I’m sure some of you mad bombers out there who hang much closer to the ground than myself would (and should) disagree, but I don’t find that mountain biking is as hazardous as perceived by outsiders. It’s certainly much more forgiving than one would think, given all the hard-and-sharp-as-fuck stuff we bounce over, snake through, jump off and, sometimes, land on with our fragile, mortal vessels. Think about it: How many times have you seen your buddy go down in front of you hard enough that you shout “Ohhh duuuude shiiiit man!” A lot, right? And sometimes it’s you freaking the hell out of your co-riders as you abruptly dismount and say “how do ya do” to the ground. But how often does the rag doll slowly get up, make sure his dick is still attached, say, “aaaaaagghh, man,” once or twice, shake out and flex the limbs that bore the brunt, do the slow fuck-that-hurts stroll in a circle, but then eventually remount and finish the ride? Yep. Pretty much every time. Knock carbon, I’ve never had a riding buddy break a bone in all my years of riding, which is just insane seeing how many times one of us has gone down in a cloud of dust or mud. And we ride in a really hilly, tree covered, rocky area (SF bay area), so our opportunities to find creative ways to fuck ourselves up are endless. I know plenty of riders out there do break bones, but I would wager that the serious injuries:crash ratio is surprisingly small.
I know for sure that mountain biking’s not even close to being as dangerous as its lame cousin, road biking. And when it comes to permanently erasing your skinny tire riding ass from this world entirely, mountain biking is a snuggly wittle fuzzy kitty compared the snarling, Indian-dude-eating tiger that is road biking. I actually wanted to do a grim (but I thought potentially thought provoking) article about riding for the first time after a friend dies out on the trail. But there was one small problem: I couldn’t find one person who qualified as a subject, i.e. guy who did his Final Ride on a mountain bike. Every Google search for “killed, dies, mountain biking” just turned up article after article about a road biker getting killed. Unlucky for a part-time journalist trying to write an article, but also kind of nice. Mountain bikers are good people. I don’t want them dying all over the place (and for the record, obviously I don’t want road riders dying either). Now if I’d wanted to do a similar article on road bikers, well hell, I could write a yearly volume on the subject. Road riders, thanks to the death’s door speeds they reach and, especially, the fact that they’re literally betting their lives that cars will yield a three foot strip of pavement to them, make the news all the time. Bummer, and another reason I don’t dig riding pavement.
But, even though mountain biking isn’t as dangerous as say, the hit your friend’s head with a hammer game, it does pose certain risks that can take your ass out of the saddle and onto the shelf for a bit. Case in point: one Andy Beach.
I’ve complained off and on in the pixels of Mt. Shredward that I’ve been dealing with a bum elbow for damn near a year. I’d had one crash last year that made it swell up and kept me off my bike for a couple weeks. But it got better, and eventually healed. Hooray. Then in December ’11 it was giving me a little soreness again while doing yoga and weight lifting and other stuff that keeps me the panty moistening physical specimen that I am (really not sure why trannies pee themselves a little when they see me, but they do), but not horrible. Then on a night ride I hit a baby head without the necessary speed, went over my Monkeybars, landed right hand first and jammed the piss out of that same problematic elbow (“straight armed the world,” I believe is how I described it). Bad news. I couldn’t ride at all for a few weeks because it was popping and catching, and I couldn’t mountain bike for about six weeks or so. Shoulda gone to the doctor, but I didn’t. And, over time, it actually got a lot better. I eventually resumed normal mountain biking activities. Yeah, it got better, but not totally healed. So eventually, after my wife got better insurance, I went to a doctor. After a few visits of the usual doctor fucking around, saying it’s tendonitis, I finally got an MRI.
When I went in to get the results, I was expecting that they hadn’t found anything, and that it was indeed tennis elbow. Turns out it’s actually mountain bikers elbow. That’s when you have a bone chip floating around and other inconvenient impediments to normal elbow function. Unfortunately, I can’t just squeeze the chip out like a blackhead (although that would be fucking awesome. Wow, what a sweet gross out fantasy for a pimple popping fan like myself), it’s going to require some arthroscopic action. So the doctor referred me to a surgeon, which was weird seeing how I thought he was a surgeon. On that note: do your research on doctors, folks. This doctor was a fucking…wow, he sure did suck at his job. Just as well that it was my last trip to his office. It helped me avoid the awkward conversation of telling this guy, “Yeah thanks, but I’m going to find someone who isn’t a half spaced out dipshit to do the surgery. But next time I’m in the mood for a doctor who rambles on and on over me while I’m describing symptoms, well I’ll be anxiously camping out at your office door before you open, just like I did in ’92, waiting in line for Pink Floyd tix.”
So a week later, I went to a top dog surgeon at UCSF and…remember how I wrote a few lines back that I was told I needed arthroscopic surgery? Woulda been nice if that were the case. As I’ve mentioned, my first doctor seemed to know that there are things called bones and joints, but not much else. The new, good doctor set me straight: The bone chip thing, sure, that’s a problem. But wait! There’s more! She proceeded to demonstrate how loose and unstable my elbow is. Then we went to a really sweet realtime xray machine thingy that let us see my bones moving around and she showed me a neat trick where there was this substantial gap between where the bones in my elbow meet. Then I asked a silly question: “Well, is it still just an arthroscopic procedure?” She gave a brief laugh, shook her head and said, “Nooo. You’ve torn a ligament in there. It’s reconstructive surgery.” And she diagnosed all this without even looking at my MRI. Which means my first doctor did a flat out misdiagnosis when he had all the evidence he needed. Ooooooo, I’m gonna Yelp the fuck out of that guy (I’m not the litigious type). But it does seem like this Dr. Lattanza who is going to do the cutting is a total master when it comes to delicate butchery, which is cool.
So, technically, it’s called Elbow Lateral Collateral Ligament Reconstruction. She’s actually going to replace my spent ligament with a previously owned model from a dead dude (probably road biking). Yeah, kinda cool! And then there’s the matter of the bone chip, (I’m going ask if she can keep it so I can check it out, maybe give it to my cat, Nyla). This will leave me with a one inch spot of no cartilage. Is that going to cause me problems down the road? Most likely. But maybe not. Who knows? Isn’t this fun! But near term, my mind is on one thing:
Six months of no mountain biking. I haven’t had six months off my mountain bike since the six months before I started mountain biking.
Other than the fact that I’m probably going to get some cool pain meds, all I have to say is: duuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuude. Totally…fucking…weak.
I’m not scared of surgeries (at least ones on my extremities) or getting put under, and it’s not like there’s a bone chip floating around in my parietal lobe and there’s risk of turning me into a guy who wears an Elmo bib when he eats. But, mountain biking, maaaan. Mountain bikinnnnnng. This is just hairy, dingleberried ass. How am I not going to develop a drinking problem?
And so many of my other favorite things require my right arm. Yoga. Saluting people I think deserve a salute. Waving my arms at blimps. All gonna be on hold. Fortunately I’m a lefty, but duuuuuude. Mountain biking…gone.
So, obviously there’s going to be a new topic here on Mt Shredward: The incredibly exciting world of Not Mountain Biking. These pages will be my therapist (possibly along with an actual therapist). I will try to put a positive spin on things, but I will also try to go deep, and share when I am extra sad. Hopefully I won’t be extra sad a lot.
One bright side I’m looking on is that it’s an elbow, and not a knee, which means that my pedal pushers will be able to push until my heart’s semi-content. I can go to spin classes. Obviously, spinning is literally a closed in, dark room compared to the great outdoors where one rides a mountain bike, but I will be able to stay fit. I dig spinning. But without dirt…wow, I could potentially be in some danger.