A mountain biker died during a rider at McDowell Mountain Regional Park Saturday. That’s the second mountain bike fatality at my favorite park in the last six weeks.
I have a story on Examiner.com with more details. That’s what you want to read for the "just the facts" info. Frankly, the story is missing the rider’s identity. I could press harder – but in this case, that’s not what’s important about the situation.
My motivation for writing the Examiner story was two-fold: First, so other riders can remember the basics of how to be prepared (see below). Second, I hope it’s a wake-up to the abject performance of the so-called outdoor writer at The Arizona Republic. Every hiker who skins a knee on Camelback Mountain warrants a story, but the Republic can’t be arsed about anything beyond sight of the newsroom.
But here on my own site – I just have a few messages for my mountain bike brethren. There are a few points I want us all to take away from the deaths of Ron Cadiente and the as-yet unnamed out-of-town visitor.
If you mountain bike without a helmet, water, tools, a properly maintained bike and a cell phone -- You.Are.Not.Prepared. Don’t leave home without any of these. And think about a sports drink and some snacks, especially as the weather gets hotter. I can’t believe I still need to tell anyone to wear a helmet. It boggles my mind that anyone would mountain bike without a helmet – there is just no valid reason for it.
Don’t Do Anything Stupid
If you can’t pass someone safely, don’t pass them at all. Wait. I don’t care if you’re a Cat 1 or pro mountain bike racer (in fact, they tend to ride safer than Cat 3’s front-of-the-pack riders), finishing a few seconds earlier is not worth your safety or that of your fellow riders. Your sponsors or the bike shop who sponsors your team certainly agrees. And yield the trail whenever you can to riders headed the opposite direction. I notice a lot of people like to ride Pemberton counter-clockwise these days. Fine. Let’s all be good to each other and allow some room.
This means to things: Keep your speed reasonable and watch where you want to go. I know speed is fun – but the there’s a fine line you’ll cross when the speed gets too much for your skill or the trail conditions -- and it shrinks your margin of error. And that’s not fun.
Now, onto "where you want to go". Most experienced riders instinctively know that your bike will go wherever your eyes do. Call it "target fixation" or whatever, but it’s true. So look at the path around the obstacles before you. See the smooth line and fix a firm but loose gaze on it. It sounds easy, and it is – but it’s also essential for keeping your mountain bike in control.
You are Cool, Caring People
Mountain bikers are good people. The Internet can bring out the worst in people. But read the very first reports of Ron’s death on MTBR. And then witness the support as people set up a low-key but meaningful way to raise funds to honor his memory. The response makes me more than a little proud to be a mountain biker. And I regret not doing more to participate. If there’s a second-annual ride for Ron, I’ll get behind it on this site and I’ll be there to ride.
Do any of you other riders out there have any observations about what we can take away from these unfortunate losses?