My wrecks come in series. I’ll go months without hitting the ground and then…like it came out of the sky…I will hit the ground several time within a several week period with the scrapes, bruises and other miscellaneous damage to show for it. Typically, none of these wrecks are season ending, just annoying enough to get under my skin and shake confidence which ends up breeding more wrecks. The vicious cycle continues until I get my head wrapped around it and regain the confidence I was riding with the months proceeding this fun interaction with the trail. The #1 thing I can do to get out of the cycle and gain confidence back in my riding is returning to the scene of the crime.
Regain Trail Confidence: Hit That Section Again
One of the biggest obstacles that we face as mountain bikers is our own head. The bike is always far more capable than our abilities, we have the skill set to get the job done…it is all just in our heads! Your brain is the #1 thing keeping you from riding obstacles or riding with the confidence you had right before your wreck. Nothing else…just your head.
So what do I do to get my brain out of the equation and get my riding confidence back after a wreck?
As quickly as I can, I return to the scene of the accident and ride it successfully. If I just wrecked and do not have enough injuries to keep me off the bike, I hit it right then and there to keep that wreck out of my head for future rides. If I wreck hard enough to end that day of riding, I return as soon as possible and ride that section again successfully as soon as my body is ready.
When a wreck is gone untreated, your mind will start to build it up to be something that is much bigger than it actually was. Mistakes and accidents happen. It is not if we are going to wreck as mountain bikers…it is when. Managing your mindset after a wreck is what separates the riders that let wrecks keep them from accomplishing their goals and riders that move forward and learn from the experience.
Last night’s yard sale…
Last night, I took a drop I have taken dozens of times. It is about 4-5 feet to transition off a rock with a blind landing. Nothing big but not exactly your…”just ride on over it” drop. Fresh off a wreck last week that took me off the bike for a couple of days, I hit the drop and half way through I already knew I was going to slow. The front end slammed against the ground and I headed over the handlebars in a ball of dust that left me with a broken cable, broken shoe clamp, scrapped up arm, bruised hip and a ton of dirt.
Since I was still able to ride, I picked up the bike, shook off some dirt, straightened the handlebars and headed back up the hill. Starring down the drop…I repeated one thing in my head.
“Commit or eat shit.”
The reason I wrecked last time around was not because of my fork, my bike or my abilities as a mountain biker. I wrecked because I wussed out and hit the drop too slow. I didn’t commit to that section of the trail so it bit back. On the second round, I hit the drop with the correct amount of speed and everything went smoothly. Since I decided to hit the section right away, the only adverse affects I have from my face plant is a couple of bruises and scrapes that heal much faster than a wreck that lingers in my head.
Confidence while riding is what gets you through harder sections of trail. When that confidence gets shaken up, you hit areas of the trail timidly which ends up hurting your riding even more. By getting back ont the horse and tackling the section of trail that bit you before, you can insure that you will hit the trail with confidence and prevent future accidents bred by riding without confidence.
The shot up top was taken by Keith Pytlinski (recently featured on the cover of Dirt Rag). You can check out his shots on M5Photography.com and his series on how to take great mountain biking pictures here. Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
It happens. As much as we all do not want to think or talk about it, part of the sport of mountain biking (or cycling in general) is not if you are going to wreck…it is when. We take as many precautions as possible with helmets, protective gear and trying not to ride over our heads, but…at the end of the day…sometimes s@*t just happens no matter how careful (or lucky) we are. With wrecking, downtime off the bike inevitably hits home and for mountain bikers, that is not an easy pill to swallow. With all of this free time that was taken up with time on dirt, we have to find a release that keeps our fitness up and ready for when our bodies are ready to hit the trail again. So what do we do in the meantime? Here are the top 5 things you can do to try to keep sanity and endurance during your healing downtime.
Top 5 Things To Do While You Are On Wreck Leave
Running – As much as I hate to admit it…running is one of the best ways to keep in peak shape if you can’t ride but you can run (typically upper body injuries). Running will keep your endurance up while giving you the same outside experience that you get while riding. You can even mix in some trail running to try to keep the boredom at a minimum.
Spin Classes – If you are able to ride a spin bike (again…upper body injuries), spin classes at your local gym are a great way to keep the legs and lungs in shape while off the bike.
Working Out With Weights – Depending on the injury, you might be able to hit the gym and workout those parts of your body that aren’t wrapped up, stitched or in a cast. If you are looking for more endurance training, running low weight and faster/higher quantity reps can keep the heart rate up as well.
Riding A Road Bike – There will be times during your recovery where your body might be able to handle some road miles before hitting the vibration and impact of the trail. By getting on the road bike, you can keep impact at a minimum while increasing your riding endurance rapidly. Just watch out for other riders and drivers, you could end up hitting asphalt and making things worse.
12oz Curls – Lower body injury or both upper and lower? Grab a beer and a remote…at least 12oz curls are good for the mind.
The temptation is to give into impatience and push things too early after a wreck that takes you off the bike for a period of time. Just remember, even if you have taken some steps to keep your endurance up, your technical riding muscles might to be completely ready to jump back into the saddle with the same speed and intensity as when you went down. It is always better to ease back in and test out your body than being impatient and wrecking.
The above picture was taken by Keith Pytlinski. Check out his 3 part series on taking better mountain biking pictures below.
Your local trail that you have ridden more times than you can count. Yes…that trail where you know the placement of every rock, every root, every tree and every single spec of dirt is the place where you are going to have the big one.
I have been in the midst of technical riding heaven with more super chunk than you can possibly imagine, and I will have my worst wrecks on stupid parts of local trails. It is a sad truth…but it happens to all of us and we always get up (hopefully) with that WTF look on our faces trying to figure out what went wrong. So why is it that local trails are prime real estate for the worst to happen?
Why You Are Going To Wreck On Your Local Trail
The same reasons you think you will never wreck on a trail that you know like the back of your hand is the same reasons why you are going to eat dirt, so let’s take a look at why local trails are prime hot spots for catastrophic events.
You Know Every Single Part Of The Trail
And since you know every single part of the trail, you pay attention to none of it! How many times have you just been rolling along at a good clip and realize that you have not really been paying attention to where you are going? When we ride new trails, you are 100% focused on what you are doing, where you are going and how the bike is interacting with the trail. When you are riding your local hot spot, you are thinking about what you are going to have for dinner that night, wondering if you need to stop for gas on the way home or anything else BUT what you are actually doing most times. Why would you? You know this trail like the back of your hand with zero surprises!
So what happens? One rock, one slippery root, one moment of mental breakdown causes your bike to fly off in a direction you weren’t prepared for and your dreams of bacon cheeseburgers are smashed with a mouth full of dirt. As you look up at the sky on your back, you hear your riding buddies in the distance yelling, “what the hell just happened?!”…normally followed by heckling laughter…
It’s The Law Of Numbers
When you add the last point together with statistics, it is just bound to happen. If you only ride a trail twice a year, your chances of going down regularly are drastically decreased. If you ride a trail 100 times a year, falling 3 times is much more probable. Just by pure statistics, you are going to end up going down at your local hot spot without fail.
Pushing It To The Limit
When we know trails as well as we do our local ones, we have to push it past a limit to keep the flow and interest going. I don’t know about you guys, but one of the ways I bring the stoke back to local trail systems is by finding new lines and pushing what I consider normal riding on those trails. As you push yourself harder, faster and higher, you are going to end up pushing past that threshold at some point in time.
So…next time you are ripping it up at your local hot spot, remember, it is the scene of your next encounter with the dirt or a tree. Try to pay a little bit more attention to features and changes in the terrain…
An often discouraging topic associated with any extreme sport is injuries. However, they do not have to be discouraging but little lessons that we can use to better ourselves and educate others wanting to conquer the mountains as well. No better way to learn than make a few mistakes and experience some mishaps.
A common injury experience while mountain biking is the collarbone snap action. Many of us have felt it, known it, and learned from it. Here is my story..
When I first got into mountain biking I was stoked, excited, and fearful of a bit of the challenges I was faced with. I mean let’s face it, its an extreme sport no matter how experience you are. I broke my collarbone while mountain biking a few years back, an injury not so out of the ordinary, really, as far as mountain bike injuries.
Typically a mountain biker breaks his collarbone this way. John MountainBiker encounters a rock, stump or other obstacle. John MountainBiker’s front wheel stops abruptly and John is no longer in control of his motion. Physics take control of John and he is launched forward — Wheeeeeeee! — over the handle bars John goes. And now that John is no longer riding, but falling, a close friend of John reaches out to assist and break the fall, his hand. Hand meet ground, an unhappy introduction at this point. Impact travels up John’s wrist, through his forearm and into his shoulder. Pop goes the weasel John, whereupon Snap! John now has a broken collarbone.
The collarbone, see, is a spindly wisp of a bone maybe as thick as a popsicle stick but nowhere near as flexible. The body’s most implausibly designed bone, sole purpose, aside from breaking and causing severe pain, is to connect John MountainBiker’s shoulder blade to his shoulder. Collarbones only need about ten foot-pounds of pressure to break, essentially the same amount of force it takes to snap a plastic spoon.
So for six to eight weeks with this inflamed region in the land between my neck and shoulder became known as the House of Pain. It seriously was the house that Pain had built within me! Basketball players break collarbones, too. Just examine any team photo and there you will see a broken one. It sticks out in the photograph by a bump on the shoulder that doctors call “beaks” squeaking out a plaintive little tale of woe and agony. Break your collarbone and that little beak squeals in your ear for weeks.
There are three wonderful ways to avoid breaking your collarbone: do not ride anything, break the habit of breaking your own falls or simply never leave the comfort and safety of your home.
I broke my collarbone the easy way: a crash called an “endo.” I was attempting a drop from a ledge down the trail. I would say I dropped about 120 feet. Many others have dropped thousands of feet with no injury, so why me?
To execute drops correctly, skilled mountain bikers jerk their bike’s front wheel up, take a hard pedal stroke, then hoist the bike skyward by flexing their knees and pulling up with their feet. When they land, they make sure they land rear wheel first.
Except for none of the above, I did pretty much everything right, right?
First, I dribbled over the ledge angled downward. Next, slinky-down-the-stairs style, my back wheel looped up over the front. My feet flew up, shoulders down, and in an instant I was one hundredth of my way into a somersault rudely interrupted by my shoulder meeting the ground.
The impact took more than my breath away. Literally at first, then more so as time elapsed.
“Under no circumstances, do not,” the emergency room doctor began saying, “do not, allow the pain to outpace the pain killer.” You see, pain assisting medication have a duration in which they work or set in. So if you wait for pain, you are screwed. Boy was that doctor correct.
My abiding memory of the fall is comprised of numerous distinct moments. First, how free and easy I felt on the ledge’s height. Next, how self-assured I was and finally, how exuberant. On last move and champ goes home!
Sudden, abrupt, thorough, unexpected. I felt like I had been thrown towards the ground by a pissed off elephant and if that wasn’t enough the elephant pummeled me with his feet.
Ledge? Wooooo! Ahh…. No, No, front wheel is dropping.. no! “Danger Will Robinson!” Here comes… no.. no.. ground.. $*%& #!@% *!&# OUCH!
Injuries are discouraging when they hold us back from doing what we love doing. Some injuries, say stress fractures from running (been there too.. stupid shoes), arise from over doing it. Others, like knee injuries from too-fast hikes down the mountains, creep in as age shadows youth.
Mountain bike injuries, however, do not require overuse or much of anything else. They require nothing but natural environments: ground, body, and physics.
What is worse, they always try to teach us some lesson.
And therein lies the initial turn of the vicious circle. Got hurt riding because you fell?
Good! Because after you heal, now you can go out and learn the skill whose lack of mastering caused that fall and broke the bone that lead to your miserable trip to the hospital.
Fail to keep both your pedals level on a downhill ride, for example. A classic goof. With your weight loaded on the one foot (the lower one), one hard jolt from a root, rock, stump, log or various other unknown obstacle and, “see ya Freddy!” Over the handlebars you go, smack into the rock hard ground.
Neglecting to shift weight to your outside foot when cornering, which otherwise passed your ear tire firmly onto the terrain of the rails. Weight the inside foot and soon you experience the thrill of feeling your inside leg getting shredded down to a bloody shank as the bike slides out from beneath you. This little maneuver, known as a “road-pizza” fall, leave your leg resembling a calzone oozing sauce and pepperoni.
Finally, the afternoon you fail to deploy your front brake with that requisite combination of authority and skill. In the books they tell you to deploy your front brake with authority. The front brake contains more stopping power and is your ultimate stop friend.
Modulation, oscillation, whatever you decide to call it.
The descent was steep, I squeezed my front brake lever authoritatively, as I was supposed to do, educated to do or instructed to do. But what I had neglected to learn was that you are also supposed to slide your body backward, so that your rear lies behind the saddle. Back there your butt weighs the rear of the bike down, handily counteracting inertia as you hurtle forward and your forward brake, biting the front rim with authority, slows you down.
Yeah, my bike definitely slowed down!
Once again, “see ya Freddy” Over the handlebars, met with the lovely face of ground!
Athletes tend to assume all sorts of psychological poses as they recover from the injuries that keep them from their toys. Some choose to quit the pursuit that walloped. Others consider exercising great restraint once they heal.
It’s geeks like us, however, the dolts, who go back out after they heal to learn the skills that could have prevented the crash that broke the bone we wish was still naturally in tact.
Let’s examine.. so far I have broken two ribs, torn my right-knee’s ACL twice, had three knee surgeries, sprained a thumb, snapped a pinky, broken a wrist, both my ankles busted, cracked my ulna, broke the collarbone, dislocated a shoulder, lost four two teeth, broken my jaw, and nearly lost an eyeball, while experiencing the pain from bursal sacks the size of grapefruits swell up on my hips from biking injuries.
Each injury, each mishap, each mistake per se has educated me, more so, inspired me to learn the skill that would have prevented the injury. This is an inoculation of a decidedly after-the-fact sort peculiar to mountain biking. Problem is, you never know which lesson the trail has in store for you next time you go out.
So if you are an adherent of crash sports — skiing, snowboarding, trail running, and form of whitewater lunacy — consider this just one guy’s definition of hotshot skill: the best are those who return home only a little more hanged up than how they left the house early that morning. Ending the day with as many intact bones and body parts as you were born with means you are no longer learning.. There is no harm in it, really, I promise!
Of course, if all this seems like too much work, you can always try sea kayaking, thrills, risks, and adventure of a far different sort. Every sport has their risks associated with them.. which are you willing to take.
We encourage good safety and well-being, so guy buy some protective gear and not be lazy. You are a mountain biking dork regardless, so do it up in style.
I know…it sounds funny, but who better to tell you how to wreck a mountain bike other than 198? If you have clicked the “About MTB by198” link above, you already know that I am very qualified to explain how to wreck, but more importantly, how NOT TO WRECK.
Just for fun, download this video, put it on loop and laugh it up with your riding friends. I can’t tell you how many hysterical phone calls I received from my friends watching this video. If there is one thing that is absolutely true in life, it is this…don’t give out if you can’t take it. I laughed just as hard at myself as everyone else was at me. It was great to have this kind of evidence.
A wreck in mountain biking is not an “if” it’s a when. We are involved in a sport that we know the risks going into the action. How far we decide to push ourselves past their limits is up to us, but even under the most conservative circumstances, wrecks still happen. There are certain tips that can keep the injuries at a minimum when you start to go down.
Do not put your hands straight out in front of you to brace the fall. This is a sure way to break both wrists.
Kick the mountain bike away from you whenever possible. The last thing you want tangled up with you while you are going down is a huge hunk of metal. The quicker you get the bike away from you…the better.
Roll with the fall as much as possible away from your mountain bike. The more you roll, the less blunt force you have against your body. Less hard hits = less injury.
Wear protective gear while mountain biking in extreme conditions. I go a little overboard in this area because of previous incidents. I have numerous scars and torn ligaments, and I have seen more open wounds than I can count. Wearing knee pads on a cross country ride has become my normal mode of operation. It just isn’t worth using a weeks vacation from work anymore to nurse an injury. Also, make sure that all of your protective gear fits correctly.
Do not start riding again until you are sure that you are not seriously injured. A lot of times your body gets such a rush over the fall that you can become numb to the pain. Give yourself a second before you get back on the bike to make sure that you don’t cause further injury.
Carry basic first aid supplies in your hydration pack. Carry any lightweight supplies that you can get away with. Band-aids, gauze, Neosporin, etc. These can help you when you go down, but more importantly, they can help fellow riders on the trail.
Like I said before, wrecking is part of mountain biking. In most cases, I actually end up learning more from my wrecks than my accomplishments. Success is nothing but a bunch of failures strung together, so next time you wreck…take a really close look at why and how to do it differently next time. After each bad wreck, I always return to the scene of the crime. Get rid of those demons as fast as possible and enjoy the feeling of clearing the section that gave you such as issue.