101 things that could have gone better

Penguins. Because I want to. And they're a flightless bird.

It’s not exactly news that the internet makes us feel like we’re missing out (or maybe it is, I don’t know how much attention you pay to the news). Social media and constantly refreshing websites conspire to give the impression that everything is awesome. For everyone else at least.

This blog’s no different, but what do you expect? I’m not going to put up crap instagram pictures of bad weather, bad trails, broken bikes and miserable riders. It’s not that I’m part of a grand conspiracy to make you feel bad about yourself, it’s just no one’s interested in humdrum crap. Or maybe they are, it’d explain the proliferation of starbucks and maccy d’s.

Sandy grimacing his way through a crap climb in crap weather for a crap photo. It was a good ride at least.

Anyway, this post is here to try and redress the balance and embrace the negative side of riding.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried this, this and that and the other posts are all describing pretty poor rides or races but even then I managed to find a silver lining of positivity.

But today I’m looking for the cloud. The big fuck off raincloud inside every silver lining, ready to piss down and wash away your hopes and dreams. That cloud.

This face is my Blue Steel. One day Magnum will be ready, but not yet.

Injuries suck, there’s no way round it. They hurt, they stop you living life the way you want to, keep you off the bike and any other sports you do, frequently stop you earning money, going on holiday or helping friends and family. They can cause friction as those friends and family can’t understand why you want to do this thing that’s left you in the state you’re in. But, if you want to improve and challenge yourself, you need to go to your limits and if you go there you’re going to get hurt at some point. What does Thomas Wayne tell us? “Bruce, why do we fall?…So that we can learn to pick ourselves up again.” Though presumably he’s never snapped his tib ‘n’ fib in the same crash.

The elusive mid-crash photo, just 30m from the finish line.

Fortunately mountain biking is fairly low consequence for injuries. I know it doesn’t feel like that when the doctor flicks on the light behind the x-ray to show your collarbone is now in three or more pieces, but we’re not going wingsuit flying here.

There I go again, finding the silver lining, I just can’t help my positivity. I’m a traitor to my west coast of Scotland upbringing.

Ally Fulton showing next level skills, mid-crash and still able to smile AND look at the camera.

Let’s try once more. There’s a period whilst you’re healing when you know that, probably, everything will fix up nicely and you’ll get back on the trails before too long with a 95% good body, which is more than enough to get back to 100% of how you rode before. But you’ve been googling and found no end of horror stories about non union of bones, rejection of grafts and compartment syndrome. So for now you have two futures existing beside each other. One where you ride as before, but with yet another scar story to not impress girls with….and another where you grow to be a bitter old man haunted by the memories of when you could go a bike and not impressing girls with the story. Kinda like Schrodinger’s cat, but with two wheels.

Why is it always the elbow?

Early in September, after a cracking day lapping the Jaillet lift in Megeve with Antoine, jumping the local interpretation of north shore features and generally getting loose, we headed to the Combloux pump track. Having a spin on a wee hardtail, not really paying attention and not going very quickly, I flip over the bars and land arms outstretched. By the time I sit up it is obvious I’ve damaged myself. I have surgery that night and again 2 days later to put the bones in my left wrist back into something like the correct order and shape, turns out the wrist is quite a complicated jigsaw.

Ain't modern medicine awesome. Cheers doctors everywhere.

In about 2 seconds of distraction I have lost the best month of the year for Chamonix riding, the last 2 rounds of the EWS, a trip to Whistler, the ability to move flat, most of the help I was going to be to my other half in her big race of the year and signed off from earning money until winter, by when the world will probably have ended anyway. Quite a costly 2 seconds.

Love hospital food me.

Except it’s not. The worst case is I lose most of the movement in my wrist and need 18 months off bikes. Have you watched the Paralympics? They’d piss themselves laughing at having just a sore and stiff wrist.

Have you read the concussion article over on descent-world and Lorraine Truong’s response? If not, I recommend closing this article and reading hers instead.

I also read the news. The random nature of violence we inflict on each other, from the accidental distress of car accidents to the miserable world of war, where you and/or your closest can be wiped off this mortal coil forever on a whim, error or wrongly pushed button.

Spence has some of the best technique of anyone I ride with, which makes this crash photo about as rare as rocking horse poo.

A sore wrist is looking less and less of an issue. Which means I get more and more pissed-off with myself for being so precious and pissed-off at just a bad wrist. And that in turn feeds the initial pissed-offedness. A perpetual motion machine of ire. If you could hook me up to the national grid we’d be cooking.

In an effort to keep instagram ticking over I’ve been going been going through the last couple of years of bike photos. Hundreds of days of riding, each day with its memories not just from the moment in the image, but the sitting about fixing punctures, the chairlift conversations, the quiet at the top of a climb, the hiding from sleet and wind. All this must be worth occasional trip to A&E? For now, for me, it is.

A bad day in the office for Jared Grave. Dislocated ankle but still finishes the stage.

Perhaps what I’m guddling towards here isn’t the complete non-revelation that injuries happen, are shit when they do, but in the grand scheme of things it’s not that bad. Nor that bikes are pure awesumz and act as a conduit for #goodtimes with friends out in nature. I think I’m aiming for the idea that life is analogue, and things aren’t intrinsically good or bad, instead everything sits on a scale with the feeling you get as the snow starts going over your head mid turn on a powder day with friends in the Courmayeur trees at one end, and living in Aleppo at the other. All events fit somewhere in there and influence each other, without the bits you don’t like there’s nothing to give the good moments context. So by extension, without ever getting injured, you can’t truly value a great day on the bike.

I’m not sitting on the sofa being grumpy. I’m getting ready for my best year of riding in a decade.

See, not all bails end in tears :-)

Shite. I still ended up being positive.