An Introduction to Geriatric Extreme Mountain Biking

It was four weeks ago today that a rogue rock in the trail catapulted me over the bars and tossed me ribs-first into another boulder. The gory details of that crash are exaggerated…err, I mean elaborated in my Xanga post of December 6th ( So, after yet another lengthy convalescence, I felt ready to hit the trail again today.

Sally, my constant companion, brought her two nephews along, which always lends a bit of fun to the ride. There’s nothing like sharing a favorite trail with someone new. These young men, though very fit, were not familiar with our trails, which consist of little more than a narrow footpath winding around boulders, cactus, and dry stream beds.

This is my partner, Mike, making a technical section of trail look perfectly ridable. My success rate of clearing this section is only about 70%.Riding the Wash March 2008 (4)

One of the boys was a skilled bike handler but the other not so much. Young men almost always assume that they can outpace old women on a bike, especially after waiting for us on the climb. What they don’t understand is that thirty years of experience makes up for twenty year-old testosterone. I frequently caution them as they precede me down a technical descent, that age and treachery will win out over youth and skill every time; but in reality, age in this context means experience and treachery is more like skill.

Both young men followed Mike (that’s my husband who is crazy fast) down the trail with me, then Sally in pursuit. I quickly caught up with the less experienced boy, Robert, and as we approached a particularly intimidating section, I slowed down to allow him time to muddle through it.

The trail winds through a few good sized boulders and then drops steeply off the side of a levy that’s about ten feet high. The roll out at the bottom entails rolling over a rock ramp which, gives most novice riders pause.

As expected, Robert stopped at the top of the drop off and looked it over, while I slowly coasted up behind him expecting he would move on. By the time I realized he wasn’t moving, I’d lost all momentum and like a plane stalling, I plummeted, head first, over the side of the levy. (note to self: learn to track stand ASAP) Maybe a more appropriate adage in this case would be “Pride goeth before a fall”.

Poor Sally! For the second ride in a row, she was witness to my ineptitude and had to pull my bike off me. Her comment was, “THAT didn’t look good.”

I lay where I fell, head downhill from my feet, and took inventory of the damage. Luckily, my helmeted head took the brunt of the crash and my cracked rib suffered no additional damage. Once I decided that nothing seemed to be broken, I gingerly righted myself and climbed back up the embankment to where my bike waited, none the worse for the wear.

With my confidence thoroughly shaken, I continued down the trail, and when we regrouped, I made sure Robert was behind me. The good news is that I rode through the rock garden that threw me a few weeks ago with nary a second thought.

Here “the road less traveled” beckons to the seasoned cyclist.


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