My heart was an out-of-control jackhammer trying to
pummel an opening through my chest cavity.
I wasn’t being held at gunpoint by an escaped Yemen
convict who’d been chewing khat and looking to take down
an aging dirty bike editor.
I hadn’t suffered a blown tire on the 405, and my truck
wasn’t sliding like Jay Springsteen toward a fuel-hauling
semi driven by a texting teenager.
I wasn’t sitting in a window seat on a 767 watching
flames shoot out of an engine and feeling the aircraft spiral
out of control.
I was looking at a stupid jump.
All the lubrication in my throat vanished and was replaced with a raspy, thorny, sandpaper-like texture.
My hands were greasy, almost like I’d been soaking them
in tar-tainted Bel-Ray.
Every muscle was clenched, my arms locked and fibrous,
my legs rigid like knotted pepper trees.
Sweat flowed out of my armpits, a faucet no doubt
cranked open by fear.
By Tom Webb
“ I hadn’t suffered a blown tire on the
405, and my truck wasn’t sliding like Jay
Springsteen toward a fuel-hauling semi
driven by a texting teenager.”
“We easily cleared it, though my form
was similar to Evel Knievel’s—nose high,
body rigid, eyeballs the size of Big Macs”
My buddy, Brian, cleared the gap double on our first lap
around the circuit.
It looked to me like he was leaping the Grand Canyon.
I rolled it, pulled off the track and sized it up from the
side. Both the takeoff jump and the landing triangle were
identically sized—and I hate that. The gap seemed substantial, though the approach was long, so speed would
not be an issue.
The issue was me. I needed to man up—find a vein with
some testosterone in it. Quit being a chick and floor it.
The next rider to go by was, in fact, a girl—her waist
the size of my thigh, her mass about a third of me. She
probably weighed less than my boots. She was KX250F-
mounted, hit the lead jump with speed, and dropped the
nose down as she nailed the landing like a seasoned…
I groaned and jumped on the track to catch up with Brian
and chew on his rear fender. He could knock my teeth into
whalebone shards with roost and I would not relinquish my
grip. I needed Brian to tow me off.
We easily cleared it, though my form was similar to Evel
Knievel’s—nose high, body rigid, eyeballs the size of Big
Here I was, an off-roader at heart and always a closet
moto head, jumping third-gear airspace at an age when my
dad had been retired.
I stuck with Brian. He’s a big guy and can actually block
wind, making drafting quite palatable when we’re mountain
biking. He navigated the whoops, the same momentous
double, a third-gear plateau, a tight right-hander, and then
up a step-up that I had never considered jumping.
The jerk floated it like a linebacker-sized Chad Reed. I
nearly blew chunks and pulled to the side, lightheaded.
Brother Mike sauntered up. “Hmm, Brian just did that
third-gear-tapped step-up. How hosed are you? Better
belly up, Wolf, ’cause life won’t be worth living if you don’t
give it a try.”
I felt like Evel at Vegas—blood cold, lips pasty, hands like
baseball mitts, no air funneling to my lungs. I tried to roll
the turn at speed and then follow brother Mike off this sub-
stantial leap. He easily downsided it. I nonchalantly gorked
into the top, bottomed the suspension like I’d slammed into
a building and nosedived down the landing edge.
Clearly unorthodox, oddly lacking style, but in one piece.
Done. Truck. Street clothes. Searching for any tranquilizer in my glove box. Forced to drink water and fake a smile.
We were coming back to this track in two days.
Hopefully, my fear of flying would vacate.
Close to panic. That’s moto. q