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Lucky or Good?

 The darkness comes quickly after work, the mornings are really cold. I think it's time to look back and say that was an awesome mountain bike season. I get a little banged up every year, some more than others. This is my fourth crash of the 2023 season and the first one to bring some pain. Maybe I can learn something if I run through them and try to determine if I'm getting good or just lucky.

The frequent heavy rain kept trails at Left Hand constantly changing. This led to my first debiking incident. I was taking some friends down Ginger Booty. We had sessioned the big booter and were riding out the rest of the single track. Cody came up fast behind me right as I reached a section of deep rut, filled with loose fist size rocks. My brain analyzed the possible line choices and came up empty as my front tire wedged against a rock. With the front tire stopped my mass started a slow motion arc over the bars.

I'd like to think that I tucked my chin and pulled my hands into my chest right before I hit the ground. But it kinda looks like I have my arms still out. This was a slow speed crash, and if I had been carrying more speed I may have rolled through the rocks with out even crashing. I've gone OTB countless times so I should have some muscle memory on how to do it. What really saved me here was the location I landed in, somehow I chose a spot free of jagged rocks. I popped back up without a scratch.

My next wreck occurred also at Left Hand and it was also an OTB. The double at the bottom of Brown Town was fairly intimidating from it's creation. For a long time I only hit it when I was with someone. Then I felt comfortable enough to start hitting it when I was alone, then I started trying to throw tricks on it.

For the first few years the jump existed it had a low flat trajectory. I could roll into it and always land well  into the landing transition. The takeoff was a basic 45 degree launch ramp with no real lip. It sent you far without much pop. This actually made it fairly hard to throw a trick on, because there was no sense of an apex to the jump.

However,  this is Left Hand, and He Who Holds the Shovels Speaks. I started hearing from other riders that the jump had been changed, so I went to investigate myself. I found the takeoff and been completely redesigned. Instead of a lazy straight launch ramp the takeoff was now a left side hip with a very steep lip.

    I hit it once and kinda cased, but rode out. Then I hit it again just right. I took another lap and met up with two very fast young riders. I tried to keep up with them down Brown Town, but by the time I reached the jump they were out of sight. I was a little frazzled from riding faster than normal so I backed off my speed into the jump. My rear end bucked up and I lost the distance to the landing and nose cased. I was tossed OTB really quickly and somehow tucked and rolled away from the crash.
    Now, I should note here some of this safe crash comes from site preparation. The very first time I saw this jump I was impressed by the dig work, but I found several big rocks embedded in the landing. I dug the rocks out and refilled the holes with dirt. As time went on I continuously removed loose rocks from this landing just as I do at many of the LH jumps. I try to keep the landings rock free for just such an occasion.
    In the aftermath of the crash I did a fast damage assessment and was surprised to find myself completely unharmed. This crash had the potential for some real consequences, yet I was unscathed. I checked my bike, found the bars a little crooked, but otherwise ok. I jumped back on and raced down Indy. Those two guys who I had just met on this lap actually waited for me to roll out. I'm not sure what they could have done if I never came down, but it was still kind of them to wait.

Valmont has been the site of some fantastic sessions this year. I'm extremely grateful to my slopestyle friends helping me push the envelope. One trick I struggle with every year is the no-footer.


No-footers scare me more than no-handers. It think throwing a bad no-hander just means it looks like a crappy no-hander. Throwing a bad no-footer has more chance of looking like a bad no-footer and then also crashing. It really has to do with the timing. I've done a no-hander take off and a no-hander lander so the timing of when you take your hands off isn't actually that crucial. Granted, the no-hander lander doesn't work in every situation, but it is possible, unlike a no-foot lander.

Taking my feet off too early can negatively effect the rest of the jump. Sometimes I feel like I kick the bike back and loose some of my momentum, this causes me to come up short and case. I take them off too early if I'm too amped up and nervous about trying the trick. If I'm actually a little chill and feeling good I hit the jump and take a very slight pause, then kick both feet up and off the pedals. You gotta keep it pretty equal or else you could spin your crank or pedals.

Needless to say, I thought I was ready for no-footing at the top of slopestyle. My friend Jesse offered to take a picture. He positioned himself, I dropped in and popped my feet off way too early. I guess I was still pulling up on the bike when I got off, because I pulled the bike out in front of me. So I had done a lame no-footer and now I was heading back to earth with my feet behind the rear wheel, and not in a cool way.

The back tire and both feet made a three point landing, then the momentum carried me right to my knees. My Race Face pads absorbed the impact and didn't slide off. I held on to my bike and didn't send it ghosting into Jesse. I was totally fine, so I guess this was just an example of bailing. Tony Hawk explains that there is a difference between bailing and slamming. Bailing is taking an action to lessen the effects of a crash. In this situation I had trained my body that going to my knees was an acceptable outcome because I had prepared for  the situation with high quality pads. I had gone to my knees in other occasions and those worked out sort of ok, so a precedent has been set.

My final next wreck of the season also happened at Valmont, also with Jesse. This wreck was very much an equipment failure, although I can take responsibility for not noticing the issue in time. It was a beautiful monday night, we were having a great session hitting a different sections of the park. Just as the sun dips behind the mountains is a perfect time to hit slopestyle. The sprinklers had watered the trails, but a few leaks also had water running down the road to the top. Walking across the wet dirt to get up the hill was inevitable.

I've ridden slopestyle and dual slalom with sprinklers going and right after they stop many times. I know to stay straight on wet wooden ramps, I know to avoid losing speed in any standing puddles. I though I knew enough. 

Jesse's son is an 11 year old ripper so I dropped in behind him. We hit the first two jumps on L then pointed it to the cannon. He went off the cannon and cranked out a perfect ET, it seemed like a good idea so I did one too. Then my wheels touched down and my right foot slipped off the pedal and punched my big toe into the earth like the tip of a jack hammer. I lost speed and bailed on the last two jumps. 

I pushed my bike back up the hill, (through the water again) and wondered why my foot had slipped the pedal. My foot was starting to throb a bit and the crew collectively decided to call this our Victory lap. Jesse took another slope run while his son and I decided our cool down lap would be the dual slalom. I came around the corner and pressed down on both pedals to set for the jumps. That's when both feet slipped off the pedals, I rode a short distance with my feet dragging then I went off the trail and laid it over.

I had now crashed on my cool down run and I knew something was very wrong. I set my foot on a pedal and pressed down, my wet Five 10 riding shoe slid across the pedal without a hint of traction. Only weeks before I had gone to Winter Park and found my Vans were too damaged to ride in, so I broke down and bought my first pair of Five 10 riding shoes.

The Five 10's were extremely comfortable and they stuck to my pedals perfectly. I wondered why I had held on to Vans as my riding shoe for so long. Was I just an old man stuck in my ways? Mistrusting of new technologies? Does the Vans waffle print work just as well wet or dry? Yes. Does the Five 10 smooth souled bike shoe become useless when wet? also yes.

So at least I knew why I was injured. My big toe got some nice color. It still hurts. It went through a very itchy phase so it may have had a slight fracture. But that's it! That is my biggest injury of the year, a very stubbed toe. The stubbed toe was my biggest injury this season, but not technically my last.

We've been having a lot of fun on Valmont's new trick jump. I love this jump so much it deserves it's own post. But we are learning that it can hurt in it's own little way. The landing is made of thick flexible plastic, so you slide along it without getting tore up. But it can actually give you little burn spots. Jesse slid out on it and it erased some of his tattoo off his arm. I just took a slide and got matching quarter sized burns on both elbows.

I'm only mentioning these small scrapes because they came right after a big success. I had just landed my first ever attempt at a Nothing. I hit the ramp, then pulled both hands and feet off the bike. It wasn't long, and I kept my legs and arms bent, but I did it!
After the first success I immediately tried to duplicate it, that's when I crashed. So I'm still left to wonder, Am I good or just lucky? 


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