I nearly lost an eyeball while trimming my fingernails last night. Well, I guess I didn't really come close to losing it, but for a few seconds it sure felt like I'd be the proud owner of a mildly offensive nickname such as Uno or Periscope and an eyepatch. One minute I'm clipping away, and a second later a piece of my own nail flew up and lodged itself firmly under my eyelid as if it was being controlled by some sort of tractor beam. Cue the flailing and swearing as the sharp edges of my errant thumbnail dug into my pupil.
I eventually dislodged the attacker by clawing at it furiously with my fingers, a tactic that probably wasn't the right approach considering what I was doing in the washroom just before cutting my fingernails. Anyway, it's always a shock when things go from 'okay' to 'oh no' in a matter of seconds - it's as if some omnipotent higher power is watching and saying, ''Hmm, that smug look on Levy's face makes me want to f*ck his shit up,'' which is also exactly what it feels like.
This can sometimes be especially true when it comes to riding.
A few years ago, I had a seemingly simple mechanical issue do more than just wipe my grin away - it also saw me crouched down in a feces and urine splattered outhouse while shivering and slurring my words. And I wasn't even on drugs at the time. I was on a bike that was spec'd with an older-gen Stan's rear hub, a component notorious for its ability to self-immolate if you didn't talk sweetly to it during a ride. Long story short, it was a very cold and wet day, hovering around freezing, and the hub's innards decided that life wasn't worth living any longer. Instead, it came apart and turned my bike into a fixie at the very top of a 3,000-foot mountain. In the freezing rain. And I didn't have a chain tool for the same reason that I used my soiled fingers to dig a nail clipping out of my eye: I'm not that smart. At least a seized freehub can't give you pinkeye, right?
No big deal, I thought, I'll just coast down the gravel road, the same one that I just worked my ass off for an hour on, with my feet up off my spinning pedals. But that's when the skies opened up. You'd be amazed by how fast one's body loses its heat, and then its ability to control simple motor movements like, oh, I don't know, braking and steering. What should have taken ten minutes took nearly thirty because I had to stop multiple times to warm my hands up by putting them down the front of my lycra bib shorts, and I was speaking with a speech impediment and had moved past the point of shivering by the time I reached the bottom. My vehicle was still a solid 15kms away, however, which I had no hope of covering at this point. Thankfully, I crossed paths with a fellow rider while coasting down the road who offered to drive me to my van if I waited for him at the trailhead. So that's exactly what I did, crouching down on the floor of an outhouse that would have been a great location to shoot a scat fetish video. I also broke the world record for the longest, hottest shower when I did eventually make it home.
A ride-ruining but otherwise innocuous mechanical sent that day, and my body temperature, spiraling downwards alarmingly quick, but there have also been a few times when the blame fell squarely on my own shoulders. Probably more than a few times, actually, but a great moment of dumbassery that stands out to me happened on one of the best trails in the world during what would have been one of the better rides of my life had my day not gone into the 'oh no' zone just before finishing.
A buddy and I had driven the six hours from my hometown to Rossland so we could do a single lap of Seven Summits, a solid ride that, depending on your fitness level, consists of three to six hours spent dipping into and out of the alpine, all of it on singletrack. Yes, the twelve-hour round trip is entirely worth it. We had been on a good pace that sunny summer day, and it was looking like we'd finish up in around three hours, a fact that had my competitive ass pushing too hard for my skill and, more importantly, my remaining energy level. In retrospect, I should have taken a breather and eaten some candy, but I did the opposite: full gas... right off the side of an exposed section of trail due to being too tired to get my sketchy little cross-country bike pointed in the proper direction. Steering is a really important part of mountain biking, it seems.
Losing the front-end down the low side of an exposed trail at a high rate of speed is a funny way to crash because you get smacked down so damn fast that you don't have a clue what happened. I might not have known what occurred when I did eventually sit up, but it took just a few seconds to discover that my poor steed was in rough shape, and it was one-hundred-percent my bad. A taco'd front wheel, both tires ripped off the rims, and a twisted fork made my cracked ribs and a concussion look not so bad, and what should have been twenty-minutes of coasting down to my van saw me instead spend an hour wheezing and brake dragging.
It took mere seconds for that ride to go from one of my best to one of my worst, and while it's very different from a fingernail clipping bent on revenge or a seized freehub and freezing rain doing their best to turn me into an ice cube, it's yet another example of things going south way too quickly for my liking.
I could go on and on. There was that time that, as a young and ignorant pup, I had done some "maintenance" to my bike before a downhill race only to have the stanchion tubes of my Marzocchi Z1 literally fall out of the fork crown mid-run ("Hey, what are these dumb C-clips for?"); or that time when I was dead sure that I could clean a relatively puny drop at the old Red Bull Rampage site and instead nearly ended up dead when I rag dolled for seventy feet, only hitting the ground three times over the distance. The bright side of that crash was that I did end up finding my shoes afterward. There's also that time, not long ago, when I looped out at the trailhead and landed squarely on my ass. That last one would have been more embarrassing than painful had I not stashed a multi-tool in the back pocket of my bib shorts just above my tailbone. Ouch. There are more, but I'm going to stop with the examples of things going from fine to fubar in only a few seconds.
The thing is that shit just seems to happen, doesn't it? One minute you're in the shower and the next you've slipped on the soap and someone finds your body in the bathtub two weeks later. Or you get cooked by lightning. Or blinded by your own fingernail clipping. All I know is that, if things are going to go south in a hurry, I'd like to at least be on my bike rather than in the shower, caught in a lightening storm, or lose my sight from a flying thumbnail.