Risky business… I could be talking about that moment where you slip in some innuendo to the person you have a crush on at work and they abruptly wheel around, eyeball you and spit out “What did you just say?!” thus giving you that fight or flight moment: Do you double down in the hope of hitting a winner (“the stationery cupboard is unlocked you know”), or wilt and excuse yourself based on the fear of (another) personal grievance case… Tick tock… Tick tock… What’s it gonna be risk taker?
Whilst I could write a whole post on that topic, instead today as I wander through the barren desert of blogging material I have chosen to focus on something that pretty much everyone who has ever ridden a bike can relate to: Eating shit.
No, not the German national pass time, this is about that moment where your hands leave the handlebars of your bike and you end up with an unwanted and unscheduled helping of either dirt or tarmac, if you’re lucky, or tree and guard rail if you’re not. As the Giant PRO road team recently found out, even when you’re out minding your own business on a quiet road in Spain, any random cunt can drive head on into you and utterly fuck your season in seconds, terrible shit. Such is the nature of crashing in general…
When I cunted myself late last year, I inevitably found myself in a lot of conversations about what was going to happen next. A broken neck is quite a wake up call, so I ended up being affronted with this a lot:
“So, that’s it then? No more cycling?“
My first reaction to this comment masquerading as a question was always confusion. Yes, confusion that the person talking at my face thought of cycling as something optional in life, as opposed to it actually being part of life. Was I supposed to stay at home knitting cock warmers? Buy tighter jeans and do a Barista course? Sit around all day in overly tight lycra boxer shorts trading FX while watching niche porn categories?
Where do you even start to educate that the two entities of ‘life’ and ‘cycling’ are so intertwined that they manage to put to shame even the boldest Management Consulting firms who are ’embedded’ into large Corporate companies (and showering in their sweet milky cash). Of course my usual response to the uneducated non-cycling heathens is the canned line of:
“Ha ha, well, you know, this doesn’t happen very often…”
And stats usually back me up… only 3 broken bones in 25 years of riding, not a bad average… It just so happens they’ve all piled into the last 14 months or so. But then I started to think about it, maybe I’ve just been lucky? Multiple Whistler trips, Queenstown, Europe, Perth and a lot of other shit in-between. And, on reflection it hasn’t always been smooth sailing has it? Roll tape… And roll it raw…
Well, there’s a couple of things we can deduce from that, bearing in mind this didn’t cover all the crashes in the last 3 years:
- Fuck I need some coaching
- Fuck some of those look utterly pathetic as opposed to how they felt
- Almost all of them occurred riding blind trail, as in, never seen it before
- I’ve actually been quite lucky in relative terms
- Road riding is rather binary on the crash front – One stack, but oh so much damage…
- Fuck no one is ever going to buy a bike off me second hand after watching that
So then, now that i’ve established my shit eating credentials, its time to impart some unwanted and ‘sample of one’ opinions on the topic of crashing… With one important piece of context however and this goes for Road and MTB: Its impossible to avoid crashes.
Obvious yes, but even if you do everything in your power to avoid it (which as I will talk about in a second, can be counter productive), there will always be that one pothole, driver, tire blow out, loose rock, slippery drain cover, car door, dumb cunt, blind drop, bad decision or just plain cunty bad luck that means at some stage you’re going to have about half a second to think “Oh fucking cuuuunt“.
And it happens to the VERY best as well, look at last year in the EWS: Reigning champ Sir Grubby out with munted shoulders from a training crash, points leader Leov out in Whistler with a season ending shoulder injury and contender Oton sidelined with a broken ankle… And that’s not even looking at the catalogue of broken PRO road collarbones.
As long as there have been bikes, people have been eating shit off them and this will continue forever, its a certainty… And in some ways, it makes the sport very real, not to mention helps you quickly learn your boundaries, which in turn become what you want to push against and expand. So then, what can you do to manage the risk and keep the radness levels high? Some exceedingly unscientific rantings on the topic…
The law of attraction – It occured to me at some point in Finale Ligura at the EWS Finals that I was thinking more about crashing than I was about anything else. Maybe it was fatigue or a loss of confidence, but I started to obsess about it and was more stoked that I had made it through a practice session crash free than how I had ridden. Not the way to ride a bike. Especially when you’re on the Italian Rivera.
If you focus on something enough, usually your end up making it happen. Don’t worry, I’m not reading ‘The Secret’ here, but you end up driving your subconscious to carry out whatever command you’re thinking about and focusing on. By obsessing about crashing, you will naturally tense up, over brake, over react and ultimately create the negatively reinforcing cycle of doom that will give you the result you’ve been so focused on: A nice meaty crash.
Easier said than done though isn’t it? Sometimes you can think too much about losing the front end in a turn, or about what is that car about to do in front of you? To not let those things creep into your mind is like saying “I won’t watch porn ever again” or “I don’t need a coke after 4 hours of riding“, well intentioned, but hard to maintain.
Well thanks for a problem with no solution fuck head… What do you do then to keep the little demon voices at bay?
Be present – What does cycling and your significant romantic relationship have in common? Aside from rubbing chamois cream all over your balls? Well, in both cases if you’re not ‘present’, then they usually end in disaster.
The art of being present is easily overlooked and not often discussed. Its more than just concentrating, which is obviously its bedrock, but this is about being totally focused on what you’re doing and not letting negative thoughts on the scene to fuck with your kwan.
This is where we roll out all the cliche’s about being in the zone, focus, visualisation and being in the moment man… But they’re all true. You have to be totally THERE and locked in on exactly what you’re doing, looking ahead and fully obsessed with you, the bike and what’s coming next… Not thinking about whether or not you’ve got enough battery on your phone and oh fuck, what if it runs out and you can’t gram out a pic of this crazy Martian like scenery… Wait, is that a right turn?
Be bold, but not arrogant – And here comes the contradiction… Riding tentatively is a sure fire way to fuck yourself up, especially in Mountain Biking. There is a big difference between caution (I may not hit that blind 10 foot drop which I’ve never ridden before) and being overly tentative (I’ll hit it, but will brake a lot going into it). Momentum and confidence = Life in cycling, more so in MTB where you need to let go and allow the bike to do its job over scary terrain.
Under 25’s can ignore this advice, but boldness is a required asset, but without it moving into the cocky as fuck bracket. The irony is you’re just as likely to fuck up and crash by being too tentative as you are from going balls out past your comfort zone, so don’t think backing off massively will guarantee your safety…
No cunts – We’ve had this chat before, so the general framework shouldn’t be a surprise. The worst road riding accidents I’ve ever seen or been direct behind were all traced back to having some cunt in their genesis. To expand on that commonality: said Cunt was also usually under the pump at the time, but didn’t want to have their ego damaged, so opted for broken bones, bikes and fucked up bystanders instead of admitting they couldn’t hack the pace.
If you have a regular riding group, then you’re right to eye newcomers with suspicion. This is more of a road thing obviously, as no one really worries about the person behind them riding into a tree on the trail, but it does become a point of focus if some cunt joins your group and proceeds to ride like, well, a cunt.
At the first sign of such antics, its up to the self proclaimed leader of the group (often referred to as a ‘control freak’) to call that shit out and extinguish the weirdness with ruthless efficiency. As I said above, Road crashes are NEVER ok and usually binary in nature: You hit the deck and bones will most likely be broken or worse, you’ll have to have your perfectly wrapped bar tape replaced.
The last boy scout – As I’ve found out recently, be prepared… If no one else in your goon squad is, then perhaps be the one that is. Its the full ambulance at the bottom of the cliff scenario here, but being ready to deal with a melt down is just as important as avoiding one in the first place.
Whilst no one wants to think about contingency plans until they need them and don’t have them, its worth working out what you’ll do if shit goes south. Or just get a Rodfather:
Keep your mouth shut – As Mitchell Pearce is currently finding out, there are just some things you don’t say unless you really want to invite utter disaster. For cyclists, here’s a solid list of things you need to avoid blurting out at key moments during a ride:
- “One more jump/lap/run”
- “Last run of the day boys!”
- “I’m gonna smash this downhill road segment”
- “Its just a small dent in the rim, it will be sweet in the Alps”
- “Its totally safe to ride along in the bunch at 50kph on a road that’s been cluster bombed with both hands off the bars, after all, the PRO’s do it…”
Bikes are getting faster, roads are getting busier, there are more people cycling than ever before… And thanks to anti-social media we get to see more shots of people in hospital or their x-rays on the Gram (who the fuck would do that?), so crashing is going to continue to be up in cyclists grills, literally, in 2016.
Having said that, don’t dwell on it… Just know its part of doing business, keep your mind on the good times, ride with GC’s and use the FUN to overpower those little demon thoughts that want to get in your head and whisper dirty shit at you about that log which wants to eat your front wheel…