The Fear

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The fear is real and even before I know when I’ll be back on my bike I can feel it. For those of you that have ever injured themselves badly in sport you may know what I am talking about – the fear of inuring yourself again. I mean, clearly I injure myself quite a lot and still ride bikes, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take me a while to get back in to things.

There was on time in particular at Haldon that got me really good. I had been riding the trails all day with my brother and dad, no problem. Towards the end of the day we decided to have a mess around in the skills park. In the park there is a section of board walk, not very high and fine to tackle if you are good at riding in a straight line. You’ve probably already guessed what’s coming next – that day I wasn’t very good at riding in a straight line!

Something caught my attention and I wasn’t looking where I was going, the next minute I was riding off the edge of the board walk. This is a perfectly fine manoeuvre if you are expecting it, but I wasn’t and I had no time to correct myself and stop my front wheel dropping. I ploughed head first into a tree stump and completely cracked my helmet in half (safety first kids!). I remember thinking that I probably wouldn’t have fallen at that angle so must have instinctively tucked my head in to avoid going face first into a tree stump. I survived with a bit of concussion and my Dad packed me off on the train back to Plymouth, telling me to tell other passengers to wake me up if I fell asleep.. cheers Dad!

It was a good excuse to buy a new helmet and get rid of the fluorescent orange one my Mum had purchased for me when I first started mountain biking. After that fall though I wouldn’t go anywhere near anything that resembled boardwalk or north shore for a very very long time. Not even if it was just harmlessly placed on the ground. I definitely had the fear. The fear is something very hard to get over and my riding friends knew it was something I was being very stupid about.

We had a weekend booked at Antur Stiniog and Llandegla. I had been pre warned by my friends about the board walk a Llandegla but they assured me I would be fine. I tackled the first one which is quite long and a lot of potential to ride off the side and was feeling very confident that my fear was now over and could tackle the next one fine. We were in a good flow and coming up to the next board walk which was apparently no different to the first on the red route, I had also been warned not to attempt to jump off the end as it was a long way down…. ok. Full flow I came round the corner only to see north shore several metres in the air! I didn’t want to break my speed and flow so just carried on whilst screaming profanities at my friends ahead at me that they had tricked me! We stopped at the end of the trail and I was buzzing and I’m pretty sure I even went back to do it again. My fear had been overcome by my friends pretty much lying to me! I’m glad they did it, although I still haven’t been back on the Haldon one.

 

The months before I injured myself I was feeling great on my bike. I was hitting jumps, gaps and drops I had previously thought I wouldn’t ever be able to do. My confidence was feeling great and I had purchased the Capra to see where that could take me. Now though I am facing a whole new level of fear. A big injury and a lot of time off has my confidence at a new low before I am even back on a bike. At the moment all I can think about is falling off and injuring myself again and the same thing happening.

I am trying not to think about it but I am pretty scared of being back at square one when I get back on the bike. Not to mention my arms will be really weak, so no strength to do what I was doing before. Not sure how to stop the fear before I am even back on the bike as for me it works to just tackle my fears head on, which I can’t do right now! Any tips would be gratefully received!

 

 

 

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Legs

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I have discovered an unexpected benefit to being off my bike. The other day I went to a wedding and wore a dress, a fairly normal activity for most people. For me, anytime I wore an item of clothing that exposed my legs, it would lead to an onslaught of questions from people curiously asking what on earth has happened to my legs. This time there were no questions, I was happy to go about my business, wearing a dress.

My legs are usually ripped to shreds, I ride with flat pedals and am not always the the most graceful person on two wheels. I was at a race once and my first practice run led to stitches, I landed a jump and slipped my pedal. I didn’t think anything of it until I pulled up next to some friends and noticed some blood running down my leg and on further inspection quite a hole. I was all set to pull my socks up and carry on until the paramedic at the marshal point decided he would like to have a look. So then I was informed that I needed stitches and should not continue on my bike, off I went to my second home – hospital. Think I set a new record there for time on bike to time to get stitches ratio, a solid 2 minutes. No racing that day!

Stitches make washing fairly hard, from that incident I had 8 stitches and 4 Steristrips, neither of which are allowed to get wet. For the next 2 weeks my pre-shower ritual consisted of duct taping carrier bags to my legs to prevent any water coming into contact with my stitches. A leg accessory that I don’t think will catch on!

And so it continued, pretty much every time I sat on my bike my legs ended up shredded. Every time I fell off there would always be a stone waiting just for my legs or a convenient placed bramble along the trail. I have grown to quite like these souvenirs I would pick up on each ride, each scar has a story behind it that I will enthusiastically recall to someone that asks.

Having not ridden a bike for a while now there are no fresh cuts on my legs, there are a couple of big scars from stitches but aren’t really that obvious anymore. Whilst I am proud that my legs show a life of adventure and have a story to tell, it has also been refreshing to embrace them in new ways! For the time being I will be looking after them and giving them a bit more care until the next onslaught of rocky singletrack.