I use the term “falling off a cliff” to describe partying a lot. It’s that moment when things go from fun and games, to fucked up in a hurry. Like when you are drinking beer and decide to switch to whiskey or tequila and you just fall right off the cliff of drunk. You know, when all you want to do is sing pop songs and fight inanimate object. Or when you are having yourself some edibles and you are all like “Man, I don’t think it’s working” so you have some more. Then the next thing you know you are shirtless, sitting in the refrigerator dipping cheese slices in a jar of mayonnaise. You fell off the cliff.
I’ve spent a lot of my life around actual cliffs too. From a past life as a rock climber, to all the sketchy trails I have ridden around the world. I have prided myself on never actually falling off one. Well, I can’t really say that anymore.
Life has been pretty hectic lately and I was looking forward to an actual vacation. I travel a bit for work and some for play, but in the past year I have rarely just checked out for an extended amount of time to simply ride my bike and party. That is where Singlespeed World Championships comes into play. This year’s meeting of the minds was in Slovenia and it would be my escape. Honestly, it is some place that I never thought I would go to ride a bike. But over the years I have made some friends from the region who have raved about the riding and I trust their judgement. So I bought the ticket and went for a ride. I will tell more of the event later, because SSWC 2019 has made singlespeeding punk rock again.
The friend family descended from all different corners of the world to the little mountain town of Kobarid, Slovenia. Some folks didn’t want to ride right away and decided to have a fancy dinner with some TV chef. But goddammit, I didn’t sit on an airplane for 9 hours not to ride. Gimmie a beer, a sandwich, point me to the trail head and I’m good. The ride was described at “EPIC” by our local hosts. OK, buddy… I’m listening, tell me more. “A two hour climb and then you will descend 2000 meters into Italy to get gelato and an Aperol spritz”. Well now you are just talking dirty to me. Let’s go.
We climbed for fucking ever. Up and over a mountain to a little stone hut with an Italian flag on it. Damn, I love crossing some imaginary lines on my bike. It was an amazing group of friends new and old. The vibe was full of stoke even for the folks who might have been in a little over their head. It was an ass kicker of a climb by any standards and not a single derailer in sight.
We reach the summit and it was absolutely stunning. Craggy mountains behind us and the Adriatic Sea way off in the distance in front of us. We snacked, made photos and waited for everyone to regroup. This is mountain biking, my friends. You know this moment. Tired but happy, sweaty and getting cold. Putting on your jacket that you thankfully remembered to pack and eating those snacks that always taste better on the tops of mountains. We made the group photo then it was time to drop in. I was smiling like a kid on Christmas.
We had a local showing us the way and he went first, then I dropped in behind Prosauce and Steph. Two Americans that I know pretty well, and after the ride we did the day before, I knew I wanted to ride with them today. We were hauling ass and having ourselves a hell of a time. Brakes heating up and my hands were starting to cramp. This is what I fucking came here for! I can’t tell you how long we descended for, but it was a really long time. At one point our local guide said we were only about half way down and it blew my mind.
Then he mentioned there was a mandatory hike-a-bike coming up soon. I wasn’t too mad to hear that because my old hands could really use a break. We got to this awkward little boulder field on an old bench cut trail, started to hike and chat among ourselves . At one point, I was looking right at Prosauce saying something witty, I’m sure. When all of the sudden my feet sipped out from under me and I started falling. Down the hill I went, ass first and bouncing off a couple trees. Once it registered that I was falling, I saw some roots sticking out of the hillside and grabbed them. It wasn’t the smartest idea, because this dislodged a cobblestone sized rock that bounced off the front of my helmet and my cheek. I got knocked silly from that and don’t remember much else, other than seeing my bike bounce past me. I eventually came to a stop and I took such a knock to the head that I was quite dazed.
It’s funny to me now, but I distinctly remember thinking “Why did somebody punch me in the face? It feels like somebody punched me square in the face. Everyone seems so cool. What did I do to piss them off?”. Our local guide was there in a flash. “Dirty are you OK?!” Yeah, man. Just give me a minute to get my head straight. I have felt this before and I’ll be good in a minute or two. Please stop asking me if I am OK. I did a little self assessment. The helmet took most of the rock and my arm is bleeding a little but doesn’t look like stitches are necessary. Where the hell is my bike? Then I see this dude from Belgium, who I’ve only known for a few hours, charging back up the hill with my bike over his shoulder. That badass went a couple hundred feet further down this gulch just to get my bike. Damn, thanks. I stood and looked back up to where the trail was, it was a ways up there and it was steep as hell. Everyone was visibly worried about me but I assured them that I was alright. I laughed to myself a little as I started to scramble up to them. I just fell of a goddamn cliff!
The tumble ripped my seat off the rails but the rest of my bike was perfectly fine. Not even a scratch on the grips. A little duct tape and ingenuity and we were back on our way. Luckily it was all downhill because I felt like dog shit. The trail popped out in this beautiful little village in Italy and, as promised, I got my gelato and cocktail. What a crazy ride.