16 Oct, 2014

Hitting the Dirt


Well, I think my nickname has to change – ‘Catch me if you can’ has to change to ’Crash me if I can’!

I’ve been ‘farming’ quite a bit recently. In fact, while I sit here and type I have to breathe shallowly, the ribs are protesting with too much movement, and, my gosh, a sneeze……..

I’ve been known to be the one that regularly involuntarily dismounts.  My hubby did say I need to fall off my bike to become a good rider (whose he kidding?) It is part of the game. But even he is starting to worry about the frequency of my bruises and scrapes.  Enough is enough he says, slow down and concentrate a bit.

Aah well, I suppose it comes with the territory. When I first started riding I fell because I was going too slowly and hesitated. “Commit” I was told (maybe committed would have been better). Also I got rid of the cleats and got some real cool downhill biking peddles (grip the takkies well, and make beautiful scratch marks on the calves, hey Jean). The problem I had with cleats was that when I finally got one foot loose, it would be the other I needed and plop, over I went!

Luckily I started my mountain biking career earlier this year in the middle of summer. Mud is much softer than dry hard sand!! I don’t think there is much I haven’t ploughed into – mud, soft sand, hard sand, grass, burnt grass (now that is spiky), stones, rocks, bushes, trees etc. And do you know what, mostly I get up and do it again.

Only twice did the track conquer me. The first was at Modderfontein. It was on a chilly day in June when the three of us and some other mad cyclists decided to enter the ‘12 hour endurance relay’. There was such a good vibe even though the weather was freezing. There were six to a team and we were all women except for Jean’s hubby. And he wouldn’t even wear pink!!   And so we started riding. A really great route, not too technical with lots of ups and downs. I rode third, and as usual, started much too fast as there was this chap in front and…oh well, I wasn’t called “catch me if you can” for nothing!  Eventually I settled into my own pace and was thoroughly enjoying myself.

Oh, here I need to backtrack a bit. When we all registered, we needed a timing chip. No problem, we bought one and then were told where to put it on the bicycle. Yes, we were told. But putting it on and off the bike was going to waste time, so we put it round the rider’s ankle, so the mat could read it. That worked ok. Then my turn came, can’t it come off the ankle? I asked and promptly put it in my pocket. I’ll just haul it out when I cross the finish, bend down, let it read, and hand it on to the next rider……

Well, that was where it went wrong. I came towards the finish mat, grabbed the chip out of my pocket with my right hand, bent down and it didn’t read. Bent down further, got a wobble, slammed on brakes and ….yes, left hand - front brake! And over the handlebars I went. Yes, right in front of everyone. I heard afterwards that I made quite a thud and everyone went quiet. Eish blood!  At least I gave the paramedics something to do. Besides a beautifully scraped face and a broken helmet, the ribs were the worst and took the longest to heal. Riding on rough track with sore ribs does not work well.  We checked the paving where the fall happened a few weeks later and the blood was still there!

Anyway, I did not get back on the bike that day and my team had to do without me. They did immediately check if my chip had registered my lap though!  It was a race after all and we were doing SO well!

Last Sunday I put the ribs to test again, a fun ride with lots of friends at The Red Barn. Just as the ribs seemed all healed, I decided to get airborne again. It was not a front brake this time, but after coming down a really steep little decline much too fast, I lost it. Actually I’m not totally sure what happened, but I ended up about three metres beyond my bike in the spikey burnt grass. I was totally winded. I remember having a conversation with two parts of my brain, one rational saying, you are winded, relax, try breathe slowly, and the other in full panic screaming, you are dying, you are crushed, that’s it, I’ll never see my kids again…..

Luckily, one of our group that day is a paramedic, so I was in good hands. I did eventually start breathing again, and after Sue gave me a chocolate, and not just any chocolate, a Lindt Ball, I did get up. Mountain bikers are such nice people. Everyone passing was very concerned, which only makes it more embarrassing. Eventually I managed to convince the others that it was not my last day on earth and they continued riding. Except for Suzie, who walked back to the barn with me.  Actually, I did ride the last bit on the dirt road only to get practically annihilated by peddling half pints on their little bikes racing towards me!

And that is why the ribs are sore again. But I have been back on the bike twice since then, slowly. I’ve decided to be a bit more careful, I’m not 25 anymore as Jean informed me (she’s still my friend as we are the same age!)  and just have fun.

Besides, I think I might have the answer to bike crashes – airbags. Like a deflated Michelin man suit that inflates when you leave your seat by a certain distance, and then ……. bounce bounce bounce.

Marie-Anne Meijers

Marie-Anne Meijers

50 Shades Contributor |

Marie-Anne Meijers is one of the original 50 Shades of ... Mud riders and is also a keen photographer.