I took a rather nasty tumble on my mountain bike yesterday and will be limping about the house now for days. While I have learned a lesson and am certainly counting my blessings that my injuries weren’t any worse, this blog post will be about the sense of sheer elation we feel when we crash.
If we didn’t want to crash at least sometimes, we wouldn’t push ourselves to the limit of crashing, now would we? But every kid on the monkey bars does it. It is a very strange person, to my mind, who doesn’t at all like to feel weightless or at the limit of traction.
My crash yesterday was orgasmic. Contrast that with the two car crashes I have survived that I would rather not talk about. The difference is those car crashes occurred on public roads in banal machines whose one purpose is transport. I am equally appalled by bicycle crashes on commuter paths involving people on their way somewhere. But I’m not writing about a trip to the shop. I’m writing about a trip to the bush specifically for the purpose of going fast, feeling weightless, and courting the crash.
It happened so quickly that it was only when I was leaping to my feet that I said to myself, “this is a serious crash.” I pulled down my shorts to look at my thighs, expecting them to be white with lacerations. To the casual passerby it might have looked as though crashing had been such a thrill that I had to masturbate, right there and then. Imagine that. Okay, you’ve imagined enough.
Better you imagine how I was shaking like someone who had accidentally set off a whole packet of EpiPens into a vein. Seconds before my bike had high-sided from my pedal striking a rock on an apex and I had flown like superman, landing almost 10 meters down the track from the point of impact. I’m thinking that must the millionth time I’ll be walking away with just bruises when an unluckier guy would be dead.
It’s the clarity of the following minute that I wish I could bottle. In it I ascertained that my bike could be ridden and that I could make it home, since it was all downhill from where I had crashed. My left brake lever was bent toward the sky, and my left thigh had a crease the exact size of the brake lever’s end. Seeing that I will need a pipe to bend the brake lever back, I’m a little irked by the thought of what has gone on in my thigh. Worse though is the thought that my leg has been attacked by a budget component, something I transferred from a commuter bike just to keep rolling. If I’m to be mutilated again, let the metal involved be highly polished and branded.
Back in 2010 when I was writing about Thanatos, or the death drive, being a motivation to cycle, expressed through mountain bike advertising, I was not a competent mountain bike rider myself. Notwithstanding yesterday’s blunder, I have since become one. It’s just another of those flow state activities like skiing, surfing or sprinting to win in a bike race that a lot of us need in our day, to varying degrees. But looking at the dint in my helmet, and some of the branches and rocks I could have landed on yesterday, I’m going to say Mountain bike riding is just a little too risky compared to the joy it gives back. I’m going to go back to the road bike.