Shoot for the scars

There hasn’t been much riding lately due to the snow, and I find myself looking back on memorable rides from my past.

I need something in my head to fight off the cabin fever.

I have had so many amazing rides I can’t count them, but it seems whenever I conjure up memories from my riding history I rarely recall the best rides. The rides with the biggest mechanicals, the worst injuries, or when we ended up completely lost are always the days that pop into my head first. Maybe it’s my defence mechanism to avoid repeat offenses. I can rattle off memories of ride disasters all day long, but even though I remember the disaster of the day, they were all great rides.

Back in the day when I worked at Norco Bicycles and called myself a Free Rider, I was invited on a big Sunday adventure with the craziest riders I knew. We piled as many bikes and riders as we could fit into a truck. Then we added four or five more of each before pointing up hill. The truck took us as far as possible, but the hardest part of the climb was going to be human powered.

Once all the 8” travel downhill bikes were unloaded and everyone was piled high with full face helmets, body armour and enough spare parts to get us through the day, we started pedalling up the logging road. When I say logging road, keep in mind that the 4×4 truck could not get up this one. It was 90 minutes of riding/hiking up an overgrown skider road littered with loose baby head boulders, fallen branches and washed out cross ditches. Free Ride bikes back then weighed 50 pounds and didn’t pedal well so it was more hiking than biking.

The trail we were riding that day crossed the skider road half way up. The climb was so bad that my buddy Logan just stopped at the crossing, dropped his bike and sat down. He’d had enough pushing and decided to wait for the rest of us to come back down the trail and retrieve him. About this time I was starting to lose my mojo and considered waiting with him. It doesn’t matter how much skill you have; if you don’t have the attitude to match, jumping off big drops, riding on skinnies six feet in the air and launching over creek gaps doesn’t happen.

It was a trail I had not ridden, pushing my bike up was exhausting and I was a bit intimidated with the level of skill in the group that day. But I ditched Logan and continued on to the top, despite that little voice in my head.

We finally reached the trailhead, armoured up, forced down a bit of food and were getting ready to roll. Apparently I was looking nervous, because the craziest of the bunch, Paul, explained that the trail was well within my ability and flowed really nicely. He suggested I follow him and ride at his speed to avoid any surprises. My brain said no, but my body climbed on my bike and followed him in.

Within seconds we were five feet in the air on an eight inch wide log. Ten feet later Paul disappeared from sight as the log ended with a six foot drop. When I landed it, Paul was already launching a step up jump onto a ladder ramp followed by a bigger drop. We were riding tire to tire and it all went beautifully. When Paul pulled to the side to see how I was doing, I rode past him. Once your mojo comes back, you don’t risk losing it with unnecessary stops.

The trail never let up and I was hitting things blind. It was probably one of the best rides I’d ever had and when we popped out on the skider road to get Logan, he was surprised to see me in the lead.

I was riding way over my head that day, but it was working so I didn’t second guess it. More skinnies, bigger drops and to top it all off, I hit a road gap bigger than anything I’d ever done . . . and it felt natural.

This was a ride to remember and I’d like to believe I remember it because of the trail, the stunts, or the friends, but in reality it was the last 50 feet of trail that has kept this one in my head all these years.

As we were getting to the bottom of the trail and chatting about which was the preferred pub, I rode slightly off trail to bunny hop over a log. The diameter of the log was about 12 inches at best. Something I had done thousands of times. On this day, where I was apparently invincible, it should have been like riding over a painted line on the road, but for some reason I slipped off my pedal and bounced into the dirt. As I stood up laughing, I felt blood running into my shoe. The looks on the guy’s faces were telling to say the least. Wide eyes, gaping mouths and one guy gagging.

I looked down to see a 4 inch gash in my shin and what looked like exposed bone. Those areas of the body with no meat sure bleed a lot. (aluminum vs: flesh. Pedals – 1, Shin – 0)

It was almost like the that little voice in my head just had to have the last word.

We were only a few minutes from the finish of the ride and my van. The pain was at a minimum due to the numbness and we managed to get the bleeding stopped before anyone else started gagging. I covered it in gauze, secured it with duct tape and headed to the pub with the boys.

After a ride like that you can’t let a little blood stop you from celebrating. Stitches could get sorted later; first we needed to re-hydrate and relive the highlights. The little voice can’t take that away.


I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…