At the last minute, I decided to take Thursday off from work to go ride Highland Mountain Bike Park with Thom and Dan. I assume my experience was the norm for most XC-racer-dorks borrowing an all-mountain bike and riding Highland for the first time:
1) Buy baggy shorts in an attempt to fit in. As the only person in a jersey and non-full-face helmet, you still do not fit in, but at least no one has to look at your butt.
2) Observe tabletop with 60-degree launch ramp and landing 10 feet down the hill. Calculate hang time required to reach landing area. Pucker.
3) Start with the easiest trail. Discover what kind of stuff you can get away with when you have six inches of travel and a slack head tube. Go faster each run.
4) End up lying in the woods, with one shoe off, 10 feet from your bike.
Like I said, typical XC dork stuff.
Well, maybe the fourth one deserves some elaboration.
So it was your typical cross-slope run, descending at 20%, then falling away to 30% into a rockin 45-degree bermed hairpin. Sweet. I'd done it a few times before, but apparently this time I was carrying enough speed (20mph?) that when the pitch dropped to 30%... I left the ground.
Thus, I was hovering a tantalizing 4 inches off the ground at the point you would need to lean into the berm. The bike returned to earth soon after, but it turns out that landing in the middle of a berm is not the same as turning through one. I pogo'ed straight off the top of the wall, dumping the bike and flipping upward into a grove of small trees. The trees stopped my spinning abruptly, which led to my sunglasses and shoe flying off deeper into the woods, but they slowed me down without breaking any bones. Then I fell out of the trees, landed on my back, and was shocked to find out that I was not in extreme pain. Ta-daaaa!
The aftermath. Note broken/bent trees and how far uphill my bike is.
My shoe, being large and silver, was quickly located and reattached to my body. My sunglasses -- being small, brown and borrowed -- were never found.
Fellow XC dorks, I strongly recommend getting your hands on a downhill bike, some baggy shorts, and making a trip to Highland. You will not be disappointed. Your confidence may quickly surpass your skillset, but don't worry, it'll correct itself pretty fast. Or so I hear.
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