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Trail > Falling Off

It’s been a while. In fact I can’t remember the last time I fell without knowing I was pushing it, and being padded up and out with friends. Today I was exploring a local area and had followed a faint piece of singletrack along a river.  The trail wasn’t all rideable but the bits of it that were were stunning so I kept following it for a couple of miles. It was obviously some time since anyone else had been there and the trail was probably made by sheep, horses or boar. The rideable sections were fantastic, contours of six inch singletrack, laced with slippery roots, which followed the river upstream, dropping down occasionally for a technical river crossing on grippy slabby rocks. Talking Heads were playing on my i-pod but the volume was low enough to hear the burbling of the river. I was totally absorbed, in an almost zen state, not thinking about anything apart from the trail. I had just crossed the river with a few hops and wheel lifts and was riding a causeway of rock slabs about 5 feet above the flowing water when I clipped a rock with my pedal. I’ve been doing this a lot recently, (something I need to work on). It’s been so long since I’ve had the feeling but I remember it so very clearly… the way the world stops as you teeter on the point of balance. Then, suddenly, the realisation that you’re going to have to bail. I look around for a soft landing point but the only option is the sharp rocks in the river 6-7 feet away. Desperately I try to get my feet free of the bike so I can land safely but the top tube trips me up and I’m going down head first. I manage to twist slightly and get an arm out to slow my fall. My fingers hit the rocks first and I instinctively pull my arm in and roll over my elbow, shoulder and back. Then, kinetic energy spent, the cold of the river hits me. I jump to my feet, only to loose them again and end up back in the river. The second attempt is successful though and I’m back on my feel but there’s blood all over my shorts and the river has taken on a rosy tint! The blood is a secondary concern though because I realise my i-pod is in my pocket but my music has stopped. DAMN! It’s soaking wet. My trusty companion for hundreds of hours of trail finding is done for. The pain never lasts for long, the body has many chemical tactics to stop that. I have a poke around inside my arm and realise it’s just a flesh wound and nothing to worry about. It’s swollen, there’s a fair bit of blood and I’ll have another scar but it’s all part of the game. I always try to have a moment after a crash to look at what happened and what I can learn from it. Today I learned a lot.
  • Firstly, I wasn’t wearing a helmet, it was in my back pack for the climb because today was warm and I didn’t want to get it too sweaty. I should have put it back on but I was so blissed out on trails and tunes that I didn’t think. Lying unconscious in a river is never a great idea.
  • Secondly, I was riding moderate consequence singletrack, far from the beaten track by myself without any pads. That was stupid. My only defence is that I was caught up in the moment but it’s a mistake that you can only make so many times before you are caught out.
  • Thirdly I keep clipping that inside pedal. It’s a dangerous mistake, maybe the worst, when you’re riding high consequence contours and one that I need to sort out before it bites me.
The helmet thing was the most stupid though. Today I bought a few sets of replacement helmet pads and from now on it stays on my head. Other than that it was a good day and I even got a bit of sympathy (not much) from Amaia. It’s not a trail I’ll use for guests, it’s just not got long enough bike-able stretches which is a big pity. P.S. I am normally very careful and rarely fall, definitely not when I’m by myself anyway. Just for those of you who are reading and worry!

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