December 17, 2010
Total mileage: 3,118
Thunk, whoosh, boom.
I laid motionless in the thick grass, staring up at the sky. My brain was able to process the fact that the sky was blue. Good. The toes could wiggle, and I could draw up my knees. Excellent, the vertebrae must be intact. I sat up and considered the pain in my head. Not too overwhelming. You know you’re okay when the next thought that forms is, “Can I get back on the bike?”
After years of managing not to, I had just gone airborne in the nasty arc cyclists call endo. The Dictionary of Mountain Bike Slang defines the word in the following fashion:
endo n. the maneuver of flying unexpectedly over the handlebars, thus being forcibly ejected from the bike. Short for “end over end.”
Yep, that’s about it. Thunk, the front wheel landed in a trench, whoosh, my body flew over the handlebars, and boom, I face-planted on the left cheekbone before the rest of me landed in the grass.
It was the day before the Kansas Cyclocross Championships, and (rather than race) I’d been riding the grounds to test the difficulty of the course. Fluttering plastic tape and orange cones marked most it, but I’d inadvertently ridden off-course into a trench hidden by leaves. Thunk, whoosh, boom. Ouch.
The following day–the day of the race–I watched the riders roll over the proper course during competition. It didn’t seem particularly challenging but it was awfully long, snaking around much of Hummer Sports Park. Besides a raft of adult riders, there was a girl about 8 or 9 years old riding a fixed gear bike. She didn’t break any records, but her persistence peeled away the layers of the race, lap after lap, shaming me for being too nervous to compete this year.
A couple of nights later I attended a meeting of the local bike club. Someone asked how the cyclocross was going, and I pointed to the endo-booboo on my cheek. “Awwwwwesome,” a fellow rider drawled, and suddenly endo stories began popping up right and left. As I listened to each of them in turn, it dawned on me that endo is a bicycling rite of passage. For years I’d hoped to avoid it, but now that it has happened I understand it’s a sort of initiation into the ranks of the experienced. Frankly, a headache and minor embarrassment are a small price to pay when compared to some other initiation ceremonies in cultures around the world. Scarification and piercings spring to mind.
Not that I’m glad about it, you understand, but endo has moved me up in the ranks of the tribe. And next year I’m going to be thinking about that young girl while I ride the state cyclocross championships. I won’t be fast, and I won’t place, but it won’t matter. The important thing is to run the gauntlet.