A Painfully Philosophical Drop-InWhen I was younger (by that I mean 16 and below)I was fearless. Some may call it stupid, and I was certainly referred to as the latter many times in my youth, but I liked to think of myself as brave. I would attempt runs on my trusty Kona that others would only stare at in admiration, frozen by the enormity of even considering a go. I would jump ditches that were 15ft deep and sometimes ride with no protection whatsoever. Come to think of it, it does some pretty stupid now that I'm writing this down.
My Evil Knievel days all ended however one evening in late spring 5 years ago when I realised that my body was not indestructible. I won't go into details about what happened as that is another story all together, but I will say it left me in hospital for 2 weeks with a ruptured spleen, more broken bones than I knew I had, and 1 less finger than I was born with.
It really shook me up and I swear I matured 10 years in that fortnight. When I got out of hospital I sold all my bikes, got married to my girlfriend and she soon became pregnant with my first child. I was over the moon about having a child and spent most of my free hours converting the spare room into a nursery. There was something missing in my life however, and as much as I tried not to think about it, I couldn't deny the fact that I missed riding. I would look at photos and read stories on sites like this one about other people riding and it just made me miss it even more.
It was when I was browsing around my favourite sites late one evening that by shear chance I came across one of my old mountain bikes for sale. It was advertised on the very same site I used to sell it, and I took this as a sign from the mountain biking gods (which do exist BTW). I spoke to my wife about the bike and without me knowing she went and brought it for me the next day (she really is the best wife ever!).
When I got on the bike (a Foes Fab Fly) again for the first time my heart felt like it was about to explode, not with happiness but with pure fear. This wasn't the bike I had my accident on (that one you could not call a bike after the crash), but I obviously had some issues about riding still that I would need to overcome. I put the bike away in the shed and dreamt about riding all that night.
A couple of weeks later I took my bike to one of the steepest runs in Somerset. I don't do things in halves and it was all or nothing for me. The run starts with quite a steep drop in and after that its 5 miles of sheer terror, or fun, whichever way you look at it. I must have stood at the top of that run for 30 minutes, my nine fingers griping the bars so tightly they had turned white a long time ago. Then, in a moment of quiet in the woods, I suddenly I had an epiphany. I realised that; no my body is not as robust as it once was, nor was I the rider I used to be, I had a child to think about now and a job I needed to look smart for on Monday. The ground was wet, I hadn't tested the bike since I had got it back, I hadn't told anyone where I was and it was getting dark. But...I thought…what is the point in living if you don't actually live! Riding made me happy and that is what life is about isn't it, being happy? I thought about this for a moment, just making sure it wasn’t my stupid self talking. I then came to the conclusion that it didn’t matter as my stupid self was actually just me.
I rolled the front tire over the lip, took a deep breath, and experienced 5 of the most beauty miles of my entire existence.