I don’t really want to write about crashing, but I crashed. I don’t really want to dissect the moment, but what else can you do? I spent the next 25 miles trying not to be angry about it, trying to shove my ego out of the way so I could ride my bike, but a crash won’t be left behind without going through this process.
Here’s what happened.
We were about 2 miles into a 30 mile single-track gramble, coming down a sharp descent at speed. I know the trail well there. There are no surprises. Still, I’d made a poor choice up near the top, dipping below the big maple, instead of above it. To make that work I’d had to brake too hard, and since I was right in the middle of our 5 rider line, I jumped into the pedals to make up for my mistake.
Still, everything was fine. No reason for what happened next.
At the bottom of this descent there is a 2 foot drop off to flat with a right turn baked in. You can, with a little courage, lift your front wheel and make that drop and swoop into the right-hander.
If you miss the big rock on the right.
There is no reason to clip the big rock on the right. There is plenty of space. Don’t even look at the big rock on the right. You don’t need to.
I might have glanced at it. That might have been my mistake. Or, as I pressed down on my bars to weight the front end prior to hucking the drop, my front tire came loose and slid right. The trails were dry and dusty. Loose. It could be that my tire gave way, and I glanced at the rock in that middle moment, before my wheel clipped it, but after it was too late.
What came next was predictable, mundane even. My downward speed became torsional, my right wheel skewing counter-clockwise into the air, my left foot unclipping reflexively to catch my weight, the bike rising into my right hand, and then tearing my right ankle sideways as the pedal held on just a little too long to its cleat. I rolled onto my left shoulder and came to a stop.
No big deal.
My head didn’t hit the ground. I wasn’t bleeding. Just an ankle sprain I thought I could shrug off, because that ankle has the structural integrity of your grandmother’s Thanksgiving Jell-o mold.
I realize I’m boring you with this, asking you to go into the minute detail with me. You have your own crashes to dissect, your own peace to make with danger and risk and the inevitable. I’m sorry. I have to do this.
I got back on. There was a long way to go, and I couldn’t really contemplate giving up and riding home. Anyway, the motion of pedaling is good for a sprained ankle, better to keep it moving than let it go still and start swelling.
The real damage was to my confidence. If I fancy myself a decent bike handler, stupid mistakes like this one serve as compelling counter evidence. I rode away this morning, but I spent the next 10 miles pouring over my memory of what happened, looking for a reason. Occam’s Razor suggests I was riding too fast and not paying enough attention. Occam only ever tells a short, simple story.
Crashing makes me angry. I feel stupid after. I feel scared, like maybe that was a sign that I’m not on my game and that I need to dial it all back. How far back? I don’t know. If the fun of riding consists mainly of the things that happen out at the edge of your abilities, removing that edge definitely sucks the fun out of a ride.
That left me with pedaling. Just pedaling. The consolation prize. This morning it came with a side of Ibuprofen, an ankle brace, and a hard ego check that I can always use, whether I want it or not.