everest
Beggars Would Ride

The Hills We Choose To Die On

Words Mike Ferrentino
Date May 12, 2022
Reading time

Lowside. Highside. Pedal strike. Clothesline. Push the front. Tuck the front. Endo. Case. Overshoot. Yard sale. Lawn dart. Dead sailor. Scorpion. JRA. Crashing has an entire language unto itself, a whole catalog of descriptors to convey the nature of one’s carnage. These descriptors then get followed with a list of other words that detail the extent and severity of said carnage. Those words are words that I do not want to utter here. Not yet.

The other day, during a chance encounter with some other grizzled old riders, the conversation turned to recent wrecks and injuries. RW had rung his bell a few weeks prior, for the second time in two years. He had a blank spot in his memory from when he started down Pipeline until just after the gate, but apparently had phoned his wife during that blank spot. He wasn’t exactly laughing it off, but wasn’t allowing it to slow him down, either. He’s thinking of going to a full-face, though. He’s hitting 50, had those concussions, as well as FIFTEEN knee surgeries, and still absolutely loves to air it out on any kind of jump he can find. I felt sheepish, since jumps of almost every kind make me nervous, so I changed the subject and started recounting a recent dirt bike ride in Downieville.

“Downieville,” RW snorted. “No thanks. You couldn’t pay me to ride there. That place scares the bejeezus out of me. Did you hear about the guy who clipped a pedal on Pauley Creek there and broke his back? They say he fell something like a hundred feet.”

waterfall

No, this is not the spot on Pauley where many bikes have been lost over the edge, where people have spent the night stuck on a cliff, and where, regrettably, people have even died. This is a ways upstream from there, a section known affectionately as "the waterfall." It's a long, long stretcher ride out of here, and it'll take crews a long, long time to hike in to you if you wad yourself up on these trails. But we go ahead and wad ourselves up anyway. Because that moment beforehand, it's golden and perfect.

I know exactly the place where that guy clipped a pedal. I have hauled ass into that janky pinch point maybe a hundred times, never once giving any thought to the drop-off to the right, in spite of knowing people who have lost bikes off that edge and never recovered them. A couple miles upstream from there is a downhill rock garden known affectionately as “baby heads.” I’ve lost count of the tires that I’ve killed in there. A few miles downstream is Third Divide, a descent that I’ve averaged 30 miles an hour, on singletrack, in the trees. The average speed is the same on a single speed hardtail, a 150mm squishy bike, or a KTM 200. Again, in spite of a friend clipping one of those trees and lacerating his liver, and my own fun endoing said KTM 200 off the side of the trail (chainsaw with 32” bar strapped to the rack just for extra spice). I never really give it a thought. But jump anything bigger than a loaf of bread? Hell No. People can get hurt doing that!

We are grown men and women riding bicycles. For most of us, this is a thing we do for the fun of it. A leisure activity, not a necessity for day-to-day survival. Depending on where and how we ride our bicycles, we are exposed to a whole array of risks every time we set the wheels in motion. If we are riding on the road, the likelihood of being smashed into oblivion by someone piloting a few thousand pounds of metal is relatively high. That is a carnage beyond our control, short of not venturing out on the roads at all. People who ride the road understand and accept that risk, and negotiate their own peace with it. Their car-driving fellow citizens think of these riders as crazy, taking their lives in their hands, while casually grazing the Lycra clad elbows of cyclists with the passenger side mirror as they slalom the kids home from school. While texting.

ghost bike crop

I see these EVERYWHERE now. Each one represents a cyclist who died. This was a life. There are so many of these memorials, and they represent only a fraction of those we have lost.

We don’t have to worry about getting greased by SUVs so much when it comes to mountain biking. The risks that are beyond our control are fewer, and usually carry less fatal implications. Instead, we choose to create our own completely individual, complex, almost bespoke relationships with risk. We all have our blind spots, where we take for granted our skills and the terrain in a way that others probably see as needlessly reckless. And we all have our no-fly zones, those places where fear and consequence loom so large in our minds that we elect to follow a course of caution while our friends send it with seeming ease. Traction, slope, obstacles, opportunities, the variations on how and where we ride are almost endless. With this bounty of variety and how we choose to indulge in it comes a realization: There are so many ways to crash a mountain bike!

Confidence and skill go a long way to mitigating those risks. The countless hours we spend honing our skills, they set us at ease with some of that danger. We get used to the way our tires slide, gathering the database of knowledge that transforms lack of traction from fear to playground. We learn how to push our bikes into the jump face and pull them into the air, shifting that weightless uncertainty into calculated precision. We get familiar with terrain, and some of the risk is diminished. But not all of it.

The funny thing about time, though, is that it can cut both ways. After a few decades of “getting away with it,” I am feeling the weight of mortality dragging at my thoughts. Instead of pushing the edge whenever and wherever possible, I find myself backing away more often than not. That played out Hunter S Thompson quote so popular with young people and tweakers fills me with dread: “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming 'Wow! What a Ride!'"

gonzo

It should be noted that Hunter S Thompson checked himself out from this life relatively early, and what with all the guns and drugs and stuff, probably never thought much about reflexes, heart rates and jump timing.

There’s an adage amongst pilots that is becoming more meaningful to me as I age: “There are bold pilots, and there are old pilots, but there are no old, bold pilots.”

This thinking will only result in slower reflexes. But I can’t shake it. Even though I know full well that, statistically speaking, I am far more likely to break my hip by falling over in the bathtub than I am by riding down a trail, I don’t feel like I can take for granted anymore all those years that I spent dodging the bullets of consequence. I don’t want any more concussions. I don’t want to be sedated via general anasthesia if I can avoid that. I’d prefer not to have any titanium inserted into my body at this point in my life. I have never been, nor will I ever be, as tough and resilient as Gee Atherton. How the fuck that guy can even look at a bike again after the amount of abuse he has endured just boggles my mind.

Shudder... Nothing but respect and admiration. How does anyone get back on that horse? This level of going big carries such a massive weight of consequence. I can barely even watch a single run from Rampage or Formation, the fear it strikes in me knots my intestine around the base of my spine. And does nothing to put my own fear of getting a foot or two of air in some kind of perspective that allows me to rise above that fear and just send it. I try to comfort myself by imagining that these superhumans are irrationally afraid of spiders, or they refuse to swim in murky water, or are terrible drivers. Unlikely. They are superhuman, after all.

So what do I do with this creeping sense of my own Non-superhuman-ness, this growing mortal unease? Quit riding? Hell No! A friend of mine got stung by some bees a few years ago while sitting in his backyard, and ended up in a coma for two months. Another friend broke his hip while hiking. Another just found out he has a brain tumor. This is life. The path from birth to death is an arc, and at some point we all end up back on or under the ground. I may not want to skid across the finish line in a fiery wreck, but I’m not going to take up golf just yet, either. No Fear? Ha. More like Know Fear.

For those of you growing old and staying wild, I salute you. From a safe distance. Carefully, because my rotator cuff is all messed up.

* The image that initially headed this article has been changed. Without some explanation about hubris, the cruelty of Manifest Destiny, genocidal arrogance and white colonialism, it was a very poor choice for a lead image, and inconsiderate to the cultural sensitivities of indigenous peoples and this readership. For that, I am truly sorry. It was not my intent to in any way condone, excuse, or glorify the behavior of George Custer, nor would I ever set out to trivialize the massive trauma that indigenous people experienced at the hands of white men.

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Comments

DirtSnow
DirtSnow
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+20 Konrad Vik Banerjee gubbinalia Jan PowellRiviera smoothjazzlines Alex Hoinville Cr4w tmoore Shoreboy Mike Ferrentino Justin White imnotdanny Pete Roggeman Kenny goose8 Dean Spencer Nelson Velocipedestrian Metacomet Dr.Flow bushtrucker meloroast sanjay.carterrau@gmail.com andyf kcy4130 thaaad Muesliman

During a time of reconciliation how does NSMB explain the connection between Custer leading his Calvary on a suicidal mission of colonial genocide and a middle aged man afraid of injury while riding? Perhaps both are misinformed of their enemy? Perhaps both are naive as to the resiliency of Indigenous peoples? If NSMB feels that Custers mission was that of great honour and his death was the end of an American hero, then maybe it’s time the publication took its last stand. Or maybe NSMB wants to captivate the minds of an Indigenous audience, an audience less targeted than the 45-60 year old men contemplating their next e-machine. May I suggest that more appropriate content include the recent Allies Mountain Bike Festival less than a days drive from the North Shore. Or maybe NSMB was purely looking for a shock and aw image to grab the readers attention, may I suggest an alternative being a portrait of the crucifixion of Christ. Wasn’t that on a hill of some kind?  Am I misinformed on American colonial history, very likely. However I do find it difficult to justify the apparent meaning between falling, a cycling failure, and the killing of indigenous warriors in order to build railways and make space for colonial settlers? Some may call my comment cancel culture but I’d argue their afraid of exploring new perspectives and experiencing unpleasant internal feelings. Similarly to mountain bike riding, one needs to fail in order to improve.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+25 andyf kcy4130 Sandy James Oates Pete Roggeman Niels van Kampenhout Cr4w PowellRiviera cheapondirt NealWood goose8 shenzhe Todd Hellinga Spencer Nelson Mic Merwinn Cam McRae ZigaK Dr.Flow HughJass DadStillRides thaaad sanjay.carterrau@gmail.com Muesliman Julian Sammons Jeremy Hiebert

Noted to all of your comments on this image, and my sincere apologies for the insensitivity. I was not, in any way, using that image to glorify Custer or the entire genocidal abuse of indigenous peoples by white men on a manifest destiny fueled empire grab. Custer's last stand, to me, represents hubris and overreach and arrogance. I didn't choose it because I though there was anything heroic or inspirational about it, but because it was - to my thinking, at least - a shining example of "paying the piper." To quote a lyric from The Minutemen:

I believe when they found the body of General George A. Custer / Quilled like a porcupine with Indian arrows / He didn't die with any honour, any dignity, nor any valour

I wouldn't doubt when they found George A. Custer / An American General, Patriot Indian fighter / He died with shit in his pants

You are right, though. Without some very explicit explanation, that was a poor and culturally insensitive image choice. I'll talk with the boss and nuke it for something less offensive.

Reply

elsberga@gmail.com
elsberga@gmail.com
4 months, 1 week ago
0

While I have all the respect in the world for Watt and Hurley as historians and musicians also check out Killing Custer by James Welch (and his fiction as well if you haven't....Winter in the Blood and Fool's Crow). He's a powerful writer and historian.....I don't know if he was ever in a band though.

Reply

pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+16 Mike Ferrentino Bern NealWood goose8 Dave Smith Dean shenzhe Spencer Nelson Mic Jonathan Fournier Metacomet HughJass meloroast Chad K sanjay.carterrau@gmail.com Jeremy Hiebert

To Dirt and the others that expressed yourselves regarding the Custer image, I want to thank you for speaking up. That one slipped through the filter and regardless of good intentions, it's easy to see why it's problematic. We want to be respectful and inclusive and we appreciate it when all you good folks let us know if we've missed the mark.

Reply

Mic
Mic
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Todd Hellinga HughJass Jeremy Hiebert

One more reason why I love nsmb.com

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+10 Mike Ferrentino Timer Niels van Kampenhout imnotdanny NealWood DancingWithMyself Tremeer023 NewGuy Julian Sammons Jeremy Hiebert

Custer has become a symbol of hubris, of failing due to overconfidence and desire for glory. Here in the states anyhow, maybe Canadians have a different view. And overconfidence leading to a massive failure seems pretty relevant to mtb to me, most of my crashes in the early days were due to me landing a jump well or hitting a corner well and getting a big head. Like the titanic, it's not really about the tragedy of a ship sinking and loads of people dying, it's become an object lesson now. And for what it's worth, there was a great deal of heroism, glory and honor in the Battle of the Little Bighorn but it sure wasn't on the whites side.

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+11 kcy4130 Timer imnotdanny Cooper Quinn NealWood goose8 Todd Hellinga DancingWithMyself Metacomet Muesliman Jeremy Hiebert

That was where my head was.

I probably should have explained that though. And I didn't. Which left the choice of image open to interpretation. When one person calls me out, I listen and think. Maybe I will stick my ground. When several people, in short order, all very articulately state their cases, the smart thing for me to do is listen and respond. 

We'll see how the replacement image fares...

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+6 Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman andyf NealWood DancingWithMyself Tremeer023 HughJass tmoore

How dare you remind everyone of the historical and continuing exploitation of Sherpas by using that Everest image! .... Sorry, I couldn't help myself.

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+5 kcy4130 imnotdanny Deniz Merdano NealWood DancingWithMyself

"here we go again..."

Reply

denomerdano
Deniz Merdano
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+6 Pete Roggeman goose8 kcy4130 shenzhe Mike Ferrentino Metacomet

Just heard this morning that Lhakpa Sherpa, first Nepalese woman to summit Everest is on her way down from her 10th!!!! ascend... Mental!

craw
Cr4w
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+4 taprider Mammal ElBrendo meloroast

I had no idea this even happened. https://www.clearwatertimes.com/sports/allies-mountain-bikes-festival-for-trail-users-to-show-love-and-support/  

I wish I had known more about it. I'd like to know more about this kind of stuff than another waterproof jacket test.

Reply

Jotegir
Lu Kz
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Cr4w taprider

It did not happen. Maybe next year!

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Sadly that event was cancelled immediatly prior. 

https://www.instagram.com/p/Cc4eBdWunnD/?utm_source=ig_web_copy_link

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 PowellRiviera imnotdanny goose8 meloroast dhr999

No that image was a really poor choice for an article on a BC website about mountain biking risk. Adds nothing to the point of the article and carries a lot of painful baggage for a demographic in Canada that's not been treated well. What I don't understand is how anyone thought it would be a good idea?

Reply

Mic
Mic
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 PowellRiviera

This comment has been removed.

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

As for the Christ on a stick as replacement image, don't go giving me ideas!

Reply

smoothjazzlines
smoothjazzlines
4 months, 2 weeks ago
-1 Muesliman

Very very poor image selection. This images glorifies the genocide of the indigenous people of this land.

Reply

Timer
Timer
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+11 TristanC Lynx . Dogl0rd vantanclub kcy4130 Metacomet Pete Roggeman MTB_THETOWN Allen Lloyd Muesliman Jeremy Hiebert

Yet another great article to highlight why NSMB is just so good. Might not resonate that much with everyone, but it does with me. NSMB really needs a tip jar or some other way to buy you guys a beer (or many).

There is only one thing i disagree with. I'm not convinced that higher skill prevents injuries. It's an illusion that higher skilled riders like to cling to. And who can blame them. But higher skill means higher speeds and bigger features. One might not crash as often, but the risk of injury per crash is higher.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino Mammal Andy Eunson Alex Hoinville

Higher skills allows one to go faster and bigger, but doesn't require it all the time. Higher skills can mean the difference between a save and a crash when the unexpected crops up. Like when a rock has moved and you have to quickly improvise a new line. Experienced riders, skilled or not, know the limit (approximately) so can more accurately judge how much risk they take. The limit of grip or one's own skill level or whatever. How often they crash is determined by how often and how close to the limit they wish to ride. You don't know exactly where the limit is till you cross it. Which is why wc downhiller crash because even tho they know with much more precision (than us normals) where the limit is, they try to stay so close to it for a whole run that even a tiny error can cause a crash. But I agree experienced and skilled riders (who aren't trying to push the limit) usually stop having frequent minor crashes and just have the rare big nasty crash.

Reply

kcy4130
kcy4130
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

A few years ago I switched from a 26 to 29 bike, it took a couple months and a few harsh crashes to recalibrate just how much more I could get away with. I hadn't had a significant crash for 5 years prior. I was very happy the only results were losing some elbow skin twice and a football sized bruise on my hip.

Reply

velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 kcy4130

Having my 29" (front) wheeled bike currently out of action means I've been rediscovering how much more prone to going OTB the 26" wheel is. Had a couple of decent scares on my last couple of rides, luckily rode them out, but I'm not ready to chalk it all up to skill.

Reply

craw
Cr4w
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

While I think you're right it's important to consider crash survivability. The riders I know who diligently do their rehab/prehab/off-bike training tend to survive crashes a lot better than those who "get all the training they need on the bike". Knowing when to push and when to chill is really important too. Watching Friday Fails nicely illustrates what happens when you don't work up carefully to new moves/techniques and don't carefully choose your moment.

I've been hurt plenty but given my tenure it's all been relatively minor and I accept it as the cost of doing business.

Reply

Vikb
Vik Banerjee
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+7 Cr4w Metacomet Mike Ferrentino taprider goose8 Velocipedestrian dhr999

I've had a few injuries mountain biking. Nothing truly severe thank The Bike Gods! One of my person metrics for a good ride is getting into a good flow and riding in control. I don't give myself much credit for surviving by pinballing down some janky tech if I was just along for the ride. That means slowing down from my absolute max speed so I have enough reflex time left to dial in some style and hit the lines I want. Going 10% slower probably doubles my safety margin and doesn't really change the exhilaration of being fast on the bike. I won't win any races on my mountain bike where tenths of a second count, but I do hope to win the long game and be pedaling my bicycle on techy singletrack when other people my age are picking out their sweet new Kashima/AXS electric inline mobility scooters and cruising the gravel bike paths.

Reply

mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Joseph Crabtree Andy Eunson Jeremy Hiebert

I used to refer to it as riding at 90%. Now I think it's down to about 70%. Maybe even lower than that. I keep a pretty wide buffer around what feels like my "in control" riding these days, partly because I hate crashing, partly because I am nowadays more concerned with being smooth than fast. Still, that doesn't stop the sniper wrecks from occurring from time to time...

Reply

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+6 Dave Smith Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino NealWood DadStillRides Jeremy Hiebert

"Their car-driving fellow citizens think of these riders as crazy, taking their lives in their hands, while casually grazing the Lycra clad elbows of cyclists with the passenger side mirror as they slalom the kids home from school. While texting."

Man some of us are in jeans just trying to get OUR kids home without being killed. No lycra involved.

Reply

Timer
Timer
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+9 Cooper Quinn Mike Ferrentino Pete Roggeman goose8 bishopsmike shenzhe Velocipedestrian kain0m DadStillRides

To me, the other sad part of this sentence is that "driving the kids home from school" is considered normal. It just shows how bad a place most towns, especially in North America, are for humans who are not armored with a metric ton of steel.

Reply

kain0m
kain0m
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Jeremy Hiebert

Absolutely. I recommend "not just bikes" on Youtube for any north American to get a perspective of just how perverted the NA lifestyle (and urban/suburban planning) has become. It is all about a deep car fetish, it dictates peoples' entire lives, and there is no element of choice. If the city is designed properly, you can do a lot of things more easily by walking/cycling/public transport than by car. If the city is designed properly, you can do a lot of things more easily by walking/cycling/public transport than by car. We're a family of three living in a suburban house, and only own one car - like most our neighbors. I am fortunate enough to be able to cycle to work safely and efficiently. My company doesn't even provide free parking for employees, instead they subsidize public transport tickets - a 5.000+ employee automotive company. 

Just to clarify: I love cars, and I work in the automotive industry. It just shouldn't be the "be all, end all" solution to personal transport.

Reply

joseph-crabtree
Joseph Crabtree
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+5 kcy4130 bishopsmike Andy Eunson Mike Ferrentino Velocipedestrian

Last summer I was going down a nasty, rooty chute and managed to tuck my front wheel behind a particularly large one and launched out the front door. Upon landing on another big one I heard this CRACK and felt my leg twist in angle nature did not intend. All I could think about was how the hell I was going to get some help as I don't normally ride with my phone and was about 1/2 mile from the road at the bottom. After about a dozen attempts I managed to get the bike upright and pointed the right way down the trail, get my foot on the pedal and scootered to the bottom. A nice lady with her kids and dog were just pulling into the trailhead and instead of just calling for an ambulance she took me to the hospital. Within 2 hours I was in the operating room to bolt and plate a fractured femur.

It has been 8 months and am just again feeling the flow after lots of pain and rehab. Everyday seems to get a little better and I find myself pushing it once again and riding some of those spots that scare me a bit. I am also much more aware of the consequences and am definitely holding back some but that comes from realizing that I am mortal, something that I never really thought about before.  BTW I am 68 yrs and still ride by myself most of the time, with my phone now but I'm aware that bottom line, there is no substitute for healthy regard for safety and self-reliance.

Reply

Mic
Mic
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 TristanC Dogl0rd danithemechanic

I come from a bmx/skateboarding background (beginning to end of 80s) before I started to ride those first mountainbikes. It all comes down to automatisms, those ingrained and well-practised movement patterns that help the mind and body relax. It needs constant practise and refinement, and the odd crash or two, yes - but it is nothing out of the ordinary. 

Then again, no one has to ride techy lines or go full-send mode. That is the beauty of biking. Do whatever feels good and true. And scare yourself a little or a lot sometimes or often. Live and ride to the fullest.

Reply

jonathan_fo
Jonathan Fournier
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Pete Roggeman kcy4130 Cam McRae

Thanks Mike, that was gold. 

Especially the timing, as Im reading this with a fractured occipital, ribs and clavicule. 

All of that thanks to a massive OTB on an asphalt pump track. Most likely a slipped pedal, but I can remember with the concussion.

I think the worstpart is that I was doing this to train, as a risk mitigation method...

So, I shopping for some body armor and a full face now!

Reply

DaveSmith
Dave Smith
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+3 Pete Roggeman Mike Ferrentino NealWood

I can't watch crash reels or even the Friday fails that the other website broadcasts because for the last couple years whenever I see someone crash in a video, I wince and feel it in the place where that poor avatar for my phantom pain took the hit. The google machine calls it acute empathy but I call it - "I know how that feels". 

Don't get me wrong,  I'm still riding but I've officially entered the phase of my riding life where I'm stoked when I don't hear a random ER doc say "4-8 weeks."

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pete@nsmb.com
Pete Roggeman
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Dave Smith

And every 4-8 weeks at that.

Reply

danithemechanic
danithemechanic
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 TristanC Pete Roggeman

Turns out i'm 37, and i have yet to break a bone. 

I've been riding bmx, skateboarding, snowboarding, road and off road bikes of all kinds for 25 years now.

Growing up the idea of getting hurt was that of losing time, time you take away from the things that give meaning to life; so i tried to develop  a sixth sense for consequences, and if my bikers sense are tingling i'm just not going to hit this or that feature, mainly a jump; but i'm always hitting that technical rock section, mostly by eye sight first time on an open helmet.

I came to the conclusion it's all a matter of it being worth, to me. I always explain my much less experienced friends, when i don't jump the easiest jump they do, if anything goes wrong i'll be pissed being hurt because of that. Then i dive with a grin into the next rock face, sometimes showing them how slow and safe you can do it.

This is what i love about mountain biking, you can progress at such a slow rate you can get really good without any stupid risk. But you need to be aware, in the present moment, or recognize you're not and take it easier.

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craw
Cr4w
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Metacomet DadStillRides

The first time you realize you've broken something and now you're waiting for 6-8 weeks is exceeded only by now knowing that feeling well enough to recognize it next time.

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andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

I’m 64 and I’ve broken or bruised ribs 6 or 7 times, broken a couple fingers, lots of scuffs and a few stitches. One broken finger resulted in tearing off the fingernail too from the top not the tip. And 12 stitches to the knee. That’ll teach me to be cheap and not replace that chainring. Or wear fingerless gloves ever again. I’ve never been the careless type. I creep up on skills. Go slowly bigger and bigger at a comfort level for me.

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velocipedestrian
Velocipedestrian
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 danithemechanic

I've never broken a bone either... But I have had a few ER visits, months off the bike with ligaments, joints, soft tissue damage and two decent concussions.

Enough to fear smashing myself up, but not enough to make me quit.

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rigidjunkie
Allen Lloyd
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Pete Roggeman olaa

Great article and very timely.  Last night I went for a ride, wasn't feeling 100%, but wanted to charge down a trail because conditions were really good and for once I knew there wouldn't be traffic going the other way.  I rode like crap and almost crashed a few times.  About halfway through I thought to myself "just slow down, you don't want to crash."  But I didn't slow down and rode it out.  At the bottom of the trail I told myself that was really stupid.  Did I get away with a couple catches that were a mix of luck and skill?  Yes, was it worth it?  I am not sure.  

Last year my riding progressed and I was riding faster than ever.  Before that I always focused on fun and popping off stuff and just screwing around.  One day while riding with some faster friends I held onto a wheel I never imagined I could.  After that something switched and I have really enjoyed riding faster.  Jeff Kendel Weed had a video about how he approaches riding and it struck me that my approach has completely changed over the past 2 years.  One of the things that has stuck in my head this year is that speed raises the risk of a really bad crash.  There is a fear in some of my riding that hasn't been there before, some days it drives me to go faster and others it slows me down.  

I think fear and progression are topics that deserve more thought and conversation.  I really hope to keep getting faster, but I also know at some point I am going to switch back to screwing around more on the trail.

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andy-eunson
Andy Eunson
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Metacomet dhr999

Someone I know who might be famous around these parts once said that he had more respect for the rider that chose to walk something that he didn’t feel comfortable riding, in front of friends than the rider that flung himself off something he knew he had not the skills for and tumbled down in a heap. I’ve always been the guy who walked stuff. I’m not too proud and I’ve suffered mostly minor injuries. 

I know of some though who just giver without regard for their well being. They get hurt. Once fatally.

Reply

MarcusBrody
MarcusBrody
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 Mike Ferrentino AverageAdventurer

This resonates with me as I've been both getting older and moved to a place where the riding has higher exposure. I used to live in the Northeast of the US and while there were definitely dangers (trees for instance) and I got banged up a number of times both trail and park riding, it always seemed like there were pretty low risk options if I wanted that.  

Now I've moved to Nevada and live where I can pedal from my house to Bootleg Canyon in 5-10 minutes (where Outerbike used to hold its demo, though the most popular demo loops are the exception to my next comments). The riding is great, but even a lot of the "XC" trails have substantial exposure so while the riding isn't always more challenging that I was used to back East, the consequences are higher. If you get kicked a foot or so off the trail, you could be going for a long, rocky tumble rather than ending up in a bush). I pad up much more than I did previously and for more rides, but I still don't totally love the exposure, mostly because it means I can't push as much as I could previously as I need to be farther from my limits to maintain my acceptable risk level.

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just6979
Justin White
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 MarcusBrody AverageAdventurer

That's a great point, in that exposure risk tends to cause a pulling back from your limits, where feature risk might tend to cause a pushing of limits.

If the risk is falling off a cliff or into a ravine or canyon, you'll likely back off and ride slow enough to keep the maximum viable escape plans open.

If the risk is shorting a new big jump, or bailing off a big steep get-up, you'll probably tend to push those limits a little... Maybe throw in an extra pedal at the top of the run in that hopefully doesn't cause you to overshoot the bottom turn a bit and push the front through the loose crap on the outside, losing just enough speed that you run out of momentum 7/8ths of the way up the 10-foot tall very steep slab and have to jump down about 4 feet to the ledge on the side. Not me this time, I skipped the big one that day, but witnessed a friend do this _after he _cleared it twice, hehe.

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mikeferrentino
Mike Ferrentino
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+2 MarcusBrody AverageAdventurer

Man, Bootleg was a BRUTAL place to demo bikes. Nobody seems to get out of there without paying some sort of blood tax, or worse.

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cxfahrer
cxfahrer
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 TristanC

Those "near miss" moments are still in my brain and keep creeping up every now and then, that moment when I crashed with my bicycle when I was 13 and lost my new watch (could have smashed my brain without a helmet, no helmets in the 70s), and last time I clipped my bar on a very exposed trail and just made it without falling off the cliff, or last time I layed in the dirt with my left leg the other way around and hoping to be able to call for the rescue team.

One learns over the years how to avoid situations, but you never know.

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Lynx
Lynx .
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Mike Ferrentino

Great piece Mike, guess having reached the over 50 status and one year prior breaking my knee, the first such injury, besides concussions, in my life, really has tempered my riding. Like you, I'll tackle the steepest, rockiest, most jank piece of trail, but jumps, not my thing, drops OK, but jumps, my limit is <2ft, just never got the timing/technique right and it hurts when you crash at speed vs going slower down that tech stuff, at least for me, so far, luckily.

Absolutely 100% agree, how the hell Gee Atherton could even think of getting back on a bike after that last crash is beyond me, it took several tries for me to actually watch it in full, it made my blood chill and sent shivers down my spine, that guy is an animal, but I hate to think how he'll be moving when he finally crests 50.

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kos
Kos
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andy Eunson

Bang on. At an "advanced" age, I no longer push the speed past the point of smooth, and cheerfully walk tricky tech moves that are combined with big exposure.

But still having a blast!

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craw
Cr4w
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Andy Eunson

I hate that you're right. Most of us here regularly ride stuff most people couldn't walk up or down. Often in incredibly inclement weather. Those of us who are getting older but are still here are either blessed with good reflexes, diligent in recovery and training, and just dumb enough to think they can get away with it again. Most of my riding buddies from 20 years ago don't have all 3, or a surplus of the third and most stopped riding years ago. I've long since sublimated the risk but that doesn't mean I'm not aware that my time will come. Jorts and bike polo for retirement or just one last run  down Jack the Ripper?

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papa44
papa44
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+7 Mike Ferrentino 4Runner1 PowellRiviera Mammal Velocipedestrian danithemechanic hairymountainbeast

never say “last run”

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papa44
papa44
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 kcy4130

I remember, after having a big crash involving broken bones on a bmx in a concrete bowl, having a similarly themed middle aged conversation with a friend and excellent bmxer, to which he simply replied, “well you don’t have to go mad do you?” A fair point well made

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just6979
Justin White
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 Pete Roggeman

I think the risks of something like that section on Pauley, or White Line, or that new and quite exposed line on the Colorado mesa, are quite different than the risks of trying a new (bigger) jump or drop, or just a super janky line that doesn't have an easy out anywhere but the bottom. I have zero desire to do White Line or such, yet I'll happily tie in to a secure rappel station and toss myself off a cliff and descend a what might externally seem like a scarily rapid pace, with quite reasonable safety, so it's not a heights thing necessarily. It's the ability to manage the risk on my own terms.

You can learn to absorb or at least manage most biking crashes. Shit, when we were teenagers we would find grassy areas near our regular trails, sprint into the grass, and just yank the front brake to get used to endoing (when dry) or losing the front in a rapid fashion (when the grass was wet), as an example. You can learn how to toss a bike and accept sliding down a dirt jump landing. You can learn how to jump over your bars and run out an endo. Yes, as speed and/or amplitude increases it becomes increasingly difficult to manage potential crashes, but that's something you have control of. You can't learn how to fall down a cliff with reasonable safety. That's "one and done, son". The speed and amplitude factor of falling off a cliff is pretty much always the same: you will fall at 9.8 m/s^2 (approx, depends on how many things you smash into or scrape against on the way down) until you get to the bottom.

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AverageAdventurer
AverageAdventurer
4 months, 2 weeks ago
+1 kcy4130

I've had many a near miss; and have been aware of the risks of the sports I take part in for some time. I lost my best friend to our shared love of riding four stroke two wheeled rigs this past year. It's been challenging to get after it again but if I didn't would I really be living? Fiery wreck is a stark image when you see it happen.. but I'd rather not go quietly

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jeremyok
Jeremy Hiebert
4 months, 1 week ago
+1 Ask Petersen

Great article, definitely resonates. I'm ashamed to admit that I drank the Strava koolaid a few years ago (sure sign of a mini-midlife crisis, with 50 looming), and started riding faster than I ever had before. Chasing times, pushing hard, and flying into tricky DH sections when I was already beat tired from hustling on the climbs. Basically racing solo, after 30 years of patiently explaining why I never raced. It was fun, super dumb, and so dangerous. Although I managed to avoid serious injury that season, I scared myself enough to take a step back. Sold the 160/160 and bought my first hardtail since 1998, which has been a ton of fun even though I've slowed way down, and kept Strava for the satisfaction of seeing the kilometers and vertical meters piling up.

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Dogl0rd
Dogl0rd
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

This reckless abandon to go into danger, Freud called it the "death drive."

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MTB_THETOWN
MTB_THETOWN
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Just broke my clavicle practicing for a race, taking another lap when I knew I was tired already cause I wanted to keep having fun with the boys. Now I'm missing races and out for two months, but I'll be back at it as soon as I can be.

My friend whose broken clavicle just healed in time for race season had better timing.

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AndyJK
Andy Krull
4 months, 2 weeks ago
0

Resonates with me...  46th Bday last month and sprained my ankle at Vanier dirt jumps last Tuesday.

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