As the constant reader will recall, at the very end of September I broke my right fibula and ripped a ligament off the inside of my ankle riding BMX trails in Austin, TX before the press preview of the Rolls-Royce Ghost. I stayed two additional days in Austin to get my drive completed and to visit my old friend Robert Farago before coming home for corrective surgery in the first week of October.
My cast came off three weeks ago and I’ve been trying to rehab the ankle and leg a bit. Yesterday I went outside to ride a bicycle for the first time. With a little encouragement from my son I was able to put some motion into said bike. While I have some reduced range of motion, it’s all on the “up” end. I can point down as well as any ballerina (well, any ballerina of my size, anyway) which means I can jump a bike. So I tried about ten hops, eventually getting up to about an 18-inch gap between ground and tire. The world record for bunnyhopping a BMX bike is 42 inches, most pros can do 30-36 inches easily, and prior to this injury I was probably capable of hitting 24 on a good day — but I will not pretend I am not enthusiastic that I can pull 280 pounds of bike and rider this far off the ground on a withered calf muscle and a recently-repaired joint.
Also, as Ted Williams said in the famous anecdote about hitting modern pitching, I’m 49 years old.
So this is all good news. And it’s been instructive for me to consider how sour I’ve been over the past two months, entirely as a result of not being able to ride.
There’s a currently-popular phrase in use that goes something like,
“There was a time you (X) and didn’t know it was the last time.” Sometimes it’s funny:
There was a time you sent your last T9 text message and didn’t know it was the last time. Sometimes it’s bittersweet:
There was a time you were excited about a new album and didn’t know it was the last time. Sometimes it’s depressing as hell:
There was a time you had your dick pop right back up after you had sex and didn’t know it was the last time. The journey of the late-middle-aged “extreme cyclist” is a lot like that, only we don’t have the equivalent of Viagra to put us back in the game. There was a time I pulled a serious bunnyhop up a two-foot concrete obstacle and didn’t know it was the last time. The time I did a five-foot drop onto solid ground and didn’t know it was the last time. And as you age, these moments come thick and fast. I’m not sure I will ever get six feet of air over a wooden box jump again; I used to do it every day after work. I know I’ll never pull an “X-up-to-X-down” trick again, so the last time for that has already happened.
In the next fifteen years, there will be a lot of “last times”. Some of it can be delayed via technology; much of what I can do now is entirely the result of having ten-thousand-dollar mountain bikes with motorcycle suspensions and bulletproof componentry. I can slow the rate of this decline by losing a little weight and being more consistently focused on overall fitness as opposed to cycling fitness, so I’m going to do that. I have some kind of hernia or something I picked up on a pump track in Missouri back in August and it’s not getting better. Gonna get that fixed.
Between now and then, I’m happy just to be riding again. And I’m grateful that I’ll be able to ride the upcoming season with my son. This will be the last time I can keep up with him, and I know that in advance. Thirty days, I gimped down the side of a local trail to catch him hitting a couple jumps when he thought I wasn’t watching:
By the time he is thirteen, it will be an embarrassment for him to even ride on the same line with me, and with good reason. It’s okay. Three years ago I wrote about a fellow who told me, “That’s why we have the bike.” It’s cheering to think I will continue to have the bike for a while to come. Not forever, but nothing is.
For Hagerty, I talked about God-dammed Accords again and set the time machine to 1973. Any coincidence between the fictional writer of that second piece and any existing autowriter is totally coincidental and if the same paragraph appears non-ironically in someone else’s work it’s a coincidence!