It is not a matter of if, but when!

OTB is a term that gets used with increasing frequency nowadays. Over the bars. One of the worst bicycling experiences. Flying through the air you’re not trying to figure out what just happened, you’re hopefully planning how to minimise the hurt that is about to happen, or at least that was the case for Meurant Botha.

Not only are there more of us out riding, we are also riding bikes designed to make us go faster in our quest to set Strava KOM’s. Although it must be said that most are hitting molehills, not mountains.

Out of the 4000 riders that rode the Die Burger MTB Challenge this year, 38 paid a visit to the medical facilities. Surprisingly this was 50% less than the previous year, despite the slippery and wet conditions. It can perhaps be concluded that riders ride more cautiously when conditions are poor. Still, 1% of participants ended up needing medical attention. That is 1 in every 100 during a ‘quiet’ year when looking at the medical side of the event.

Let’s extrapolate this to a normal weekend on SA’s trails. If 15 000 riders are out riding any week (I quickly added Tokai, Jonkershoek, Giba Gorge, Northern Farm, Groenkloof, Holla Trails, EMBA trails and a few others) it can be estimated that even at 1 in 500 odds, 25 riders are going to get injured to a level that requires medical attention.

How many of my Facebook friends suffered fractures in the last month? 4 or 5 out of 650.

So it is pretty safe to say that a mountain bike related fracture or injury is in your future. It is not a matter of if, but when!

I know that after almost 25 years of riding, 10 of which was spent doing trials stunts, I rarely go out without my knee pads anymore. Even on two to three hour rides. Our riding has become more technical and with the Enduro scene blossoming, our rigs are built to match. While pushing the limits on downhill singletrack runs, I’m wiping out more than ever. I’m an advocate of the crash more approach, but learn to control your wipeouts.

That, and the fact that the pro’s on the Twitter and Facebook video feeds make the act of getting airborne look so damn easy. Do yourself a favour and go into any pro freerider’s news feeds and the odds are high that they are either recovering from injury, or waiting for winter to get remedial surgery.

The guys and gals from local Western Cape Club, the Wannabees built the coolest little urban bike park with 3km track littered with fun berms and a few minor obstacles, camel jumps and the like. Collarbone count? Seven. In a few short months, with no major or difficult obstacles. And it’s not only the newbies that are going down, its seasoned riders including ex-provincial category racers.

In an effort to manage the risks involved with trail riding, it is important that we as mountain biking organisations advocate the risks involved. We cannot afford that the sport develops a negative risk profile as this will lead to trail closure, especially on private property.

This does not mean that we want to remove risk from mountain biking, we know it is the inherent risk involved with taking a marvel of engineered excellence down the roughest piece of trail we can find – at speed – that makes the sport so much fun. It is the risk that gets the endorphins flowing and gives us the after-ride high that is attracting more and more riders to the sport. You just need to understand that risk not only leads to reward, but also to the occasional failure.

You can manage your trail risk by following a few simple steps:

  1. Always Control your Bicycle.
  2. Understand the trail grading system. Green Circle is easy, Blue Square is intermediate, Black Diamond and beyond is extreme.
  3. Ride trails that match your skills level.
  4. Wear protection.
  5. Make sure your equipment works.
  6. Acquire a basic knowledge of first aid.
  7. Know where you are and where you are going.
  8. Plan ahead by carrying the basic essentials.
  9. Know how to crash!

 And always remember. It is not a matter of if, but when!

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