Editor’s note: This story first appeared in Dirt Rag Issue #8, published in April 1990.
Words and drawings by Mark Tierney
One of the most notorious of mountain biking maneuvers is a feat referred to as the faceplant. This action is one in which a bicycle rider is thrown forward over his or her handlebars, often being the result of over-zealous front brake usage in combination with a steep descent and/or the front wheel striking low-lying stationary obstacles such as roots or other riders lying prone in the path of travel. The term faceplant refers to the face-forward propulsion of the rider and the eventual firm application of said rider’s face to the ground.
Imagine, if you will, dangling head first from a second story window with your hands tied behind your back. That feeling is the same sort of anxiety that causes many a rider to dismount when faced with those root-filled down grades. Visions of catapulting physiognomy first into the rough and the concluding sudden stop are enough to strike fear in the pit of the most trail-ready stomachs.
Because of its mug-rearranging potential, as well as man’s inherent fear of falling, the faceplant has gotten a bum rap. This sublime maneuver is actually one that can be performed with an unadorned kind of grace. When carried out to perfection, we have what is called a “textbook faceplant.”
The textbook faceplant is not something that can be learned, but only executed through the graciousness of chance. It may take ten good plants before you achieve that one good plant that will deserve a solid clap on the back from your riding buddies. By using the three guidelines that follow you will be able to judge whether or not you have successfully performed the elusive “textbook faceplant.”
1) When your front wheel ceases moving (for whatever reason) momentum must carry your person straight over the handlebars. Your head and torso must travel between the bicycle’s hand grips.
2) The face must hit first. (The hands may hit the ground at the same time, but not sooner than the face.) Acceptable areas of facial contact are anywhere forward of the ears, below the hairline or above the chin.
3) Forward momentum must carry your bicycle over your backside, only to strike you in the back of the head, neck or shoulders, further driving your face into the ground.
Relax, don’t worry. Or think about the pain. A textbook faceplant will come when you least expect it. Just hope that there is someone there to witness it. Someone with Band-aids or an needle and thread or an ice cold T-bone steak. Happy planting!
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