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  1. #1
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    "I am going to drown on a mountain bike ride."

    I consider myself a pretty smart guy. I've got some book smarts -- an engineering degree from one of the world's top engineering schools. I've got some real world smarts -- having built a 20+ year business career around leading high performing teams.

    Those thoughts rushed through my head right before I realized that a stupid decision made last Sunday almost cost me my life.

    "I can't believe someone as smart as me is going to die of drowning on a goddam mountain bike ride."

    That's what I said, OUT LOUD, while approaching an ominous set of rapids in what used to be a routine creek crossing on one of my favorite bike trails. I was on my back, floating in that position that whitewater rafting guides tell you to assume if you get tossed from the boat in a rapid. Face up, feet downstream, ready to push off any rocks or debris. My right hand had a tenuous grip on my 3 week old, $4500 Yeti ASR-5 as it floated downstream of me. I had no idea what was downstream but I could hear the roar of rapids and see thick mist coming from the drop ahead of me.

    I couldn't stand up. The stream bed, which was now a Class IV rapid, is solid rock and my Sidi shoes had no hope of gaining traction while the water pushed me down and pulled my bike. It was only waist to chest deep but it was plenty deep enough to prevent me from being able to stand or get to a bank. I was surprisingly calm. I was more shocked at how stupid a decision I had made 10 seconds earlier when I decided to try to ride over the stream that no longer remotely resembled a stream.

    Oh, and I was alone, too.

    Finally, I managed to find a rock big enough to brace against and stopped my approach to what was either a big rapid or a huge log/debris jam on the other side of the drop. With my momentum stopped, I managed to crawl/swim/claw my way to the bank. In waist deep water, I pulled myself and my bike through the mud and thorn bushes as thick as I had ever seen. Panting, soaking wet, and bleeding from dozens of thorn cuts on my legs, I hunched over my bike and told myself that I almost ended up on the evening news, the Darwin Awards, and probably a new internet meme for being, at that moment, the Dumbest Human on the Planet.

    Accepting my new role with gusto, I tossed my bike back in the river, forded across at a slower moving spot, and rode for another 90 minutes.

  2. #2
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    Never underestimate the power, and danger, of moving water.

    Just take a look at the Grand Canyon!

    Glad you made it out OK...

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  3. #3
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    8in of water is enough to move a 4000# car, a guy on a mnt bike is easy peasy

  4. #4
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    sounds like one hell of an adventure good thing it all worked out for the better, it seems your ability to stay cool calm and think rationally is what helped you in that situation glad you were able to continue your ride and come here to share the story as it is a good reminder of how easily a good day could turn bad in certain situations.make sure to give that yeti a good grease job haha.
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  5. #5
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    Glad you made it.
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  6. #6
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    I work with engineers and the only surprise is that you only made one mistake and you remained calm usually engineers constantly made mistakes and blame others and they usually panic at the slightest issue. You are a great exception to the rule and you ride a mtb so you are a bit smarter than most engineers. If only more engineers would make fatal mistakes, with less engineers the world would be a much better and well organized place. In my trade we have a saying- Yesterday I couldnt spell engineer today I is one!!
    Your never too old to have a happy childhood!

  7. #7
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    Wow what a story. While I'm also glad you're okay, I believe at some point you should post a pic of the trail &downstream where you went in. C'mon Sir, we need visuals with this one.

  8. #8
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    At least you still have your $4,500 Yeti with you. Don't worry, your secret's safe with us.

  9. #9
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    You're not alone, many years ago durng an exteemely wet summer my 2 riding buddies and myself decided to cross a river where the bridge had been washed out. Not the brightest decision made by any of us at any time. I went first and the water was deep than we thought it was just under my chin and the bottom was moving twice as fast as the top, so it washed my feet out from under me. I managed to keep my balance and hoped my way to the bank, my buddy was not so lucky, he was washed away and started to freak out, I jumped in and got to him grad him by his camelbac and told him to relaxe, dragged himm and his bike back to shore. Now the last guy is standing on the other side still now really pondering what to do since he just witnessed what just happened. Best part is he was the shortest of us and the water was over his head, so in I go again grab his bike and he swam across. Not has harrowing as your brush with water but still it was an adventure that could have turned out worse from just plain stupidity.
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  10. #10
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    The funniest part of this is that nobody has chastised you for not letting go of the bike, and just saving yourself. We all understand.

  11. #11
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    i had a visual reading the whole thing. glad you made it out safe. thats crazy sheeet.

  12. #12
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    As a boater, this is where I started getting scared:
    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    I had no idea what was downstream but I could hear the roar of rapids and see thick mist coming from the drop ahead of me.
    Even though I knew the outcome (apparently you got back to let us know what happened), it was still a riveting read and glad you survived to tell the tale!
    My heart rate is slowly dropping back down to normal.

    Kayakers know to never let go of their paddle if they swim, and you knew not to let go of your bike! Good job.

  13. #13
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    Wait, you ended up riding off trail?!

    Seriously though, glad you were able to remain calm and get yourself out of a very sticky situation. Also glad you were willing to share and provide a reminder for all of how trail conditions can change due to weather and that needs to be considered. With me being in Colorado, I was thinking how cold that water would have been through snow melt, if I would have been in a similar predicament; adding to the complexity of the situation. Have fun everyone, but be safe out there to enjoy future riding days.

  14. #14
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    Is it wrong I was more concerned for the bike? j/k. Crazy story.

  15. #15
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    This picture doesn't do the stream/river justice, as it's just the crossing point, but it does further accentuate how dumb I was. The stream was obviously flowing fast and hard enough for me to stop and take a picture. You'd think SOMETHING would click in my head that this isn't a good idea.



    Looking back on the whole incident, I was probably not in as much danger as I thought. The biggest risk was a foot entrapment or hidden hydraulic. But the fact that I knowingly put myself in that situation is disappointing. Especially given that I've done my share of whitewater kayaking and know to respect a river in ANY condition, let alone flood stage.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    my Sidi shoes had no hope of gaining traction
    Another reason to ride flats and wear five tens.
    Chasing bears through the woods drunk with a dull hatchet is strongly not advised

  17. #17
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    Nice read sir! Glad you made it out of that alive.

    Oh, and I'm sure people HAVE drowned in far more stable water conditions / lighter conditions than you found yourself in.

  18. #18
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    Glad you are here with us alive and well...Nothing wrong with saving the bike if you can save yourself as well...Heck, I think most of us would have tried to hang on the bike.
    I don't use Strava. Don't need an application to tell me I am slow because I already know.

  19. #19
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    Thanks to your story, Yeti will now be marketing their bikes as emergency personal floatation devices. Epic story, glad you made it back to tell us

  20. #20
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    A proper engineer would have immediately disassembled his bike and fastened himself a makeshift raft using the seat post/saddle as a paddle.

  21. #21
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    I could have got hit by a train a couple days ago. I heard the horn, never really thought about what I was doing, rode over the train tracks that I thought were never used anymore ... WRONG! the train was about 40 feet from me to my right.

  22. #22
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    So what is the best course of action to take if you come to an unexpected water crossing, either alone or in a group? Is there a good way to gauge the strength of the current without getting in? Is it best to avoid the crossing altogether and go back the way you came, even if you'll be riding back in the dark? If you do cross and end up going downstream is it best to keep a hold of your bike or let it go?

    Does a fat bike float better?

  23. #23
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    Great read.

  24. #24
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    Saw a buddy ride full speed into what looked like 6 inches of water, it was actually 10 feet deep...he completely submerged in front of us.

    His nickname is the Sub.
    It wasn't me

  25. #25
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    I never cared for the swimming leg of the xterra either KevinGT! All kidding aside, I used to jump my BMX bike off of a platform into an olympic sized pool. I almost drowned trying to retrieve my bike from the deep end many times. I have a prestigious degree also. Maybe the over-education of our minds drives us to stupidity.

  26. #26
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    Quote Originally Posted by wv_bob View Post
    Another reason to ride flats and wear five tens.
    Dang beat me to it!


    There is a phrase that comes to mind, "Book smart, street stupid."

    Glad it worked out for you. Good read by the way.

  27. #27
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    a friedn of mine did that back in 2004, except he was on a snowmobile and the drop was a 75 foot waterfall. RIP Mark Frye

  28. #28
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    wow, that was a good read and glad to hear you're here to tell the story....and have a nice clean bike...

  29. #29
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    "I am going to drown on a mountain bike ride."

    Did you tell your significant other?
    Riding slowly since 1977.

  30. #30
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    Great story with a great ending. Taking a picture of the stream first was something else though, that's real genius!

  31. #31
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    I walk into it whether driving or riding to evaluate the situation. If it's too deep to walk it's too deep to ride.
    agmtb

  32. #32
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossluzz View Post
    So what is the best course of action to take if you come to an unexpected water crossing, either alone or in a group? Is there a good way to gauge the strength of the current without getting in? Is it best to avoid the crossing altogether and go back the way you came, even if you'll be riding back in the dark? If you do cross and end up going downstream is it best to keep a hold of your bike or let it go? Does a fat bike float better?
    You can get a long stick (the length of a hiking pole or longer) and poke the bottom of the creek/river in front of you as you go, slowly, to check water depth & current and to see if there are unexpected holes/rocks/dropoffs. If the current isn't too strong and it isn't too deep, you're good. If you have really fat tires, you've got a great flotation device.

    Also, to the OP, glad your camera (or at least your memory card) survived the unexpected dip!

  33. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    This picture doesn't do the stream/river justice, as it's just the crossing point, but it does further accentuate how dumb I was. The stream was obviously flowing fast and hard enough for me to stop and take a picture. You'd think SOMETHING would click in my head that this isn't a good idea.



    Looking back on the whole incident, I was probably not in as much danger as I thought. The biggest risk was a foot entrapment or hidden hydraulic. But the fact that I knowingly put myself in that situation is disappointing. Especially given that I've done my share of whitewater kayaking and know to respect a river in ANY condition, let alone flood stage.
    Well, you probably had have some better expectations from and a mistaken sense of invincibility on a $4,500 bike.

  34. #34
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    This is not directed at the OP, who I'm glad is OK, but one should not mistake educated for smart.

  35. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gundam168 View Post
    Well, you probably had have some better expectations from and a mistaken sense of invincibility on a $4,500 bike.
    Yes and if it was the 29er it would have just rolled right over this stream! J/k of course. Glad you are ok! I love the Yeti SB-95 I rented in NC.

  36. #36
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    kudos to you for keeping your head.
    had a similar situation in a kayak once, on a flooded river that exceeded my abilities at the time. ended up upside down, underwater, pinned against the trunk of a submerged tree. I didn't say it out loud (because i was underwater) but i had a very clear moment sitting there with the 35 degree water rushing past my ears, thinking, "what a stupid way to die."
    clawed my way back to the surface and tried to get the boat out of the water. (like a true genius, i had not yet learned to roll, and thus could not re-enter the boat without the assistance of land) the banks of the ohio were actually underwater at that point, and the river was up to the flood wall - a vertical wall of slick mud. floating chest-deep in the water, i could neither reach the top of the wall nor touch the riverbed with my toes. swam downstream for 5 minutes before i found a place i could drag myself and my boat out. i was already counting down in my head when i was going to release the boat and just try to get me out of the water. by the time i found a place, i was numb up to my knees and elbows and had less than a minute to go before i abandoned the boat.

  37. #37
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    Socks grip slippery rocks really well. I take off my shoes (even when hiking) for slippery rock stream crossings. Although, enough water flow will knock you on your butt regardless.

    Glad you and your bike survived. Makes for a great "one time I..." story!

  38. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by LaXCarp View Post
    This is not directed at the OP, who I'm glad is OK, but one should not mistake educated for smart.
    Kind-of like a guy I new in High School who, after obtaining a degree in aeronautical engineering (literally rocket science) was driving down the road and spilled candy on the passenger floor board. While trying to drive and get the candy, he went off the road on a sharp corner and hit a tree about 10 feet off the ground which sent his car cartwheeling through the woods. People like this tend to have dumb luck as he should have died but wound up with both femurs broken, a broken pelvis, broken ribs and some internal injuries.
    The secret to mountain biking is pretty simple. The slower you go the more likely it is youíll crash.
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  39. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by CDMC View Post
    Did you tell your significant other?
    I'm with this guy. None of us have bashed you for you holding onto the bike...unless this is actually a good move to save yourself(?). Would it give you a better chance of snagging onto something?

    Anyways hopefully your wife kicked your ass. Glad you got to finish that ride!

  40. #40
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shmoo View Post
    I'm with this guy. None of us have bashed you for you holding onto the bike...unless this is actually a good move to save yourself(?). Would it give you a better chance of snagging onto something?

    Anyways hopefully your wife kicked your ass. Glad you got to finish that ride!
    I told her and she was understandably pissed. It was one of those hands-on-hips "what the hell were you thinking" discussions.

    I shrugged and said "Look...it's done nothing but rain all year. That trail is the only trail that's open when it's wet and the only good riding on that trail is on THE OTHER SIDE of that stream."

    Apparently, that was the exact wrong answer.

  41. #41
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    Quote Originally Posted by rossluzz View Post
    So what is the best course of action to take if you come to an unexpected water crossing, either alone or in a group? Is there a good way to gauge the strength of the current without getting in? Is it best to avoid the crossing altogether and go back the way you came, even if you'll be riding back in the dark? If you do cross and end up going downstream is it best to keep a hold of your bike or let it go?

    Does a fat bike float better?
    Below BB/Hub level ride it. Below knee level walk it.

  42. #42
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    I'm with the OP - in 20/20 hindsight you call it stupid, but in the moment you rationalized it. We all do that. Glad you could tell us about it.

    One of our newb friends got swept off a borrowed bike in a stream once. Rather than jumping in to help, we told him to make sure he didn't let go of the bike. It all worked out, but it took about 10 minutes to get all the water out of the frame.

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  43. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by wv_bob View Post
    Another reason to ride flats and wear five tens.
    This^
    just picked up a pair of Danny Macaskill five tens and they stick to the platforms however you can jump off whenever. Glad your ok OP.

  44. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    I told her and she was understandably pissed. It was one of those hands-on-hips "what the hell were you thinking" discussions.

    I shrugged and said "Look...it's done nothing but rain all year. That trail is the only trail that's open when it's wet and the only good riding on that trail is on THE OTHER SIDE of that stream."

    Apparently, that was the exact wrong answer.
    I'm wondering what her reaction will be if you lost the $4,500 bike.

  45. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by wv_bob View Post
    Another reason to ride flats and wear five tens.
    I second this.

    Glad you and your bike made it out alright!

  46. #46
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    Quote Originally Posted by KevinGT View Post
    This picture doesn't do the stream/river justice, as it's just the crossing point, but it does further accentuate how dumb I was. The stream was obviously flowing fast and hard enough for me to stop and take a picture. You'd think SOMETHING would click in my head that this isn't a good idea.



    Looking back on the whole incident, I was probably not in as much danger as I thought. The biggest risk was a foot entrapment or hidden hydraulic. But the fact that I knowingly put myself in that situation is disappointing. Especially given that I've done my share of whitewater kayaking and know to respect a river in ANY condition, let alone flood stage.

    Your picture looks like the stream crossing in the cold canyon preserve. Years ago, I got to the crossing at the end of a fierce winter storm and faced 30 ft of roaring brown water where we usually stepped across the creek. I, of course, turned back and immediately met some other folks that stood with me and watched the brown torrent agreeing that crossing was suicide.

    Suddenly, two young trail runners ran to the stream on the other side and stopped in awe at the wild storm runoff. We on the north side chortled as the runners turned around and headed back up the trail. They, as opposed to us, had chosen to run the loop in the wrong direction and had to run miles back the way they came to get to their car.

    But wait! They came running back around the corner at full speed ahead. The guy, then the women, reached the edge of the torrent and leaped 10 ft to a rock in the whitewater, another 10 feet to a second rock, and 8 feet to our shore and ran up the bank and out of site without a howdydoo!

    I was IMPRESSED!

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    Now if you knew how to do trials you could have done the exact same thing on your bike, rear tire hop to first rock then second rock then to shore, now who wold have been impressed then
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  48. #48
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    Quote Originally Posted by telemike View Post
    Your picture looks like the stream crossing in the cold canyon preserve. Years ago, I got to the crossing at the end of a fierce winter storm and faced 30 ft of roaring brown water where we usually stepped across the creek. I, of course, turned back and immediately met some other folks that stood with me and watched the brown torrent agreeing that crossing was suicide.

    Suddenly, two young trail runners ran to the stream on the other side and stopped in awe at the wild storm runoff. We on the north side chortled as the runners turned around and headed back up the trail. They, as opposed to us, had chosen to run the loop in the wrong direction and had to run miles back the way they came to get to their car.

    But wait! They came running back around the corner at full speed ahead. The guy, then the women, reached the edge of the torrent and leaped 10 ft to a rock in the whitewater, another 10 feet to a second rock, and 8 feet to our shore and ran up the bank and out of site without a howdydoo!

    I was IMPRESSED!
    Wipeout veterans. Good night and big balls.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by moofish View Post
    I work with engineers and the only surprise is that you only made one mistake and you remained calm usually engineers constantly made mistakes and blame others and they usually panic at the slightest issue. You are a great exception to the rule and you ride a mtb so you are a bit smarter than most engineers. If only more engineers would make fatal mistakes, with less engineers the world would be a much better and well organized place. In my trade we have a saying- Yesterday I couldnt spell engineer today I is one!!
    What are you, an architect?

  50. #50
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    Sounds like the trail knocked you down a peg, lol.

    It would've been one badass way to die though.
    "Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads." -Back to the Future

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