I’ve rediscovered the joy of riding off-road and found that I really prefer it to road riding for my weeknight cycling therapy.
It’s nice not having to be concerned with distracted or ill-tempered motorists while, at the same time, enjoying the natural beauty of being in the woods. Yes, we are blessed with lots of undeveloped, deeply wooded areas owned by our local governments where they have allowed the Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) to develop off-road cycling trail systems. I also find the type of workout that I get hammering along the trails to be a lot more beneficial than simply slogging along on asphalt.
However, riding off-road does not come without a few inherent risks. The most serious of these is hubris, as the minute you start to think you’ve mastered the trail it serves you a big old slice of humble pie by smacking you upside the head or kicking you in the ass. Such was the case yesterday afternoon when I headed over for a quick loop at the Allatoona Creek Mountain Bike Park.
It was a lovely, warm afternoon and when I arrived home I could see Debbie had headed off for a 25-mile road ride on her single bike. I’d been on the fence with regard to riding and that closed the deal for me: if she’s riding then I need to be riding. I quickly ditched my suit and tie, threw on my cycling togs, loaded the Ventana Marble Peak in the truck and off I went for the short 6-mile drive to the trail head.
There weren’t too many folks at the park when I arrived which was good: I’d have relatively few encounters with other cyclists on the trail. After fitting the front wheel to the frame and putting on my helmet and Camelbak I was off.
The first leg is relatively flat and I was feeling pretty good. However, my rear tire seemed a little bit soft. When I reached the start / finish of the main loop I stopped briefly to add some air to the rear tire. As I did that three riders headed off in front of me. The early signs of my hubris immediately manifested themselves as I jumped on my bike and started to chase down the rabbits!
I caught the 3rd rider at a short, technical climb that he failed to clear. Instead of just waiting for him to collect himself and move on up the trail so I could take the right line through that climb, I tried to take a lousy, inside line over some really nasty, well-polished roots. My rear tire lost traction just as I pressed hard to clear the crest of the climb with my front wheel. The bike instantly stalled and I ended up propped up against a tree to keep from falling back into the abyss. We lamented our respective inability to negotiate that particular climb and we were off again. A few hundred yards down the trail he allowed me to pass and I was back on the hunt for the two other rabbits.
I caught the 2nd rabbit at the point where the main trail has an option advanced loop called the Red Barron, about 1.2 miles of slightly more technical trail than the main loop. The two rabbits skipped the Red Barron which was sort of good as it gave me an even bigger challenge: catch them on the main trail after doing the extra 1.2 mile loop!
It was a great ride and I was feeling pretty cocky. I wasn’t getting fatigued in the least, my breathing was good and I wasn’t making too many mis-steps even while riding a fairly aggressive pace. I finally caught the 2nd rabbit about 5 miles into the ride and after being held up for a couple hundred yards he finally found a place where he was comfortable pulling off to let me pass, just before a somewhat technical collection of small ridges with lots of exposed roots and rocks.
As I passed I fell prey to my hubris and decided to “put the hammer down”. Well, sure enough, my enthusiasm got ahead of my judgement and as I attempting to simply blow over the first ridge and roots I made the mistake of shifting and caused the chain to skip along the rear cassette, killing my momentum and pushing my weight onto the front wheel which invariable turned and stopped… sending me with the bike still attached to my shoes into the air and sideways. I ended up landing squarely on my right thigh, making solid contact with both ends of my femur and the thigh meat in-between: it created something of a trifecta impact with the ground. My right elbow got a bit bloodied as well and son of a gun if I wasn’t still clipped in by my right shoe.
After getting my Frog cleat disengaged from the pedal and getting myself up the rider I just passed asked if I was OK. I believe I said, “that one hurt” because by golly it really did. My thigh was already getting tight and complaining as I quickly re-mounted my bike and continued on my way. I figured if there weren’t any shooting pains then I probably didn’t fracture anything so the best thing I could do was to keep my muscles and joints moving.
I eventually caught and passed the 1st rabbit – a shallow victory after the major “fall down go boom” while ostensibly attempting to show-off my superior bike handling skills to the 2nd rabbit – and kept the hammer down for the last ¾ of mile to the trail head. Back at the truck I quickly stowed my bike and headed for home, being mindful that my thigh was still smarting and getting a bit more stiff.
Back at the house, Debbie was still out for her ride so I took a quick shower, popped a couple Aleve tablets and put an ice pack on the upper end of my thigh where the tissue was hammered between the head of my femur and the ground: that’s gonna leave a mark! The ice helped a lot and I did my best to keep moving after the initial 30 minute icing.
It remained sore through the night and was a bit stiff and sore on the motorcycle ride to work. However, the biggest source of discomfort was the climb up the 56 steps to my office at the plant. My mobility improved throughout the day and while there are still two sore spots they’re not nearly as sore as they were at the start of the day.
So, with any luck, the bruising will be minimal and I’ll be back to 100% by the tandem club ride on Sunday!