Today I did something I haven’t done in years. I took a totally inappropriate bike to ride a section of track and crashed.
This morning I had an appointment to meet a rider to show them some plans for a dirt jump project. Turns out that he was meeting a group of locals to do some runs prior to a downhill race tomorrow. “Hey, come up to the track and check it out.” “Sure…” So, we all trudged up the hill, to one of the highest sections of the forest that I haven’t set foot in ever, and started climbing up the track…
Now some DH tracks are technical, full of rock gardens with rocks the size of milk crates and drop offs that have an alarming similarity to the edge of railway platforms. This was, fortunately, not one of those tracks, it was simply corners carved into the side of a steep hill. As we trudged upwards, for some reason I stopped thinking about this as a DH track and started pondering coming back down. I hadn’t been invited out to hit up the DH track, they just asked me to take a look. There was no pressure or expectation that I should try, no-one to impress (no matter what, I was going to look like an utter gumbie attempting to negotiate this on my XC bike). Still, for some reason I really wanted to give it a shot.
In a way, this kind of riding takes me back to my MTB roots. Back in 99 or thereabouts, on a steel XC hardtail with a cheap 20mm travel fork I went with friends to the Nationals DH track out of Canberra at Blue Range and we gingerly and unimpressively picked our way down to the bottom looking like utter novices who had no idea, no skills and no place being there. I recall feeling scared, out of my depth and not having much fun. Today was different for some reason.
So, there I was this morning, out on a muddy hillside on my XC singlespeed with it’s skinny, shallow-tread, low rolling-resistance tyres, saddle (Brooks) dropped nearly as far as it would go trying to make it down the track. It doesn’t take much slope or mud to overcome the grip limits of many XC tryes and this was certainly the case for me, so I picked my way down, mostly with the rear wheel locked up, front wheel on the verge of doing the same and trying to stay mainly vertical and not dabbing a foot. Until, (as was inevitable), the back end let go during a traverse and I fell over on my side.
All I did was laugh, grin and start riding again. Minor graze, some mud on my leg and having a blast of a time looking like an idiot. The lower sections of the track were great, less steep, more rocks and of the type that most folks can ride down, it’s simply hard to do it fast. I had a hoot the whole way down and we left the DH folks behind to do their training and sort out their lines and returned to noodling around the XC singletrack…
I’m generally fairly risk averse, I don’t enjoy crashing and I have a mortgage to pay, family to help support and all that jazz, so I don’t hit up dangerous stuff at all. Today wasn’t dangerous, it was just not suited to what I was riding, and so, I crashed and looked stupid doing it. I haven’t had so much fun on a bike as I had in those 5 minutes in years.
Why do we grow up?