Last weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a small group of close friends for a weekend of mountain biking in Grand County, the self-proclaimed but well-earned “Mountain Bike Capital, USA.” The idea for the get-together started with the COVID-related cancellation of the Mountain Bike National Championships, which was to be held this summer (for the second consecutive year) at Winter Park. Since a few of us had been training all spring and early summer with this race in mind, it seemed a reasonable idea to at least put our fitness to some good use by trying to beat each other up on some of the more iconic trails in the area. We arrived on Thursday afternoon and rode on Friday. Then, on Saturday, we rode again but with a couple of timed sections – one climb and one descent – with the “winner” earning a nice bottle of Scotch (that he would of course then be required to share with the rest of us).
Mountain biking any time is hard to beat, but especially this time of year, when the aspens are turning and dropping their yellow and orange leaves along the trails. It served as a perfect backdrop for all of us to ride and do our collective best to push ourselves and cause each other a substantial amount of lactic-acid-induced pain. After all, what are friends for? In reality, the impromptu “race” was just an excuse to get together and enjoy a couple of days with this small group of great friends. The weekend certainly delivered in that regard, and I found myself thinking often of how grateful I am to have this group of people, most of whom I met through mountain biking, in my life. The friendships that started with a common hobby have grown to the point that the biking itself was more of an excuse to hang out than anything else. That is not to say that we don’t cherish riding together and pushing each other to the limit, of course, but the camaraderie and the conversations are what I most appreciate and remember.
Unfortunately, the weekend was not all roses. We made it through the weekend with only the few typical mechanical issues and minor crashes and scrapes, until the very last short descent. It was a fast and fun section, after which we planned to coast down into the town of Winter Park, then casually ride the paved path back to the house and enjoy a well-earned post-ride meal. Three of us stopped at the end of the downhill section and waited for those right behind us to arrive. After a minute or so with nobody else showing up, we started to feel a bit concerned, wondering what was causing the delay. “This is concerning,” I offered, and the others promptly agreed. We started making our way back up the trail and a minute or two later we encountered one of our other friends riding carefully down towards us. “We have a concussion and a broken collarbone – we need to get a car.” Crap, just what we had feared.
Fortunately, we encountered a lady hiking back up the trail towards a nearby group of houses and she offered a ride. Our injured friend was woozy but generally aware and ambulatory (with assistance) so the car met him at the trailhead and gave him a ride back to our house, and one of us gave him a ride back to Denver, directly to the hospital. The final diagnosis: concussion, broken clavicle, fractured wrist, and two fractured cervical vertebrae. Thankfully the fractures (other than the clavicle) are very minor and a full recovery is expected. Scary as hell, though, and a real eye-opener to the risks of partaking in this pastime and pushing ourselves to the degree that we do. It can all change in a fraction of a second and it could have happened to any of us.
The question is, do we stop doing something that we love so much because of what might happen? Like so many things in life, it is all about measuring the risk versus the reward. And on that note, I suppose our injured friend summed up what we were all thinking when he said to me, “I’m pretty sore but I’ll be fine. The weekend was so much fun and I can’t wait until we are all able to get together and do it again.”
Trent Newcomer is a veterinarian and the franchise owner of Velofix Colorado, a mobile bike shop operation that serves the Front Range, from Fort Collins to the entire Denver metro area. Book a bike service appointment and have them roll up to your home or business at velofix.com