Saturday, August 4, 2012

Precaution is more fun than abstinence.

When I signed up for a health insurance policy a couple of years ago, the questionnaire asked me if I engaged in any high risk activities. Among the list of examples provided was mountain biking. I remember feeling that this was a rather surprising activity to appear on the list. For one, I consider mountain biking, on balance, to be good for my health rather than bad. For two (can I say that?), I consider mountain biking to be far safer than other forms of recreation, such as...bicycle commuting in the city (which, incidentally, was not on the list).

I acknowledge that biking carries with it some risk. How much risk, depends on the rider and the environment. Some elements of risk are within the riders control; others are not. In any case, because precaution is more fun than abstinence, we indulge in the sweet joy of cycling, despite the risks. Wear a helmet and know your limits...and enjoy.

But, every so often (probably more often than I care to acknowledge), I am reminded that mountain biking isn't entirely free of risk. Accidents happen; even to the most experienced and skilled cyclists. Somehow, miraculously, even the most frightening accidents somehow turn out to be manageable. Stitches, slings, surgery, and the distance of time allow us to forget the panic and danger that we faced. We carry on, with our scars as our badges of honour and a testament to our resilience.

I hope this will be the case for a friend of mine, Devin, who took a spill this weekend. After some nervous moments on the mountain and in the hospital, it appears that the only permanent damage was a decimated helmet and broken handlebar. In some sense he was unlucky; a bit too much speed and an unexpected obstacle. In another sense he was lucky; it could have been worse.
I don't think that giving up cycling is a reasonable response to the potential dangers inherent in the sport. Instead, taking precautions that mitigate damage seems a more reasonable (or at least enjoyable) approach. A helmet should definitely be at the top of that list, as Devin demonstrated this weekend. I wish him a speedy recovery and hope he can get back to the joy of cycling very soon.


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