Sunday, September 23, 2012

Broken But Not Shattered

Trail jump on Lloyd's Detour guarded by a hungry squirrel 

Last summer I broke my arm. Mountain biking, of course. It was embarrassingly unspectacular, the crash that nearly snapped that little knob of bone that pokes up at the elbow-end of my left arm. My doctor said "You have a radial head fracture", as she shook her head. She was not happy with me. I had waited two weeks after the not-so-epic incident to go see her. But this entry isn't really about that crash, or the break, or the recovery. 

I rode differently after that. I tried not to but I couldn't help it. I had wrecked before and hurt myself but I healed and kept riding. This was different. I really broke myself. Not just my arm but my confidence. It made me realize that I was not invincible. I bought a crap load of protective gear after that. New helmet, chest and shoulder protector, elbow pads, shin guards, knee pads, elbow pads and a back pack with spine pad and I even seriously considered wearing a mouth guard. 

I rode like I was afraid to fall off my bike. Which I did anyway, frequently. Each time I did I tried to resist the fall, like I was trying to hold the entire world back with my arms. Vainly attempting to keep it safely away from my core. Complete bullshit. I crumbled every time under the weight of my body and the force of my own forward momentum. I finally learned how to crash well. Rolling out of a fall instead of resisting the inevitable. 

My confidence went up, a little. I realized that falling from my bike wasn't going to kill me, in most cases. Hurt? Yes but death, not likely. 

I really enjoy technical riding: tight turns, close trees, complicated roots, rapid gear changes. These types of trails always have man-made obstacles as well. They go hand-in-hand. Split-wood bridges, downed tree curbs, ramps, and fallen-tree-rails are all common trail tricks. I've always avoided these and even more so after the break. Because crashing and falling on these types of trails is common. So I've, done only the ones that were unavoidable and skirted around the rest. 

On Saturday, I decided to try the only trail at Paradise that I had not ridden, Llyod's Detour. Last year, a trusted riding buddy told me it was unrideable and so I just ignored it. But yesterday I thought, what the hell and tried it anyway. He was right. It's a very short trail, about half a mile and it is packed full of super technical stuff, natural and man-made. In truth, my first time through I was off my bike more than I was on it. 

I didn't care! I fell in love. It is so technically challenging that I would bet that there isn't a rider out there that can make it the entire Detour without touching foot to ground at least 4 or 5 times. 

I went back again today. I rode nothing else but the Detour. Forward and backward. Six or seven times. I forced myself to do the obstacles. If I fell off (which I did often), I stopped, turned around and tried it again. Over and over until I could do it without a mistake and then I rode to the next one. I was determined to ride that bastard without a mistake. That didn't happen today. 

There is always tomorrow and I am feeling less broken with each ride. 


  1. As always life is like that, a twisted root, a fallen tree or man made complications. It's the way we power through these challenges that keeps us awake and alive. Then when you are taking yourself too serously, life puts the guard squirrel in you way. Making sure you stop and laugh. Thanks for the insight, wish I was there to ride through paradise with you!

  2. So, after you made me ride the Detour........two times, I can say that it kicked my ass. Little did I know that wasn't going to be the hardest part of the ride this week. Riding back in the dark on Lloyd's and Cascara was interesting. As I said to you and Lee: when you can't see, it eliminates the cumbersome decision making. You can just go ahead and assume it will all go to plan.