I am about to regale you with a tail of promise, a tail of wonder, a tail of…well, ultimately fail.
July 2008. A hastily organised stag do. John and Kevin, my girlfriends brothers, groom and best man, invited me to go mountain biking with them in the afternoon, then the standard pub and alcohol fest that befits a stag do afterwards. Only things were not to go entirely as planned.
We made it to the Ae Forest, one of the areas biggest and best mountain bike trails. I suppose now would be the time to tell you that I’ve been mountain biking once, and I spewed. I’m not unfit, just no as fit as you have to be to mountain bike. I don’t even own a bike, let alone a ‘mountain’ bike.
But anyway, I went. We started out great, coasting through the easy climbs and swift drops, chatting away about times passed, just having fun. I was yet to feel tested, yet to feel un-worthy of the title mountain biker.
That was until we reached the hill. The hill was the first point that I felt scared. A massive slope coated in chunky, sharp, evil gravel, that even if you were going slow, you were still going fucking fast. The adrenaline though, was something special. That was probably the fastest I’ve ever been on a bike and I did enjoy it, especially when I got to the bottom with my face sans gravel chunks.
We were going to call it a day and head around an easy riverside cycle back to the van and get some lunch. This pleased me. This plan was fucking brilliant in comparison to the next one.
The Omega Man.
The biggest, baddest trail on the track, one that is recomended to experienced riders. That’s the key word – experienced. The exact opposite of what I was. But for some reason I went with them; possibly because I would have felt left out?
“What I was worrying about? This is easy” were my initial thoughts, as I cruised down the hill, even hitting a few jumps on the way. But the further I progressed the bigger my confidence became, and with more confidence comes less common sense. Specifically the common sense that screams “USE THE FUCKING BRAKES!”.
I rounded a corner, saw a cool looking jump and tried to hit it. I did hit it. But I didn’t land it. I remember the feeling of floating, realising that this is not going to end well. Then I remember standing up. The pain that hit me in my right shoulder. The crunching sensation as I tried to move my arm. Bollocks (they weren’t hurt), I think I’ve broken something.
Up to this point I had never broken a bone in my body, I’d been close, very bloody close, but never broken. The guy I spoke to at the bottom of the hall summed it up when I asked him if I had broken it, “you just know”, he said, and I just knew. Besides the broken collar-bone, all I had were 2 massive scrapes that I’m still scarred with today.
Now one broken bone is OK. I was planning to go to the hospital, get it chucked in a sling and head to the pub, knocking back a few pills on the way. But it becomes a different story when you’re still on top of a giant hill with no way down except for just, going down. I slogged away, pushing my back down trails while Kev’ and John cycled ahead, stopping to check on me of course.
It dawned on me that I had crashed at the top of the trail, and thank God for that, as the rest was fucking worse. I was walking round a bend, bike in hand, when I turned to see John standing over Kevin, a grave look on his face. Turns out Kevin had crashed too, and it made mine look completely shit.
He had come off his bike (going a little too fast) and whacked his arm off of a rock, leaving him with a green coloured face what looked like a Lynx can under his skin. Not pretty. Ironic thing is, this was really near the end, about 10 minutes from the car park.
You can imagine the looks we got. Me coming round holding my arm, wincing in pain. John next carrying 3 bikes and 2 backpacks. Then Kevin, trudging round the corner with a look of near death on his face.
Hospital was good. Got X-rayed, pilled, patched up, then off we went to see our concerned spouses/girlfriends/parents. I still had a friend over the next day for a promised gaming marathon – as if broken bones were going to stop me.
I just feel sorry for John. The one guy who was not injured, now on his own at his stag do, drinking absinthe at home. What a party.
So, the moral, I don’t think there is one really. Just don’t go mountain biking if you’re unfit, haven’t ridden a bike in 6 months, and you don’t want to break any bones. Simple , eh?