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  • Alex Gibson

The Art of Crashing

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

"We’re all going to fall at some point, what’s critical is how you respond."

Ride your bike for long enough, and you will crash--maybe even on your first ride. Chances are you got many of these falls out of the way as a youngster when your body is most resilient, however, crashing never goes away and in some ways, that’s a good thing.

Wait, what? It’s good to crash?

I've always been a proponent of the idea that smaller, more regular crashes are ideal because as I said, you’re going to crash, it’s only a matter of when. The idea is that lesser falls will keep you in check to avoid catastrophic yard sales. Every time I fall it’s a reminder that what I'm doing, particularly aggressive trail riding, is a high risk activity that must be treated with the appropriate respect. Cliché as it might sound, crashing on a bike is also a powerful metaphor for the vicissitudes of daily life--we’re all going to fall at some point, what’s critical is how you respond.

Flying through loamy alpine soil, I had cleared this steep root garden dozens of times but today I got caught trying to turn on a slick root and BOOM! Before I know it I’m getting a proper taste of that gritty Santa Fe soil, lying face down in the center of the trail. I immediately register throbbing pain in my right thigh and think,

"Is this what it feels like to break your leg?..."

After a few moments on the ground to gather myself I slowly rise and assess the damage. My leg is load bearing (not broken, phew!) and my bike is intact. Upon realizing all will be okay, my mind quickly turns to well shit, conditions are so good, can I still finish my ride?! I rest for a few minutes, bite my lip, and stubbornly finish out my ride figuring I’m going to be in pain regardless, might as well keep riding my bike. As I continue my ride I am thankful. Thankful to have ridden away with nothing worse than a gnarly bruise on my thigh, thankful my body allows me to mountain bike like I do, and thankful that with another crash under my belt I will reflect upon what I’m doing and proceed with greater caution and awareness. Still going to send that six foot drop at the end of the trail though…

Sure crashing can be painful and frustrating, but doing so on a bike helps to establish the understanding in your mind that life is full of crashes and ideally you are prepared but even if you’re not, you can respond with patience and resolve to get back up again and grow from the experience. Whether it’s knowing not to turn as quickly in that one corner or realizing you should have approached that project at work differently, failure brings about realizations that sometimes might have been difficult to reach otherwise. It also forces you to pause and assess your situation, recognizing factors in your failure that had been overlooked; in my case my tires are worn and due for replacement and the soil was tacky but the roots are still wet.

So today is a rest day, a day to relax and reflect, to be thankful for my health and the opportunities it provides. Crashing is a part of life but don’t let that be a deterrent, get out there and send it!

-Alex Gibson-

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