queen in the first place.
- Drama is my default choice. It’s the safe bet. For one thing, crashes really do almost always hurt. For another, if I start out acting like I’m badly hurt and then discover that I’m actually just fine, it’s not difficult to make the conversion to comedy. Just sit up and say, “I’m not dead yet…I think I’m getting better…I believe I’ll go for a walk (Monty Python voice again). Or you can grab for the brass ring and do a drama-comedy-stoic transfer: suddenly go from rocking and screaming to standing up, dusting yourself off, and deadpan, “I now choose to internalize my pain.”
If you decide to go for the drama option (good choice!), you have a few moments after a given fall to think about what you will say to your riding companions. Use this time wisely.
First, choose your injury. If you are unsure which injury you are going to trumpet, go into the fetal position. The fetal position is a good universal symbol of pain, and gives you time to think.
Next, play it up. Don’t trivialize your pain. Never ever immediately say, “I’m OK.” Make them wonder for a couple seconds.
As you lay, moaning and dying, memorize your surroundings. It’s best if the wildly exaggerated tale you will tell later has some basis in fact. Your surroundings can help you find a good external cause for your crash, which is almost always preferable to, “I’m a bumbling fool.”
- Ledges: Going over an unforeseen ledge is a great cause for an accident. Highly recommended. Unfortunately, if you did this, you’re probably really injured. Sorry ‘bout that!
- Roots: Roots are tricky things that cause your wheels to change directions. Nobody will ever dispute the root reason. A suggestion: If you’re going to use a root as the reason you fell, always intensify it. Roots must always be slippery, slimy, wet, twisty, gnarled, or knotted.
- Scree: Scree is dirt and rocks on the trail. Most mountain bike trails are constantly covered with dirt and rocks, so scree is difficult to disprove.
- Rabbits with big, nasty, pointy teeth. Monty Python again. Sorry, can’t help myself. I’m definitely going to watch the Holy Grail this weekend.
- Too much speed: You’re a victim of your own mountain bike prowess and bravery, not to mention your outrageous athleticism. Very good.
- Gear: Chainsuck or a blown tire are great crash causes. They are verifiable, however, so don’t use them if they aren’t real, or at least if you have witnesses present. My best gear-related crash had me thinking I had actually been shot in the chest. It was back when Rock Shox Judy SLs were all the rage. The Judy used an elastomer stack for damping, which was inserted through the top of the fork, then secured with a screw-in cap. Coming down Mud Springs one day, I suddenly saw a flash of red, felt a sharp pain in my chest, and then crashed. I was sure some kid had shot me with a paintball. It turns out that the cap over one of the elastomer stacks had come loose during the downhill, and the stack had ejected, popping me right in the sternum.
- Despair over the state of _________________. Hey, why not turn your misfortune into a political or moral statement?
- Ennui: “I was tired of being on my bike, and thought I’d mix things up a little.”
Later, you’ll have time to craft a fine story about your crash. As you do this, remember: what was going on internally is as important as what happens externally. And it’s much more difficult to disprove. Say things like:
- Time slowed down.
- I thought to myself, “I am about to die,” yet remained strangely calm. I was at peace with the world, almost eager to meet the earth as it rushed to embrace me.
- The pain was exquisite.
- My spirit left my body. I remember hovering over my carcass, asking myself, “Do I want to go back into that vessel, to endure the suffering that comes with reuniting with my body? Believe me, it was not an easy choice.
- No, seriously. My diaphragm was totally ruptured. I’d be dead if it weren’t for my quick thinking and a fairly unorthodox use of a patch kit.
Winner of the Banjo Brothers Bike Bag Giveaway
Congratulations to Wonderdyke, who gave the most cogent reason anyone would possibly wear the Davitamon-Lotto Team Presentation shirt:
I’d wear it to the hairdresser to get my Flock of Seagulls haircut.
Yup, I think I’d wear it in an 80’s Flock of Seagulls video, too. Or maybe if I were Howard Jones. Wonderdyke’s blog is highly recommended, by the way. Whether you’re a harried lesbian mom or not.
PS: Today’s weight is 168.8. Next week’s weight target: 167.8.