It’s that time of year in the Northeast Kingdom when people prematurely put their bikes away for the winter. Sure, there’s a briskness in the air and it will certainly chill your lungs, but that’s no reason to preemptively surrender to the next season before it has arrived. Viv thought I was crazy because I was still heading out on daily afternoon rides. She said, “Don’t you know it’s time to hike?” Hiking, she argued, was the only sane outdoor athletic activity to pursue in the days between the ground being covered in dead leaves and when it would eventually be blanketed in freshly fallen snow.
I don’t hike anymore. Unless it’s with a really hot guy–a really hot guy who will take his shirt off at the summit. Yes, that’s about the only motivation I could summon for walking so far uphill for so long. I am, after all, exceptionally prone to blisters.
As I pedaled past the empty Mountain View parking lot and rode out to Harp for a quick warm-up, I thought about all the poor fools who were working in offices, fighting with perpetually jammed copy machines, breathing recycled indoor air. Suckers. There I was on Darling Hill Ridge riding the best singletrack the Eastern United States has to offer, and it was all mine. I was entirely alone with the whole playground to myself.
This new trail, Troll Stroll, had stolen the crown of my personal favorite ride from Kitchel which had previously usurped the throne from Sidewinder. Everybody loves Sidewinder because it’s like biking in a nearly continuous halfpipe. Kitchel is fast and flowy with banked turns that remind me of a luge track. I’ve spent some quality time in luge tracks before. Does that really surprise you?
But Troll Stroll is more unsuspecting. It uses the sidehill of Darling Ridge to create a harmonious flow track, and the freshly cut tree stumps call to mind toadstools. It’s hard not to feel like you’re in a mountain biking fairytale while riding this dry flume. To give you a sense…
(video credit to YouTube user ‘BikingnStuff’)
On last week’s ride, however, I discovered that the blessing of Troll Stroll–its meandering path through low trees and over whoopty-doos–was, in fact, its autumnal downfall. And mine. While entering a quick downhill transition, my front tire (caked in frozen mud to the point that it functioned as smoothly as a pair of slicks), hit a pile of leaves. I lost all control and endoed into a tree. No big deal.
What exactly is an endo? An apocopation from the phrase end-over-end, an endo is a bicycling accident in which the rider is thrown forward over the handlebars. It rarely bodes well for the cyclist, and it can be equally hazardous to the bicycle under some circumstances. There are varying degrees of savvy which individual riders may apply to the artful execution of the endo, but it is almost always an unplanned and fortuitous occurrence.
This small accident in no way convinced me that the riding conditions were dangerous. I come from a long breed of complete klutzes. We’re perpetually covered in bruises. So as I lay on the side of the trail rubbing my knee which had hyper-extended due to a late pedal release, I was certain the fall was due to pilot error. It’s a good thing they don’t let me fly planes.
So what’s any self-deprecating mountain biker to do after enduring a fairly serious crash? I invoked the words of my grandfather. Not the ones where he told me to poke the competition in the eyes. He used a disturbing hand gesture to indicate that one, too. No, I thought of when he told me, when you get knocked down, you gotta’ get back on the horse. So I jumped back on the bike and proceeded to pedal hard into the next downhill transition.
My father often cites Einstein’s saying that the definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. The result was pretty much the same, only this time I took a bar end straight to the gut.
This random dude demonstrates the crucial endo tactic of getting his core the heck away from his handlebars to avoid bodily harm. He might have even tucked and rolled right out of this. Definitely. Totally ready for X Games.
As I assumed the fetal position on the side of the trail and tried to regain my breath, I realized that I had–for the first time all season–forgotten my cell phone on a bike ride. Over 3,000 miles of riding with a phone I never used, and now I was curled up in a ball in the Darling gully foreseeing an inevitable death from internal bleeding and exposure. Three minutes later, after realizing my symptoms were less severe than originally conceived and they did not deem me immobile, I began the journey of walking my bike back to town.
Hiking sounds like an awesome activity to take up until the snow flies. But then Viv told me she took a nasty fall that afternoon, injuring her wrist, while walking up the mountain. I bet she didn’t get to fly through the air like Superwoman on her way to self-destruction. Thus, the bike rolls on.