Thursday, March 04, 2010

Built to last

A guy I know—who isn’t a rider—forwarded this video to me and a couple of other mountain-biker friends, and asked, “What are these guys thinking?”

I couldn’t come up with much of a reply. Because while there’s a shit-ton of bold riding on display, there isn’t much evidence that these guys are doing a lot of thinking. Not the long-term kind, anyway.

We’ve all played the game of comparing wounds and scars over a couple of post-ride beers, but most of us strive to limit injuries to the category of cuts, scrapes and bruises. (OK, maybe a concussion here and there, but I’m trying to quit.) When guys in their teens and 20s rack up long lists of the bones they’ve broken, they’re really making an inventory of the orthopedic nightmare that awaits them later in life.

Ever meet a 50-year-old who fractured multiple bones and wrecked both knees in his 20s? It ain’t pretty. If you don't believe me, do a few Google searches and read about all the retired NFL players who are permanently disabled. A lot of freeriders are going to end up in the same boat, and by middle age, their mountain-biking days will be behind him. And that’s a shame because, if you do it right, bicycling is a sport most people can do well into old age.

Like anyone else, I get a kick out of watching videos of young dudes hucking off cliffs and landing huge jumps, but I cringe a bit when I think about little kids seeing such footage and thinking they’d like to be like those guys when they grow up.

I got my inspiration 18 years ago, on the only day I ever rode up a ski lift just to ride my bike back down. “Lift-served” riding was a new idea, and far from polished, so when my buddy and I reached the top of Sandia Peak, we had to wait a few minutes for our bikes to join us.

As we waited, a guy who must have been 68 or 70 years old jump off the chairlift wearing a T-shirt and denim shorts. When his bike arrived, he got a huge, shit-eatin’ grin on his face, then spryly jumped on and steered it down the hill.

When I grow up, I want to be that guy.


WheelDancer said...

I can only watch so much of that type of crashing before I have to find something else to do. We watched a guy failing repeatedly on a nearly impossible log obstacle carved out of a fallen tree. Each time he went down we thought he was done for but he'd go back and try it again. We had to leave because it was just too hard to watch. Call me an old fuddy duddy if you want but I'm with you on this one.

Oh, and get off my lawn too!

Debbie said...

As a health care worker PSA: knee replacements at 50 is one thing, paralysis is yet another entirely. I've seen enough of both to be an eternal daredevil killjoy to anyone who will listen.

Vito said...

I love to ride too much and I'm far too old to be doing any of that shit. It is quite clear to me that there is not a lot going on between the ears here.

When guys like this do end up in the hospital, who the hell covers all the medical costs?? Hope they have good insurance.

Grill Meister said...

I've never been a daredevil, but I've broken bones 14 times. I started when I broke my ulna and radius from jumping off the roof of a house being constructed when I was 8. I'm not proud of those numbers, but I am proud of the fact that, other than those first two, they all happened while participating in sporting activies. Most people are shocked. But I tell them that if they weren't sitting on their fat asses all their lives and were as active as I am you'd probably break something too.

Jim Frost said...

As with "Grill Meister" I've broken a remarkable number of bones without being much in the way of a daredevil either. I was never one for the big stunts, but ride or ski or skate or jump or run enough and eventually "shit happens" catches up with you.

I'm pretty glad I didn't really push the envelope when I was younger because as it is the injuries are really catching up. It's not even that it takes longer to heal (and it does -- 3 months for the one I broke last November!) but that it is a drag when your bones hurt like hell just because the weather changed, and when they're digging bone chips out of a disintegrating knee that will almost certainly have to be replaced before I'm 50 (I'm 43 now) it just kind of sucks.

I agree with the thesis of the post: If you go looking for those injuries you're going to have a pretty lousy middle to old age.

On the other hand, consider the possibility that those skills are about all they have. Maybe hanging it all out really is preferable to not in their situations.

The Old Bag said...

You're concerned about knees and collarbones? Where's your head, man? There are thousands and thousands of DOLLARS invested in those bicycles! With every hit there's a new derailleur, bent dropout or a cracked frame.... God, the pain!

Jeff Moser said...

The cool thing about being a sissy XC rider, is that it takes far less to scare me and get my adrenaline going. Plus I can ride every day. I don't need to wait 6 weeks for the casts and pins to come out. I can't imagine not riding for 6 weeks! I'd rather brag that I haven't broken any bones.