I had a chance to go down to Florida a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t really a “fun” trip so when my brother said he could arrange a low cost bike rental for my stay I jumped at the stress releasing opportunity.
I’ve biked in Florida before, but it was road biking. This was my first mountain bike opportunity. Let’s get the “there’s no mountain in Florida so how can you mountain bike” comments out of the way. It is correct, there are no mountains in Florida. In fact there are no hills in the part of Florida I was in (Ft. Lauderdale). One of the rides we did (a “Levee Ride”) had ZERO elevation gain over 30 miles. But that isn’t what makes Florida unique from a biking perspective.
Up where I live we have a lot of space. It’s relatively easy to put 10 or so miles of trails into a 100 acre area. It’s more of a trick to do something like that in a 20 acre area. Southern Florida is pretty developed and space is a premium. Both of the places we rode (Markham Park and Virginia Key) are artificial areas that were created from material dredged. Because the areas are small and there isn’t a lot of natural texture, you have to engineer trails.
The end result is that riding these trails is kind of like riding in the equivalent of a skate park. They are fun but in a different way than I am used to (Also there were actual people using them. Sharing trails? Where’s my solitude?)
Now, let’s recap here a little bit. Trails. Florida. Made from dredged material. Dredged…Florida. The trails are primarily either sand or sand stone. Really they were not too loose, so lets go with the sandstone idea. There is the set-up. OK, so I’m riding along, and my front tire washed out. Now I’ll freely admit I wasn’t super comfortable on a strange (loose) bike and on new trails with a different kind of flow than I am used to. But that had nothing to do with this fall. There was a rut in the trail that my tire went into and then washed out. It was a rather undramatic crash. Definitely not GoPro material in any way. Except for the pain and blood. You see when you fall and slide on sand stone you are doing the equivalent of sand papering your skin (40 grit by my professional estimation).
I followed my SOP. Don’t look at it, it won’t help. But I knew there were issues on my leg and arm. Dave and I rode for a little while longer (after I MacGyvered my broken shift control back onto the handlebar) and then split up for a bit. When I finished riding I went to the trail head to wait. That’s when my arm started to burn. There was blood but also a fair bit of “foreign material” lodged in my arm. My brother’s advice was to make sure I got it all out in the shower.
I’m not sure if you have ever had to remove foreign debris from an abrasion but it sucks. (Quick author’s aside: this point came up last week in the class I was taking. Don’t rely on someone to adequately clean a wound like that on themselves. They won’t. Turns out people don’t like hurting themselves when cleaning ouchies 🙂 ). My shower was a grit your teeth event. In the end I was missing skin from my lower right leg up past my arm. I’m really not sure why it is that my least dramatic crashes end up causing the most interesting marks. Four weeks later and the scabs are finally gone leaving only the permanent memories of that trip. (The knee particularly sucked in that a knee is always actuating, especially when you ride. So it was a slow healing process for that appendage.)
In the end, my advice: don’t crash and slide on sandstone.
Author’s Funny Aside: While my brother was riding I was helping a new biker on a little skills course at the trail head. At some point the irony of me talking to him about mountain biking skills while bleeding did in fact cross my mind.