My favorite sport, mountain biking, is no doubt an extreme sport. It has killed people. Or maybe I should say people have killed themselves by doing it. The most common deaths I’ve heard about were when people have fallen off of cliffs.
Interest in the sport has exploded in the last ten years, from 2007 to 2017. I’m equal parts encouraged and disappointed about the statistics.
Encouraging things first: There are now teams of high school age boys and girls who participate in the sport. There are younger people mountain biking. There are older people mountain biking. Also, I’ve had an easier time finding people who will go with me. It’s a good safety to have a buddy along. Especially on the sketchy trails.
Disappointing thing next: The trails can be super-crowded some days, and too many people on a singletrack trail can ruin the experience, as well as the trail.
I’ve seen people who are really skilled, experienced bikers break bones; inexperienced bikers however, can be hazards to EVERYONE on the trail, not only themselves (depending on the difficulty of the trail, of course). Most trails are not physically marked and locally rated for difficulty level. There are web sites and books that you can reference to find the difficulty of specific trails. In my opinion, most people either don’t check the ratings, or overestimate their abilities.
Actually, that’s kind of funny. Because I don’t respect the ones who underestimate their abilities either. Recently, I almost ran into this guy who was covered head to toe in armor. He looked like that kid on A Christmas Story who gets bundled up by his mom so you can’t even see him under all the padding. Anyway, this guy was coming down the hill and not stopping for anyone. “Watch out! Watch out!” he kept yelling. Protocol and courtesy is to stop for uphill traffic, and I was going up, so I yelled back at him, “Use your brakes!” but he acted like he didn’t have any. Maybe he didn’t. I could give him the benefit of the doubt on that—except that I did see him slow down. He aimed his motorcycle helmet at me and said, “Go right!” And that cracked me up even more than his padding. I don’t think he could see the sarcasm in my eyes, but I’m sure he heard the laughter. I laugh loud.
On some singletrack, there’s no left or right, there’s extreme drop on one side and impossible climb on the other. It is singletrack after all.
So I paused and prayed to the God who made the mountains that this oblivious, bundled up and bungled, child wouldn’t hurt anyone—and hopefully wouldn’t return. He passed me safely enough. But I hoped that maybe since he was so scared of getting hurt he would sell his bike and buy a skateboard. And while he was skateboarding, he could wear that same padded suit.