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E.M. Swift
June 13, 1988
Falling off a mountain bike hurts less than staying on
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June 13, 1988

Shake, Rattle And Roll

Falling off a mountain bike hurts less than staying on

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Well, yes and no. The rest of the trip was mostly downhill, all right, but what no one ever tells you about mountain biking is that the downhill part is just as hard as the uphill part. Only more dangerous. "That's pretty steep." I said, peering down the back side of the Alien.

"Here we go!" said Moon.

"Here we go!" said Zeppo.

Down they flew, fending off rocks with their feet, bouncing over gullies and outcroppings. They were out of sight in about two seconds, but Malc and I could hear them yahooing like banshees. Malc sensed that I was near some sort of limit. "Just take it slow," he told me.

"Whatever." I said. Pointing my bike downhill, I eased forward, clamping down on both brakes as hard as I could. As hard as I could. "Malc, I can't stop," I said. The tires weren't turning, but the bike still slipped downhill on the wet grass. Big boulders were all around.

"Use your feet!" he said.

I stretched them out, but they dangled uselessly several inches off the ground. The bike bounced over several stones, rattling my molars, until I lurched to a stop after hitting a small boulder. My handlebars were getting up close and personal with my spleen. "Lower your seat when you go downhill." Malc said, adjusting its height as I lay on the grass and grunted.

He took off while I was still catching my breath. So precarious was the pitch of the slope that even Malc took a header. He hopped back up laughing, of course. Having walked my bike up that accursed hill. I now walked it down. My legs were like noodles. My muscles twitched painfully while sweat gushed from my scalp into my eyes. Through the glaze of salt I could see that I had reached a hillside of trees and that three bodies, sitting astride their bikes, were waiting for me at the bottom.

My pride started to swell. I could not walk my bike the entire way home. I would show the bastards. Standing on the pedals. I reassumed my seat and eased up on the brakes. I picked up speed and plummeted down a slope I would not have attempted on horseback. Dodging between two trees. I misjudged a turn by an inch or so and hit a 100-year-old maple with the handlebars. It spun the front tire sideways and tossed me to the ground.

"Take it slow," Malc yelled.

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