The moment of a near-crash riding solo on the Colorado Trail
Summit Fat Tire Society
It was one of those “Oh ****” moments.
The trail was undulating, fairly buff, curvy and roller-coaster fast. I’m in a section with a good, long sight line and no blind turns. There’s no one ahead of me. I’m going fast. I could go faster, but, at least for this section of the Colorado trail, I know there are no sharp curves. I can see far enough down the trail to let the bike run. Even in my old fart-age, I like going fast.
It’s been dry lately here in Summit. I ran into a friend of mine from Crusty Butt, and she remarked how dry and loose the trails were. It’s been raining almost every day in CB, she tells me. As mountain bikers, we always hope to be in that sweet spot, with just enough rain to keep the trails slightly moist but not muddy. I’m sure there is an engineering or physics term for it, but “tacky” is as good a term as I know. The trail I’m riding is not tacky — not at all. In fact, it’s more like kitty litter over hard pack. This can make for exciting moments in the traction department, which brings me back to the “Oh ****” moment.
It wasn’t a sharp curve or a big rock. It was one of those situations you just roll through routinely without a thought. This time, though, it was different. My finger is on the brake lever, ready to control my speed without applying the brakes, when I hit the rock just wrong. My front wheel deflects and turns slightly, breaks traction, digs into the kitty litter, gets crossed up — no big deal at this point. Just keep steering and stay off the brake, especially the front brake. The kitty litter, though, is deeper here than other spots on the trail, and it wants my front tire.
My front tire digs in even deeper, so that it’s no longer pointed 100-percent in the direction I wanted to go. My bike wants to slow and stop faster than my body, and my chin is heading for my front tire. My feet come off the pedals and I think I see my rear end (mine, not the bike’s) coming past me. The trail is lined with cut-up trees from when the U.S. Forest Service did “hazard tree” mitigation four or five years ago. You really don’t want to dive headfirst into a jagged tree graveyard at any speed, much less at high speed.
Even though my chest is on the stem, my hands, miraculously, are still on the bars, trying to keep some degree of control. But, it’s looking grim — this is going to hurt. The rear wheel is up in the air, and I’m riding a front wheelie going 15 to 20 mph. One foot hits the ground and keeps me upright, but now I’m leaning too far on the other side. The foot on that side hits the ground. Still upright. My legs are flailing in the air, then the other foot hits the ground again. Still upright, still on the trail, and I’ve scrubbed off a lot of speed without using the brakes.
I come to a stop. I’m not lying on the side of the trail, skinned and bleeding, wondering if I’ve broken any bones. Somehow, I didn’t slice my chin wide open on the stem, nor did I impact my top tube where it would hurt the most. The whole episode took about two or three seconds. I am by myself and say aloud, “Wow, that’s the save of the season.”
Indeed. You still got it dude, you still got it …
The “Oh ****” moment got me thinking about the changing of the seasons. In the past week, I’ve seen the first hint of yellow leaves on aspens. I have mixed feelings about autumn. I love fall rides through golden aspen groves, but it means summer — and mountain biking season — in Summit is coming to a close. I love winter and skiing, but I’m usually dragged kicking and screaming into it. The biggest knock on Summit mountain biking is the season is so short, and there are only a few weeks remaining before the first snow. Maybe the next column will be about fall color rides.
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