Scabby Christmas!

Fall off – it's fun, says Neil Pedoe…

This Christmas break I have been mostly… 

Picking the scabs off my right elbow, hip and knee after skidding gracefully (IMO) down the road just before the hols. (And definitely not eating them – how can people do that!). I blame my skid on that soapy muck they spray on the roads to stop it icing, the polished patch of sunken tarmac that the local council bodged on a busy corner… in short everyone but myself. 

Despite the fact that when I went back the next morning and saw that the patch was indeed greasy as hell, I know that the tumble was avoidable. Should have ridden slower, should have paid more attention and avoided the patch altogether, should have managed a spectacular powerslide on the fixie, gliding though the corner to the astonished applause of onlookers… 

As people round here will testify (perhaps too readily) I’m not shy of falling off. I like to think it’s because I’m a fast learner – pushing my limits, progress through mistakes. They say if you’re not crashing you’re not trying hard enough. Mmm. I might well be getting quicker with age but it’s a shame I haven’t learned not to fall off yet… 

Falling off isn’t all bad though. I was talking to What Mountain Bike’s Justin Loretz about this and he agreed – in a weird way there’s something life affirming to gently blooding yourself. As long as it doesn’t involve a trip to casualty or ruin your bike, falling off reminds you that you’re still alive and makes you feel like a boy again. The rush of adrenaline’s not bad either - though the scabs sticking to your clothes for the next few days can be annoying. There’s nothing like a smarting graze and some bruising to focus your attention away from the grumbling aches of looming middle age either. I guess rugby, football and other muddy contact sports offer a similar buzz too. 

Of course road bikes aren’t built for this kind of abuse, and we certainly couldn’t advocate sliding down your local highstreet through the weekend traffic. Maybe that’s why I like sprinkling my riding with a bit of off-road mudplugging. Bouncing and sliding through, and occasionally off, the muddy British countryside is great fun. 

And then there’s cross. As you’ll see from the selection of cyclocross bikes in the current issue, these are bikes that can handle the rough and, yes tumble, of off-road riding. You’ve just got to love their go-anywhere versatility. Cross racing? I tried a few of those last year and didn’t get on with it. Maybe it was the sprint-like format, the incessant laps, or simply the no-longer-life-affirming impact of my third fall on that greasy tarmac’d corner of Castle Coombe circuit in Wiltshire… 

Happy New Year, and here’s to riding out the winter – just a little bit more carefully perhaps.

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