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SHAKE, RATTLE AND ROLL
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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"Ahhhhhhh!" I jumped, a painful tingle throughout my body. Zzzappp!

"Ahhhhgoddd!" I jumped again, befuddled and hurt. Zzzappp!

It took my breath away. My god, I was having a heart attack. Why were they laughing? Zzzappp! "Ahhhhggggg!" I cried out despite myself. Dying at 34 was funny? Zzzappp! I suddenly realized that the frame of my bike was resting against the electric fence, transmitting each pulse of current through my hands, over each inch of my wet skin, into my enlarged pores, through my engorged capillaries, veins and ventricles until it shot out my eyeballs. I could not have been a better conductor had I been wearing graphite underwear. I tried to open my hands, failed and had a terrible moment to anticipate the next shock through the handlebars—"Aiiieeeee!"—before, with an anguished cry, I leapt backward and fell on my rump.

Zeppo and Moon convulsed with laughter. Their heads were shaking inside their helmets like a couple of maracas. "I want to go home," I said to Malc, clutching my chest. It was one of the few times in my life I have fiat-out quit. "Just tell me how to get home."

You live and learn. You almost die, and you learn, too. I had survived, and that's about the nicest thing I can say about mountain biking. It doesn't always kill you. Those of you who mountain bike on a regular basis—especially those of you who wear helmets—already know that. Are you listening, Zeppo and Moon? Anybody home?

This story isn't really for them, anyway. This story is for all you fortunate people who have never been on a mountain bike. Take my advice and keep it that way. And the next time some devotee of off-trail biking corners you at a cocktail party and describes the freedom of cycling through forests, of coasting silently down hillsides, away from exhaust fumes and noise, respectfully suggest to that starry-eyed pedaler that he take a hike.

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