AOTW: Backing Down In Downieville – Mountain Biking Mishaps

 This Adventure Of The Week comes from Adam Broderick, a silly goose who could have seriously injured, or even killed himself, last weekend while visiting the world-class singletrack trails in Downieville, California. Thankfully, his mom scolded him enough as a kid…and he’s hit his head on enough rocks and trees…that he’s learned his lesson.


Sunday and Monday were awesome. We took our annual October adventure to Downieville, California, for two days of some of the country’s best downhill singletrack mountain biking. 15 miles of downhill sweetness, with a little rolling ups and flats mixed in. It’s pretty dreamy, and even during the short climbs the scenery distracts you, so you tend to forget how much climbing you actually do. At least, I do. I’m on a cross-country bike. My buddies on downhill monsters weren’t so casual about the climbs, but then again, they purchased their bikes with the intention of climbing less often. Nonetheless, everyone most certainly enjoyed the downhill. We all took our fair share of falls, too. Fortunately, none were very serious and everyone only brought home scratches and bruises.



I went over my bars. Upon deployment my shorts got caught and my bike came along for the flight. We went over one full rotation and landed on my feet. Well, I landed on my feet, but my bike landed on my shoulders, so I proceeded to slide another thirty feet down the steep canyon, toward the river. It came to the point where I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to stop before the rocks and water below. Things got scary for a few moments. Finally, I was able to self-arrest and wait a few moments for Israel to get to me and help me untangle myself from bike and branches. Unfortunately, nobody got a photo of how far I slid downhill. I would have liked a copy of that image to look back on years from now. Top 3 most memorable bike wipe-outs of my life, for sure.

Heather went over her bars, but surprisingly that was her worst fall, and she came out with just a scratch. This was her introductory mountain biking trip and she impressed us all (Heather’s a quick learner). She’s been on a dirt bike for years, so after learning how to efficiently work through the gears and a few other cycle-specific tricks, she picked it up quickly and really enjoyed her first time on a mountain bike. Actually, we’re pretty sure she’s sold on the sport and will get her own bike next season.

Israel usually goes over the bars. That’s probably because he goes bigger and faster than the rest of us. At one point, and I know this because I was behind him when it happened, his front tire caught on a rock and his bars jerked to the left…away from the trail and down the hill. His bike did a 180 and stopped, upright, leaning against a short and skinny Aspen tree. Israel, on the other hand, kept moving through the air. He pretty much did a misty flip. The fact that he came out unharmed was sweet. The sight of him flipping through the air and down the hill, only to land on his butt in a pile of dirt, was even sweeter.


Eric went down twice in twenty feet. We’ll let those ones go, because he was exhausted and navigating a technical rock field, and sometimes when you’re delirious you fall. I think we can all agree to that. But what Eric did do that was most memorable was get a flat – immediately after helping Israel repair his, and they were all out of spare bike tubes by that point. So Eric got to walk the last three miles downhill on the second afternoon. I’m sure he slept well last night.


The next day when we returned to the summit ready to repeat the awesomeness of the day before, something went wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. My helmet wasn’t in the car. Everyone else’s was on their head. I was silly enough to assume someone would have grabbed it during the previous transition…a lesson I should have learned years ago. We all stood around for about twenty minutes while I contemplated dropping in without my helmet. I tried on Heather’s full-face helmet, but it was several sizes too small.

Thanks for the offer, but I don’t think this helmet fits.

I considered our last trip to Downieville, when my friend Cody forgot his helmet and instead borrowed my hat, donned it backwards, and stayed safe all the way down. We dropped in at 7:15 p.m. and rode the last hour with headlamps that night. Cody’s one of my gnarlier friends. I also reflected on my two concussions (with a helmet) from snowboarding over the past several years, as well as my mom’s words of wisdom growing up. I decided to go. It would be alright.

Wait…No. I couldn’t do it. I want kids some day. I had to bail. With two+ hours of blazing downhill, something would likely happen to one of us. Shoot, considering yesterday’s ride, it would be odd if nothing did.

Heather was nice enough to bail with me. She felt bad for holding up the group the first day, although I reassured her that we didn’t really lose that much time (we did) and that she did great, especially for her first time on a mountain bike (she did). Still, she insisted that accompanying me was the better idea. She would keep me company, free us all from having to shuttle the car 40-minutes back to the summit, and free her of having to be around one of the other guys on the trip with whom she was getting annoyed. Instead of crying over spilled milk, we went on a short photo safari. Autumn in Lake Tahoe is beautiful this time of year, and I was surprised that this area was giving my backyard a run for its money. This picture’s not the greatest, but depicts the time of year well:


While Heather and I passed time waiting for the others to join us, we found this rope swing hanging over the Downie River near the trail’s end and I took a cool ‘burst’ shot. That’s where you zoom in on your subject, then press the shutter while simultaneously zooming out.


When Israel finally got to the car he looked beat. He explained his flat tire, followed closely by Eric’s, and that I would need to go meet Eric a few miles up the road. But he didn’t dwell on the fails. He was tired, but still worked up over the ride that he swears is the most fun ride he’s ever been on.

Earlier I mentioned Eric’s flat being the most memorable of his fails, but that’s just my best guess of his perspective. What I remember best about Eric on this particular trip are his words of wisdom. I’ve got to thank Eric for speaking up when he did. I remember hearing him say, “I wouldn’t go,” under his breath while I considered dropping in without a helmet. I’d also like to slap myself for thinking so selfishly. And stupidly. We often think we’re smarter than we really are, but we all make mistakes. I’d like to think otherwise, yet had Eric not said something I may have still gone for it. And who knows, I may not have hung around long enough to write this.

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