Bike Rides: Tailbone vs. Mammoth Rock

Published 5:38 pm Friday, September 30, 2011

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time working in Chaska, Minn. It’s a cute little suburban community positioned just south of the metro far enough to escape some of the choking traffic and noisy fly-overs.

It’s here that I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to re-romance my mountain biking skills this summer, hooking up with a precious single track neatly nestled in the woods just south of the city.

The “Mammoth trail” as it’s named isn’t well publicized and there may be a reason for that. After researching some of the chatter on the web I’m deducing some locals responsible for conceiving and nurturing the woolly beauty don’t really welcome a lot of outsiders on their track. In fact, I’m probably risking banishment for bragging up this cherry chunk of mountain biker’s cheese cake in a column. Can’t say I blame them for getting possessive either, Mammoth’s a real looker.

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I discovered the voluptuous mamster myself while exploring the paved city trails north of town, stumbling on her by chance when I left the pavement for a seemingly innocent unmarked dirt trail. That little deviation turned out to be just the beginning of a sophisticated network of trails laid out over several miles of thick woods surrounding the petite but pretty Lake McKnight.

Recently my neighbor Hank joined me there to detonate an atomic, off-road adrenaline bomb while there was still time this year. With September’s dry conditions the ground was as hard-packed and fast running as I’d ever seen it and we took full advantage of Mother Nature’s rare cooperation.

Of course I was busy trying to show off my mastery of the trail to Hank by barking out warnings at every rough spot like a backseat driver on crack. I should have just kept my mouth shut and let the experience happen organically because as it turns out I was the one who made a critical misjudgment when it mattered most.

As we approached one of the many deep rollercoaster ride-like ravine dips in the trail I called an audible yelling “It’s doable!” and it was really anything but.

I entered the gigantic crevice first, gravity sucking me in speedily like a marble dropped into a mixing bowl. Everything looked good when I started ascending the other side with a sudden burst of speed but my momentum faded quickly about three quarters of the way up and I found the exit to be much steeper than the entry. Still thinking I might somehow make it out I began peddling frantically but was in too low of a gear and my pedals spun freely but uselessly like a pinwheel in a windstorm.

A yard from the top my shiny black Raleigh slowed quickly to a stop and we were momentarily suspended in time like a bungee jumper at the apex of the bounce. With the flickering sun blinding me like a strobe light through the leaves, I finally squeezed the brakes in a vain attempt to stop from rolling down backwards. The front tire abruptly came up and my bike began tipping backwards, coming down on top of me. I planted my right foot behind and fell backwards onto a pile of oversized, unforgiving rocks to the right. At the same time I flung my bike over my body and catapulted it down the hill behind me and just missed decapitating Hank who was now approaching me quickly just to the left.

The Raleigh and I took a heck of a beating. As it turns out the human tail bone is no match for a prehistoric boulder. But, I’m lucky to be gifted with a firm layer of pelvic padding in just the right places and I escaped serious injury once again, as did my bike.

Hank went to school on my error and planted both of his feet, stabilizing a lot sooner than I did; recognizing that the upside of this horseshoe wasn’t even close to being “doable.”

Following the big crash, we carefully made our way back to the car with me standing on the pedals favoring my wounds and with Hank snickering sarcastically all the while.

By the way, Hank has officially proven that it is actually possible to fit a mountain bike inside a hotel shower. Find Bike Rides on Facebook and see the photos along with shots from the crash site and some other interesting pictures taken of our memorable trip to Mammoth.

Have you heard? Bike Rides is now on the radio! That’s right, tune in to 91.3 FM Friday afternoons at 1 p.m. to catch all the zaniness of Bike Rides, on the radio.

Traffic Tip: Plan a fall bike ride and enjoy the colors at nature’s most perfect pace.