Sure, we all dream of that perfect ride where everything goes as planned and you ride, jump, and flow through every obstacle without so much as a dab.
But, have you ever watched an athlete attempt something extreme and then stick the landing so flawlessly that it looked easy … and therefore unimpressive?
I remember way back in time, I was riding the Woodlot trails in the Fraser Valley. We rode up to a large drop with a short transition landing. I rode off and landed without a sound. It was as smooth as I’d ever ridden.
My buddy Karl rode off right behind me and landed with a thud, slid sideways into the next berm while using all his upper body strength to avoid going over the bars. Then with one foot dragging in the dirt, he somehow regained control and rode out of it without consequence. His eyes were as big as dinner plates, but his smile was what stood out.
The consensus at the coffee shop afterward was how awesome Karl rode the drop, where no one remembered me riding it at all. Even all these years later the only reason I remember it is because of Karl. It was very impressive watching him recover from near disaster.
A few weeks later I was invited out to Chilliwack for some free riding.
It was a great ride and the locals I was riding with kept talking about “The Drop” near the bottom of the trail. They had me feeling pretty nervous, but when we got there it seemed to be within my limits and I relaxed. It was actually a cut away cliff, so the first 10 feet disappeared under the take off, but then the slope eased back into view and created a nice long transition. I pictured it in my head and came up with the perfect plan for a smooth landing.
I rolled into the drop, but hit it with a bit too much speed. As I passed the easy transition and flew toward the flat landing 20 feet below my take off, I knew I was in trouble.
My perfect plan was out the window and I started to focus like never before. I landed a bit sideways and bounced into the air as my suspension recoiled with a groan, or maybe that was my knees.
I shot off the trail and then back on again and was aimed at the next three foot drop at full speed and out of control. I hit the next drop, scrambled to keep my bike pointed straight on the landing and then managed to grab a handful of brake.
As I skidded to a stop I heard the cheers of my buddies.
Obviously, I was trying to hit it perfectly, but misjudging the landing and having to save my butt from the peril of a 20-foot fall gave me a big blast of adrenaline and improved my confidence for the rest of the ride.
It sounds odd when I say it out loud, but I think it’s actually more impressive and more skillful to get yourself out of trouble than it is to ride perfectly. Riding the perfect line is the fastest and smoothest way and we should all aim for perfection, but getting a little sideways and creating some risk periodically will improve your ride, and your focus.
I’m James Durand and I’m Goin’ Ridin’…