Australian Mountain Bike - - Speakers’ Corner - WORDS: BRUCE RANSLEY PHOTO: STOCK

A few years ago I suc­cumbed to temp­ta­tion and got Lasik eye surgery. At first I was rapt, look­ing for­ward to head­ing into the bush with­out the face fur­ni­ture or con­tact lenses. My first few rides made me a lit­tle un­com­fort­able. I was find­ing my new vi­sion wasn’t serv­ing me like I’d hoped, but be­cause I’d been told that the old eye­balls would take a while to set­tle down af­ter the surgery I wasn’t too fussed. I’d soon get used to it. The prob­lem was that it had sud­denly be­come tricky to dis­tin­guish out­lines be­tween light and dark shapes. I couldn’t re­li­ably tell if some­thing was a tree root or just a shadow. A rock or merely an odd-coloured patch of dirt. And rid­ing from bright light into mot­tled shad­ows gave me the yips too. I was flinch­ing, mostly un­nec­es­sar­ily, but I was cer­tainly rid­ing slower than I usu­ally would. The prob­lem didn’t go away. Thanks to the surgery it had be­come dan­ger­ous for me to ride at the speed I was used to, even on my fa­mil­iar tracks. I be­gan to de­velop a kind of back­ground anx­i­ety, never re­ally cer­tain whether my speed, bal­ance or at­ti­tude was right for the ap­proach­ing ter­rain. I was per­ma­nently brac­ing for im­pact. As frus­trated as I was I kept rid­ing be­cause I love it so much – moun­tain bik­ing was pretty much my only hobby at that time. Sure, I’d be­come a bit slower but that didn’t mat­ter too much be­cause I was just a week­end war­rior and mostly rode alone any­way. And I just didn’t want to let it beat me. Un­til it did. Af­ter a ter­rific ride at my lo­cal track in the Mee­han Range just out­side of Ho­bart, I was cruis­ing home down an easy four-wheel-drive track that led to the road home. The tough bit of the ride was over. It was a gen­tle in­cline and I guess I was do­ing 35 kays or so when I steered for a tiny washout on the side of the trail to get a fi­nal bit of air be­fore the bor­ing pedal home on the tar­mac. It wasn’t a washout af­ter all, but a jump that’d clearly been built by some lo­cal kids. A short, sharp mound of clay to be tack­led at a way slower speed than what I was do­ing. Clue­less, I hit the thing with com­pletely the wrong at­ti­tude, and my dual-sus­pen­sion Ge­nius 20 sent me into space, and then into the far edge of the hole from which the jump had been ex­ca­vated. The re­sult of the ex­tremely sud­den stop was a badly dis­lo­cated shoul­der and a rib bro­ken in two places (front and back) plus a whole lot of bark off my back. The skin grew back, but de­spite a heap of physio my right-hand side has never been the same. The ex­pe­ri­ence gave me a case of the per­ma­nent willies, and I haven’t rid­den since. So if you’re into moun­tain bikes (or dirt bikes or skate­board­ing or trail run­ning) think hard be­fore you com­mit to laser eye surgery. For nor­mal folk with nor­mal hob­bies Lasik might be just fine, but if you need quick eye­balls like we do you might re­gret it.

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