Injuries suck. They hurt and they mean time off your bike when you should be out shredding.
But are they all bad..? Is there a silver lining to a broken bone?
words by Jamie Edwards, Laurie Greenland, Olly Wilkins, Taylor Vernon and Dan Atherton.
Photos by Jacob Gibbins and Ian Lean.
Hitting the RESET button
Mountain bike injuries invariably mean a sudden, unexpected, unwanted press of the ‘reset’ button on your plans for the foreseeable future. Scratch that training schedule, cancel that uplift, sell those tickets abroad. You’re suddenly a broken rider and the sofa is your new playground.
Is it all bad though? I once read Dan Atherton saying that his big neck injury was one of the most positive things that ever happened to him and that he wouldn’t swap the experience for the world. Is being injured actually – in a weird way – a blessing in disguise..?
“Injury gives you time to think. You can get really bored being injured and you can have some real good time to think about how you can come back stronger. It’s time to reflect and spot mistakes” Laurie Greenland, Trek World Racing.
Riding is off the cards. Do you sit on the sofa watching Trisha and stroking the cat? Or do you knuckle down and turn those remaining flabby limbs into rods of iron?! Why not use the down time to come back faster and fitter? Broken leg? Lift some weights. Broken arm? Spin that turbo trainer. Broken neck ..? Tricky. Maybe read a book and train your brain? Injuries often have a strange way of building up waves of motivation so why not make the most of it and come out fighting?
“I think that there are positives to being injured, yeah. In a weird sort of forest fire way its like a ‘reset’ button. You go from worrying about bullshit like car tax and work deadlines to the most basic of needs “What will walking be like?”. It also allows you to not sweat the stuff that doesn’t matter. “Oh, the car has a puncture!” Big deal. If you’ve been that deep in the shit then more trivial things seem less of a deal.
The fact that I’m in a position where I’m worrying about whether I can ride my bike soon means I’m actually in a better position than probably 75% of the population of the world. I’m not worrying about getting water from a well to survive, I’m worrying about riding a stupid bike.” Olly Wilkins, DMR Product designer and mountain bike stunt man
2. Video games.
Ahh the guilty pleasure of the injured! An extravagance for anyone with a family, a day job, a riding addiction, kids, pets and all the other killers of disposable daytime. You’ll literally never have as good an excuse to close the curtains, clear your diary, fire up the XboxOne and hammer out some Fallout 4!
And – bonus – lots of MTB coaches claim that videogames are great training for motor skills and keep your senses sharp for when you’re back on the bike. Of course, you’ll have to ignore this one if you’ve broken your thumbs …
3. Guilt free pub time!
The saviour of the broken – it’s pub time. You can brag about your epic crash, show off your scars, demonstrate your incredible medical knowledge, maybe even just get some sympathy off your favourite member of the bar staff. And if you’ve broken your arms or legs you may not even have to go to the bar (though be warned you will end up teaching your pin-number to most of your mates…)! All whilst “getting out and keeping your spirits up”.
There are countless papers online from the experts that say athletes will suffer from depression when they are suddenly injured and forced to stop doing what they love. Keeping social, seeing your friends and having fun is essential to stop you going crazy through your injury. Laughter literally is the best form of medicine. Lager and kebabs probably not so much though…
4. Rest and recover.
If you’re anything like me, your free time is probably crammed with riding. Your weekends are early starts, long drives and late nights fixing the bike ready for the next session. Your days are spent in the cold, the wet and the rain. Muddy clothes are changed in wet, windy car parks. Food is eaten at the wheel of the van. Your “fun time” is spent being wet, cold and tired. Well. not any more! Relax!
You can finally have a long lie, sit your bum on the sofa and put your feet up without feeling like you should be out smashing laps of the local. Read the paper, fix your bike, watch a movie, heal, rest, recover, learn the bloody guitar! Innes Graham was injured for a season and used the time to learn to be a really good photographer.
Your time is finally your own, rather than your bikes. Take the excuse to see how your ‘normal’ friends who aren’t cursed with a mountain biking addiction live their lives. And when you realise how brain-numbingly-monotonous it all is it will push you to do your physio and get fitter a bit faster!
“My secret is just pure determination. I love racing my bike, it’s what I do. I couldn’t see myself not a racing or out riding something with wheels. There’s no better feeling than standing on top at the races. That’s my secret to fighting a big injury. Stay hungry for it!” Taylor Vernon, Atherton Racing
5. A change of perspective.
Injury time is, in a perverse sort of way, a blessing in disguise. Months in plaster have an amazing way of shaping how you look at the world. Being knocked on your ass, even just for a week, forces you to look at your life, your body and your mind and piece it back together as the broken bits comes back to life. Suddenly you can’t walk to the fridge, drive to work or reach for the ketchup bottle – let alone huck a 50ft double. Will you go back to your old ways? Will you cut out some bad habits and negative traits? Will you come back fitter, faster, stronger, happier and healthier? Will you use the time on the sofa to be a better bike rider and a better human being?
Oh who am I kidding..?
Who am I kidding? Injuries suck. I’m just being blindly optimistic to convince myself that being off the bike whilst there’s lovely drifty, slippy, wintery riding to be had is a “good thing”.
If you’re injured just do your physio, keep your sanity and get fixed quick. The trails are calling and they’re not the same without you!
“Coming from an injury is a huge motivation. You’re well rested and ready to get training. It also give you the time to get a bit of clarity of what you actually want from racing and what you want in life”. Dan Atherton, GT Atherton Racing
Thanks to Jacob and Ian for the photos and to Ollie, Laurie, Dan and Tay for sharing their experiences!
Do you have any positive experiences of being injured? Tell us over on Twitter with @wideopenmag!