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Snowboard Iskola

Sabato and an epic injury; name a more iconic duo. I’ll wait.


We all have our ways of getting through the offseason. For me, it was usually running, road biking, and weight lifting. More recently, the Onewheel XR became the Suboxone® to tide me over from my snowboard addiction in the summer. So, this is where you’re thinking it was the Onewheel that broke me off? It would be natural to assume so, everyone else thought I’d eaten it standing sideways. Nope!


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The Honeymoon Begins

Dave and Adam have encouraged me to get into mountain biking for about as long as I’ve known them. I’d resist, mainly due to the cost of entry and my lack of knowledge about mountain bike gear. There’s a lot to decide when getting a bike, and I didn’t know where to start, so I just put it off every summer.

That all changed during the last winter though. I could no longer deny that mountain biking was a natural choice for me. It would be an aggressive workout, it would get me outdoors, it would give me a reason to explore Michigan, and it would inject some of the adrenaline that I’ve gotten used to chasing since I’d gotten into snow sports.

It was time to bite the bullet, do my homework, and pony up the cash for a decent whip to ride single track.

After talking things over with a few friends, I compared options, specs, and the thought about the riding that I expected to do. I chose the Kona Honzo DL. The Honzo DL is a beefy hardtail with a solid spec package for a rider like me, and it came with a dropper. Droppers are cool.

It’s perfect for the trails I’d be riding in mid-Michigan, and it’s big enough to handle a bigger guy like me, without sacrificing maneuverability. I noticed that the brakes are pretty touchy though, I laughed once as I almost went over the bars on a street ride. I wasn’t used to such responsive brakes, they exposed my trash hand/brake placement!  In hindsight, this was a warning, and a bit of foreshadowing…


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Honzo DL and I became fast friends. I found out that my house is 20 minutes to a handful of different mountain bike parks in my area. I’m used to having to drive 1-4 hours for my snowboard fix, so I got stoked each time I discovered a new trail near me on All Trails or some other app.

I began getting out a couple times a week once the spring rains dried up. It was so great to rotate and explore the different places around. I noticed improvement from each ride to the next. Sometimes the progression was my fitness. I’d complete a loop without a break, then it became two loops, and so on. Other times it was my confidence improving as I became more familiar with the trails I rode. My loop times decreased and my average speed increased through the trails. I began watching mountain bike youtubers, started following mountain bike Instagram accounts…you know how all that goes.


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The Honeymoon is Over

You may have noticed that I said my confidence increased, but I didn’t say that my bike handling skill increased. In hindsight, I would have been better served watching how-to videos, tips and tricks videos, or even finding an instructor and getting lessons in person. But nope. Instead, I filled my mind with stoke content, first person clips of mountain bikers ripping through a trail, sending jumps, and leaning hard into each banked turn. A part of me wonders if this subconsciously changed my approach, dialing back the caution and dialing up the send. Maybe, maybe not. I suppose that it doesn’t matter at this point.

I hit the trail for the last time on the second day of summer. It was a pleasant Saturday afternoon and the trailhead lot was empty. It was a good day! About halfway through the first loop, I noticed that I was comfortable with a lot more speed than normal. I remember thinking about how pleased I felt with myself for getting better! Alas, this was not the case, because about a quarter mile later I’d be picking myself up off the dirt, dizzy from the searing pain in my limp arm.

The long story short is that I took a very small drop at speed and must’ve felt a little sketched by the downward travel in my fork.  In response, I grip braked.

My front brake.

Only my front brake.

Yeah, don’t do that. Don’t do any of it.

The result: Dislocated shoulder. Massive and complete rotator cuff tear. Supraspinatus, infraspinatus, and subscapularis all torn off the bone and retracted. Wrecked labrum. Bicep, shot. I no longer had a functional arm, and it was my dominant arm.

Summer was over, 2 days after it began.


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Repair and Rebuild

Following a month of tests and visits, and carrying around an arm that wouldn’t move, I underwent extensive surgery in August to put my shoulder back together. A few hours, and 9 bone anchors later, I was sent home with a good prognosis but a long-timelined road to recovery. The surgeon says that I should be good to be back on snow by January, however, he cautioned that this isn’t the winter to try for that tamedog or frontside board on a rail…and it is definitely not handplant season.

But I will ride!

As of today, I’m about 9 weeks out from surgery and my wins include the following: I can pick up a coffee cup, reach up for an empty dish, tie my hair back (this was huge), and I can use both arms to pull my pants up. Strength training starts in about 3-4 weeks. In January I should be ‘normal’ to outsiders, and by next August I should be 100%.


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I got lucky.

An injury as extensive as mine could have ended differently. I hike a lot these days, and I’ve hiked the spot where this happened. The fall itself could have been even more consequential had I landed a foot in a different direction.

Honzo DL and I aren’t quitting each other though, I’m getting back in the saddle next spring. However, I respect her and the track much more today than I did in June, and so I plan to get back to basics and focus on the fundamental skills that I ignored the first time around.

I had a similar come to Jesus moment with snowboarding, when I broke my back because my stoke was greater than my skill. You’d think I would have taken that lesson to mountain biking, but they say that familiarity breeds contempt. How hard can it be to ride a bike, right?

My takeaway? Respect action sports. Take the time to learn the fundamentals before you take the time to hype yourself up on tricks that you’re not ready for yet.  Don’t take yourself out of the game before it really begins.

I’ll see you in January 🤘


The post When the stoke is greater than the skill appeared first on agnarchy.com.