5 Reasons I’m Grateful I Sustained An MTB Injury

Mountain bike injuries can be devastating, both physically and mentally. Yet, there often is a bright side.
This is the wooden feature I fell off, injuring myself.

I injured myself riding last New Year’s Eve when I did something I wasn’t mentally committed to doing.  The result was a nasty fall off a wooden feature. To make matters worse, I stretched out my arms instead of tucking and rolling. My right arm and shoulder hit the ground with my full body weight on them, and I partially tore and severely strained the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.

My injury was minor compared to the injuries Trent and many other riders have sustained. However, I have never been hurt that bad in my life. Thankfully, I did not need surgery, but my recovery took time and patience. I could barely move my arm for two weeks, and I could not ride my bike for over a month.

I realize in hindsight that I needed to experience the injury in order to become a better rider and a better person. Here are five reasons why I am grateful I was injured.

It helped me better understand and appreciate the inherent risks of mountain biking

I really didn’t appreciate the risks of riding technical sections like this one before my injury.

I’m not careless when it comes to riding, but I was cavalier about the dangers of the sport. I knew the risks, but I didn’t believe I would get injured because I had avoided serious injury in the past. The moment I injured myself that mindset evaporated. Now, I appreciate the risks associated with mountain biking. I’m not overly cautious, but I am grateful for every ride I complete without incident.

It forced me to go back to the basics of riding

Riding wide, smooth trails like this one allowed me to focus on my technique.

When I started riding again, I rode doubletrack trails or beginner singletrack trails because more advanced, technical trails were too painful on my injured shoulder. I focused more on my riding technique during this time because I didn’t have to focus as much on the trail itself. I worked on my riding position, cornering, and braking. Focusing on the basics paid dividends when I was able to ride more advanced trails. Had I not been injured, I would have never voluntarily spent that much time working on those fundamental skills.

I appreciate my successes more and criticize my failures less

I was so stoked the first time I rode over a wooden feature like this one after my injury.

I celebrated every milestone, no matter how small, that I accomplished as I worked my way through the recovery process. I congratulated myself every time I cleared a minor feature or successfully rode a more technical trail. Instead of getting down on myself for what I couldn’t do, I praised myself for everything I was able to do, celebrating the progress I made as my recovery advanced. It encouraged me to keep going and keep pushing myself. Having a positive attitude definitely fueled my recovery. Additionally, it has helped me enjoy my rides even more.

It made me think outside the box when it came to my fitness routine

I have worked out in a gym since I was 18, doing conventional weightlifting with some cardio thrown in for good measure. After my injury, I couldn’t do my normal workouts because I couldn’t move my right arm in the same way. I had to start fresh, and find new exercises that wouldn’t aggravate my injury but still provide me with the same benefits. I discovered new exercises involving kettle bells, Bosu balls, and my own body weight. These exercises have increased my fitness level and improved my riding. I would have been far less likely to change up my routine and attained these benefits if not for the injury.

It made me consider my bike set-up and the type of bike I rode

I injured myself while riding a bike with handlebars that were too narrow for me. They made the front end twitchy, and they made me a nervous rider. After my injury, I switched to wider handlebars, which made a difference in the way the bike handled. The front end felt planted, and I had greater leverage in the corners. I became a more confident rider, but something was still missing. The bike was an older XC bike. It was fast, but not very stable. Ultimately, I sold it and bought a trail bike. It’s a little heavier, but it is well suited to the rough, technical trails I enjoy riding. I’m slower in some aspects, but I’m faster at cornering and descending, which make my rides much more fun. I don’t think I would have been so quick to change bikes if I had not been injured.

Injuries aren’t fun but they can bring unexpected benefits

I have a whole new appreciation for riding now that I’ve recovered from my injury.

It took me a while to recover from my injury, and understand how the injury benefitted me as a rider. Now, I appreciate each ride, and I relish every moment I spend on the trails.  I hope I never experience another injury, but I am grateful for the benefits I gained as a result of this one.

For riders who have been injured, how did your injury benefit you as a rider? Please share in the comments section below.