When it all goes wrong

The old adage is that there are only two kinds of mountain bikers. Those who have crashed and those who will still crash. But it is wrong. Everyone has crashed.
Some crashes are minor, afterwards we joke that that it only counts as a crash if the blood reaches your socks or gloves, and yet some crashes are decidedly more serious.
It is the big bone jarring, soul crushing, ride ending crash that leaves the rider bruised, battered and scarred that I’m referring to. These are the crashes that matter.

Most riders will be able to tell you the stories of their scars, but some will be unable to tell you about THAT crash – the crash he can’t remember.
We all have epic crash stories.

The story of the night when his riding partner had to set their CASEVAC plan in action to get him off the mountain. The story of walking down the mountain to a waiting car that whizzed him off to hospital.
The story of the trip in the back of an ambulance, arm in a sling praying that the collarbone isn’t broken.
The story of driving back to the race village in a marshal’s bakkie, holding his knee cap inside his leg with a handkerchief.
The story of riding another 30km in pain due to a swollen ankle after rolling it in a crash.
The story of riding back with a water bottle over the broken seat-post that snapped in half in the crash.
The story of X-Rays, doctors shaking their heads in disbelief and needing the help of a nurse to go to the bathroom.
Broken handlebars, buckled wheels, snapped spokes, bent cranks and even the dreaded cracked frame.
Broken collarbones, ribs, wrists and elbows , torn ligaments and rotator cuffs, bone and muscle bruising and the dark specter of concussions.

But the crash is only a small part of the story. It’s the bit afterwards that matter.
It is put so eloquently by Graham Benz. “Fall five times, get up six times.”
When the pawpaw hits the fan, we have to fight back. We have to get back on the bike. Kick the horse in the teeth that threw you off.
But always get back up. Sometimes getting back on is quick. Other times it takes weeks and months of physical rehab and recovery and sometimes the emotional remnants are the worst. Fear, lack of confidence and even the stubborn belief that you cannot do it.

These are the battles that we face and will face them again and again. There can be no giving up. There is only triumph, for in it’s absence lies a wake of doubts and fears that will spill over into other spheres of life – not just riding.

The recovery is the part of the story that is most important. One day you will be able to tell your grandchildren how you got the scars on your knees, the day that you crashed into the field that looked as if it was hit by a meteor shower. Your grandchild will see the scar, but they will remember your story, of the day that you lived, that you stared into the eyes of fear and dropped in anyway. Your kids and grandchildren will be able to tell the story of your crash, but also of how you got back up again, did it again and triumphed.

And they will remember the story of a someone who faced their fears and remember a life well lived.


Hi, I’m Philip. I’ve been riding bicycles since I was yaaaay high. Never stopped, never want to stop. My bicycle became a mountain bike, my riding became more serious, up to the point where I realize that I am a mountain biking geek. In the last couple of years I have experienced some weird stuff on my mountain bike.. I have experienced pain, elation, adrenaline, endorphin’s, happiness, suffering, saddle sores, seen broken arms, lots of blood, the most awesome views, made best friends, dragged said friends over mountains, ridden down mountains, realized that pain is relative, that pain can be blanked out, that the human body can be pushed way further that we think it can. And finally, I have learned to do all this with a smile, and experience true joy.

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