Start Here: Is This the Big One?

By Joe Parkin
Photo by Haruki Noguchi

I am ridiculously superstitious. Silly, I know, but I figure I inherited this trait from my grandmother, who had strange superstitious rituals for warding off almost any kind of misfortune.

I simply carried on the family tradition. I think I nearly perfected it, in fact, back when I raced my bike for a living. Those crazy old bingo ladies you hear about had nothing on my superstition and obsessive- compulsive pre-race routine.

So, as you read what I'm about to confess, picture me fidgeting in my chair as I seek out additional pieces of wood within my office on which to knock.
I've never really had a really bad mountain-bike crash. Knock on wood.
I started thinking about this while we were assembling this issue, because in it, we have a story about a group of blind mountain bikers. My Trail is about a one-armed rider who thrives on North Shore trails. Seven Reasons Why features Darren Butler, who bounced back after a heel-shattering crash. Eric Porter, who plays a starring role in our River Recon feature, had to ride in pain after separating his shoulder—pictured above—on the trip's first day. Even Brian Lopes, physically fit and skilled on the bike as he is, at age 40 has faced a serious struggle in his quest to add another category of World Cup victories to his impressive résumé.

The hopeful ideal of continuing on despite any form of adversity could well be the central theme of this issue. But back at Bike headquarters, as we began to assemble the pieces of this issue, our world was thrown into disarray when our managing editor became inexplicably ill after returning from a work trip. Diseases with names like Dengue fever and Japanese encephalitis were tossed about.

Brice was confined to his bed for about a week, and that hopeful ideal of riding forever, no matter what, suddenly became an inner discussion on the fragile nature of human life. I began to take inventory of my own various little crashes and near-misses. There was a high-speed crash on wet asphalt in a race in the U.K. once: I landed so hard on my left hip that I couldn't
move my legs for a few seconds and thought I was paralyzed. Riding motorcycles one time, I tried to match the pace of a pro and ended up tagging a big tree. After ensuring that my hands and toes still worked, I realized that I couldn't see anything. "That's it," I thought. "I'm blind." It turned out that my goggles had moved out of position and their foam was holding my eyelids shut.

Then I remembered that one time when I crashed the plane I was piloting, and decided to stop worrying about whether or not a big crash is in my future. As my mom used to say, "God takes care of kids and fools." And my office is full of wood.