When I was about 6, some local kids, teenagers, built a little plywood bridge over the rain ditch that separated our houses from the woods, the easier to access the system of dirt jumps they’d made there. As the youngest of the cycling horde in the neighborhood, they teased me until I turned my wheel to their narrow bridge and started across, terrified I’d fall in.
I fell in.
I plodded home, dripping wet, and wheeled my bike into the garage. I was sure I’d be in trouble. I pounded on the basement door. When my parents opened it, I burst into tears. They burst out laughing.
This was my first bike-based trauma.
I don’t have a great recollection of my evolution from that kid who fell in the ditch to the one who would pedal full tilt at a piece of plywood propped against a stack of bricks, hurling himself as high into the air as possible before landing rear wheel first on a flat driveway. We jumped bricks for distance. We laid down in front of the ramp and jumped each other. I had no fear then, just a burning desire to jump farther than anyone else.
When I got to college, I found a bike and took to city riding with that youthful sense of invulnerability that people find so irritating. I’d slalom through traffic, jump a curb, run a light. That changed after the first time I got hit by a car.
As I got older, I increasingly lived a split existence, urban assault idiot during the week, woods bombing mountain biker on the weekends. The skill sets overlapped in ways that some would find surprising. But as I mellowed in my approach to getting around town, the woods remained as a place to dare, to try things I wasn’t sure I could do. If no one else was going for an obstacle, I’d throw myself at it, and sometimes I’d even come through unscathed.
What I lack in skill, I try to make up for in willingness. Some would say that’s reckless, but what I’ve learned is that the bike will sometimes ride something that I don’t know how to ride myself. In other words, sometimes you just have to put yourself there and see what happens. For me, good things have almost always come from taking risks on the bike.
Your results may vary.
This week’s TCI Friday asks, what’s the craziest thing you’ve done on a bike? Have you ever surprised yourself with a bit of skill you didn’t know you had? Or maybe what you did that was nuts was endurance-based, and you found out you had more in the tank than you thought possible? Amazing things happen, as I said, when you put yourself out there.