By Richard J. Cunningham
To most westerners, slow motion is an effect that cinematographers employ to recap a great sports moment, or a technique that adds drama to a less-than-magicical moment. Anyone who participates in active sports–the ones that exceed twenty miles an hour–often experience slow motion in real-time. Usually, in the immediate aftermath of a tactical error.
I was riding well up to this point. Eddie and John, two of my oldest mountain biking buddies had set a blistering pace on an unfamiliar singletrack near Lockwood Valley, California. I was holding my own, keeping the pair in sight on the long descent through the pines, when my front tire glanced off an innocuous looking rock and precipitated a giant washout. No big deal, I would simply wait out the slide. The front tire would eventually hook up.
The washout seemed to last forever and that should have been my first clue that all things were not in order. I was percolating at a pretty good clip, but now it felt like time was standing still. ?Slow motion,? I thought, ?this might hurt.? Half in and half out of my body in this frozen moment, I watched in horror as my front tire continued to scrape over the sun baked, decomposed granite soil, until it wedged into a half-buried stone about the size of a grapefruit. This is the point where my GT i-Drive 1000 and I parted company.
Flying low, I passed over my GT and the pink granite stone which also marked the edge of a small ravine. The arc of the embankment was a sort of parabola, and thus, I tracked the curve exactly two feet above the earth until gravity deposited me in the dry stream bed. Before the moment of impact, I spied a smooth-looking boulder in my trajectory and rounded my flying form to match its contour. I wondered if this was the big crash that marked the end of a fifteen-year spell of good fortune.
I felt cartilage crunch somewhere in my left hand, and there was a dull impact on my right hip. A fist-sized rock raked along my ribs like a picket fence until all was finally silent. Sweet silence, and a moment to lay still and assess the damage.
Katrin, clattered towards me on her ancient green Curtlo hardtail. The ruckus signaled that I was once more on real time. I was standing in the gully as she passed. There was a brief look of concern on her face.
?Yes, everything’s all right.? I waved, ?First crash of the day.?
Katrin clattered off into the distance. I remounted, wincing against the pain of a jammed thumb and forefinger as I twisted the left shifter. I eased back up to speed, trying to get my rhythm back. ?That wasn?t so bad,? I mumbled out loud, ?I could have taken a big hit back there.? Confident once more, I released the brakes and opened it up. I figured that it would only take a minute to close the gap and return the hunt. But a root that bisected a deep motorcycle rut would prove me wrong.
I could make out every oval-head screw that attached the Shimano disc brake rotor as I drifted over my GT. The stainless steel disc reflected the noonday sun like a mirror, blinding me for an instant as I tucked my shoulder under in preparation for my second unscheduled date with mother earth.
Frame by frame, I watched my bike pass by, then peered under my arm to see where I was going to land. There was a sandy patch and what appeared to be tall reeds below. This scene would end happily, but I decided to rewrite the rest of the script .I would ride slower, and thus eliminate the need for another slow motion sequence–at least for this day.