How many times have you been mid-stunt and thought to yourself “this is going to end badly”? I asked that question to a group of friends the other day, and they all gave me the same answer. They said “never,” and looked at me with a puzzled expression. So it’s just me then? And come to think of it, that makes a lot of sense. Because most of my mates haven’t spent anywhere near as much time in hospital as me. Or hobbling around the house in pain. Or bleeding from the face. Because unfortunately, I can’t help showing off. And most of the time, I end up paying the price.
My showing off career started at an early age. In fact some of my first memories are of me showing off. One such time is when I would have been about three or four years old. I can remember riding around the garden on my old PW50 as fast as I could. That was a fairly regular thing at the time, it was my favourite pass-time. But on this one occasion, a friend of mine was there, so I thought I would impress them by carrying a bucket round with me, whilst I flew round the garden like a streak of lightening.
And I’m fairly sure they were impressed, right up until I fired myself into a tree at full chat. The bike was fine, but thanks to my not wearing a properly fitting helmet, my face wasn’t. There was no lasting damage, but there was a lot of blood, a few big holes in my cheeks and a couple of milk teeth gone for good. If I had a pound for every time someone told me that’s the price you pay for showing off, I’d have probably had about seven or eight quid.
Wheelie stupid idea
In my teenage years, I was half-decent at wheelie-ing mountain bikes. And I made sure everyone knew it. And when I say half-decent, I really only mean half-decent. I was better than any of the lads at school, but that was probably because they weren’t really interested. Anyway, one day at the park, for some unknown reason, it was decided that I would attempt a wheelie on my mate’s mountain bike, with no front wheel; I think it was something to do with the fact that he was always telling everyone about his quick release wheels. I don’t know.
Whatever the reason it came about, I was obviously onboard. I was never going to take a lot of persuading. So out came the wheel, and off I went. I hadn’t really thought it through, though. It wasn’t like I could keep the wheelie up forever, I’d have to jump off the back or put the front down. I knew that putting the front down would end up in disaster, so I opted to jump off the back. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the front high enough to jump of the back. I tried and tried, but the more I tried, the more speed I picked up. And the more speed I picked up, the lower the front of the bike got.
I knew exactly what was going to happen; and it did. The forks dug in and that was it. Arse over tit is an understatement. I think I managed a perfect triple salchow, with a twist, ending in the pike position. All I was wearing a pair of shorts and trainers at the time, no tee-shirt, no helmet, no fuck all. I finished up with a big egg-shaped lump on my head, all the skin off one arm, a sprained ankle and lots of general cuts and bruises. And EVERYONE laughed at me.
Showing off, for me, doesn’t always involve two wheels (or one wheel). Sometimes, all I need is an audience and my razor sharp wit. One evening, when I was probably about 20, there was a bloke in the pub that I didn’t like the look of. The kind of bloke that obviously goes to the gym, and wants everyone to know about it. What a show-off, I thought, ironically.
He was dressed like a bit of a div, so I decided to tell him. I told him that he looked like he’d been dipped in glue and dragged through an Oxfam shop, which I thought was really funny; but he didn’t. Before I’d finished laughing, and before I’d realised he’d even done it, he’d punched me three or four times and gone back to his pint. As I picked myself up off the floor, I decided not to pursue it; the lad was obviously a lot stronger than me, and probably a lot harder. And I think I had the black eye and the fat lip coming.
Since then, I’ve had plenty more fights. Well I say ‘fights’… it’s usually just me getting beaten up by a stranger after forgetting how to mind my own business. Because come to think of it, out of all the fights I’ve had, I’ve never actually won one.
Eddie the Eagle
In fact it doesn’t seem to matter where in the world I am, if there is an opportunity to show off, I’ll usually take it. Once, on a skiing trip with some friends, I saw a great big jump. Now, I’m not actually a very good skier, but I didn’t let that bother me. I simply had to have a go.
So I did. And as you’d imagine, it didn’t end well. Luckily, there were no broken bones, but I got a lot of strange looks as I skied down to the bar with two bent poles and blood all over my face. As it happens, that trip was the week before Christmas, so I spent the festive period visiting family and seeing friends with half of my face covered in a quite disgusting looking scab. But that’s what happens when you start showing off.
But it was exactly a year ago today that I paid the biggest price for showing off that I think I ever have. Within 30 seconds of dragging the KTM SX-E5 out of my van, I was whizzing round JHS carpark on it. And within 30 seconds of that, I was laying on the floor with a snapped leg, waiting for an ambulance. If only I could have parked the thing up. Dicking about on a kids bike, in a carpark, is never a good idea. And I knew it was a terrible idea. But I did it anyway, and I paid the price. All for the sake of a couple of seconds worth of showing off.
This time there was a bit of lasting damage. My tib’ and fib’ were both snapped, so it was a couple of weeks in hospital for pins and plates, and a couple of months laid up. Absolute nightmare.
I thought I’d learnt my lesson. After snapping my leg I decided I was going to stop showing off, for good. But I realised yesterday that I hadn’t learnt my lesson at all, and that I’d still take any opportunity I could to show off. Because when I saw some photographers at the MX track I was riding round, I instantly went into show-off mode; jumping further and higher over all the jumps, riding faster and looser and getting nearer to the edge. Luckily, I wore myself out and had to stop before I had a big off, because it was only a matter of time.
But although I didn’t end up in A&E I did learn something. I learnt that I must have chronic show-off’s disease. And I think it’s incurable. Because no matter how many legs I break or how many times I humiliate myself, I just keep doing it. I think I need some help.