On of my worst MTB moments came out great, but was all about sheer terror when it happened:
Descending a fairly steep fire road in the mid-90's on a fully-rigid '89 Specialized Hard Rock. Fallen tree across the trail right at the bottom of the hill, but plenty of warning. Funny popping noises from the front end during the descent. I slowed from an impressive (rigid bike) speed, popped the front end up to clear a root as I steered around the tree.
The front end came up light...reallylight...then I noticed my front tire rolling smoothly over the ground ahead of me as my forks rose and rose
Gravity helpfully reversed the forks' upward progress just as I thought to pull back hard and loop out like when you over-power a wheelie. Damn gravity. Forks hit and over the bars I went. Came out of the toe clips by reflex. Childhood Tae Kwan Do training and some PE practice saved me from splatting on hard clay trail with mixed rocks and roots. I took the impact on my forearms and shoulder with my head tucked and rolled out, slid a bit and missed being injured when the bike hit me.
As I'd been in the lead, my companions had quite a view of the fiasco, and were amazed that I came through uninjured, save my pride and a few scratches. I was flatly stunned, but so embarrassed it took hours for me to realize how fortunate I'd been.
It turns out the bearings in my front hub had frozen. Popping noises. It's just possible that I installed the safety-catches improperly, such that the torque of the frozen bearings spinning the axle disengaged them. By the bottom of the hill, the only thing holding the front tire to the forks was gravity and force of habit...the walk out sucked, but it wasn't too far. I shudder to think of how it might have ended had I lost the wheel just a bit earlier, during my downhill bomb with 2 riders right behind me
Watching the tire roll over the ground as my forks came up is definitely a moment I'll never forget and really, really hope to never repeat.
Headed out to Fruita, Colorado back in 2007. We had to rent a couple bikes for some people in the group and that put us behind schedule. Ended up stopping at a gas station and getting some pizza roll things. 5 minutes into the high desert ride I was puking on myself. With the following fatigue and weakness I couldn't keep my bike on the single track, slid on and off at a brisk downhill pace and finally cross my fork with a large juniper bush trunk. Over the handlebars and landed flat to my back. Bad way to start my epic Colorado mountain biking adventure.
But after that, I was having just tons of fun, regardless of the blood and empty stomach.
Last year I went riding after a night of drinking (mistake). I was wobbly the entire time and I finally rode of the trail into a small steep ravine. It was a sheer 25-30 foot drop but I managed to grab a sapling on my way down with one hand and my bike with another. Then I patiently, hungoverly, and embarrassingly awaited my rescue from my alcohol-shunning little brother.
GOOD TIMES! If mountain biking didn't have it's horrifically difficult and painful moments. Everyone would do it!
I haven't done a lot of off road yet but on one of my first rides I got about 4 miles down a snowmobile trail, and all was going perfect. Until I came up to a point where someone was putting in a pond. They had been taking all of the debris and spreading it down the trail, almost all of it was large softball size stones. well I figured I'll just walk around the next bend and it will be over. Well you know how you get a good way into something and figure there is no sense in turning around? well two miles later the walk from hell finally ended. I know 2 miles doesn't sound like a lot but do that over rounded stones that shift with ever step. I won't be going down that trail again anytime soon. and too bad because the rest was awesome.
This was back around '08-ish. Going down a trail I try and hit a few times per year (it's 2.5 hours from where I lived at the time-a bit further now),and at this one spot you come out of the woods and cross a field. At the end of the field as you go back into the woods,there's a natural ramp,with the trail beyond a gentle slope downward into a creek crossing. It must have been a bad winter there the previous year,because as I launched and was in mid-air (it probably throws you a good 25ft out and 5-10ft up,due to the sloping downward of the trail),I realised that the trail had been moved to the right,and what was previously a gentle downhill into a creek crossing was now a 6ft drop into jagged rocks of a dry creekbed,LMBO! SO I reached up and grabbed a limb-ripping shoulder muscle from bone-and let the bike go while I hung there a minute. Finished the ride though (painfully so)-I mean,it's a 5 hour round trip drive. I wish I'd have listened to the doc though,and waited 3 months to heal before the next riding...it still bothers me below 45 degrees or so or when I overwork it.
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