[su_row][su_column size="2/3"]I’ve been a little slow posting on this website recently. There are two reasons for that. Firstly, I’ve been on holiday, which is a good thing, even if it didn’t involve mountain bikes.
The second, and main, reason that I have not been on a bicycle for over a month is that I injured my ankle. I’m still not 100% sure what exactly happened. I was on a good run up Torc mountain, full of confidence only a few days after the Munster Enduro Series. I had Strava running and was trying to improve my time on a relatively flat trail. I changed gear in the wrong place and that caused a bit of a wobble. I remember trying to dab my foot to stabilise, and the next thing I know after that is lying flat on my back - luckily on a non-stumpy and mossy bit of forest floor. The ankle felt a bit twingey, but after a minute or two I got back on the bike and we rode for a good hour after that.
It wasn’t till the next morning that I could barely walk on the ankle and realised I’d done some damage. A combination of not wanting to aggravate the injury or do more permanent damage and wanting to be able to walk on the upcoming holiday kept me off for a couple of weeks.
The urge to get back out though was strong, so a few weeks ago I tried to go for a ride. That was a resounding failure. Pedalling was ok, but the fear of having to dab, or worse come off the bike and aggravating my ankle completely wiped my confidence. That in turn sapped all my speed and made me grab the brakes constantly. riding technical trails slowly while holding your brakes generally only leads to one thing, which is exactly what I was desperately trying to avoid. As a result, I ended up walking down most of the steeper and more technical sections - on uneven ground, with a bum ankle. Needless to say this didn’t really improve anything.
Over the next couple of weeks I tried to think of ways to boost my confidence a little and also to help prevent re-injuring myself during the long time it takes for an ankle to return to full strength.
I found two products that I am going to be trying out. One is KT Tape, or kinesiology tape. This is the brightly coloured tape you see athletes wearing on various parts of their bodies at events like the Olympics. Its basically a giant plaster and it does all sorts of things for ligaments and muscles. But of most interest to me is that it is quite an effective support for ligaments and muscles. And far less bulky than something like a race brace or a bandage.
Some online reviews suggested the tape might not stick for very long. However, so far my first application is still working after 4 days.
The second product I found is Five Ten’s brand new Freerider High mountain bike shoe. Coincidentally brand new for 2016. This is a high top version of their extremely popular Freerider flat pedal MTB shoe. I’ve used the Freerider Elements all winter (in the hope that they would be more water resistant...) and loved them. The Stealth rubber soles on them grip my flat pedals like they are glued on. So when I saw that I could get the same shoe but with added ankle protection and support I ordered a pair immediately.
The biggest selling points of the high tops are, of course, Five Ten’s stealth rubber soles and the high sides that offer pedal and stone protection and are also stiff enough to support the ankle to a degree. Exactly how much protection and support I couldn’t find out before purchasing them as,being brand new, there is very little information on these shoes on the Internet yet apart from the sales material.
My spin earlier this week was the first time I tried both the tape and the shoes. And the day after I could still walk on both ankles. A major plus. My confidence, while not 100% restored, was sufficiently appeased that I could ride semi-respectably. The flatter technical trails were not an issue. And if I could forget about potentially bailing, I managed some of the steeper runs just fun. Occasionally something would spook me and self-preservation would kick in causing me to dodge or avoid certain obstacles, but I guess with some repetition I can iron those kinks out and build back up to the level I know I’m capable of.