When you’re riding a very light, rigid-forked, singlespeed mountain bike at speed on a narrow, rocky trail at night it’s easy to forget (or deliberately ignore) the fact that you’re only really a fraction of an inch from potential disaster. Every twist and turn, bump and depression in the trail successfully negotiated simply results in more confidence, more concentration and more speed. More bravery. Faster and faster we go….
I’d not ridden this (very light, rigid-forked, singlespeed) bike since the Strathpuffer last year. I’d built it more or less specifically for that race – one gear, no suspension, very, very light. It’s a fantastic bike to ride – involving, responsive, rewarding, etc, etc. Not much in the way of compromise and on paper, definitely not ideal for riding for 24 hours in one go. You can put the front wheel where you want it to be without a great deal of effort. Likewise, ride something bumpy and the front wheel can be knocked off it’s line quite easily – belt it into even a small rock with enough gusto and all of a sudden you’re making a big correction just to stay upright/not in a bush.
I’m pretty sure I hit something largish the other night while hurtling down one of the amazing singletrack trails at Penmachno. One second I’m flying down the trail, the next I’m flying through the air. The bike, knocked off the narrow trail onto a patch of sticky mud and weeds at the side of the trail, coincided with me reaching the limit of my reaction speed and ability and suddenly pitched me forwards, into the air and onto my head. From that point things got a bit worse as I tumbled down the steep, muddy bank at the side of the trail – tumbling over 3 or 4 times I hit rocks with my arms and legs on the way down and thankfully came to a halt before I fell down a hole or off a cliff.
In hindsight I don’t think there was a cliff and I’m not sure if there was a hole, but I knew it would be in my best interests to stop rolling down this hill kind of soonish.
I knew it was a big crash because Phil, who was riding behind me at the time, wasn’t laughing. Instead he was running/sliding down the embankment towards me.
As I lay there, I waited for the adrenaline to start to wear off so I’d be able to tell if I’d broken my arm. It felt like I might have done – it was bloody painful but not so painful that I was crying out. Maybe I’d got away with it. My legs were hurting and already my neck was getting stiff from the initial impact. I’d also belted my chest into the bars as the bike and I parted company and the pain that I experienced when I inhaled suggested that I’d cracked a rib or something.
Great. Just great. I seem to have spent the past couple of months either injured or full of some kind of snot disease.
I’d also lost my helmet light – I’ve no idea where that went but it’d either gone out or was buried because we couldn’t find it.
Thankfully the bike was ok so I wasn’t looking at a 10 mile walk back to the car.
As I sat in Dave’s car, waiting for Dave, Budge and Phil to complete the ride (I insisted that there wasn’t much point in everyone sacking it off on my account), I gradually warmed up, ate the remainder of my food and decided that I’d not broken my arm as I watched it swell and go a funny colour.
Hopefully in a few days I’ll be able to turn my head fully and ride a bike again without constantly swearing and grimacing in pain…