Tray Ellis: Falling Off the Single Track (Contest)

Tray Ellis: Falling Off the Single Track (Contest)

UPDATE: The winner is…Latifa Morrisette!

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I am so happy to have a chance to talk about the First Response anthology and my contribution to it: Falling Off the Single Track. It feels amazing to be one among such a talented group of authors.

First and foremost, what you should know about me is that I am a fair-weather mountain bike rider. I don’t want it to be too cold, too hot, too buggy (okay, not buggy in the slightest, bugs are awful), muddy, too far away, too early, or too anything else. Which means I only go out a handful of days onto actual trail networks. When I do, I’m the slowest one out there. I huff and puff my way to the top and enjoy the ride down. I try not to fall too many times, although the number of scars I’ve earned pays mute testimony to my failure to stay in the saddle. (You’d think they’d call it a seat, because it is, but there’s a lot of terminology to everything these days, and the seat becomes a saddle.) Even so, I adore my fire engine red inexpensive hardtail, and I like the rare occasion when I can get out riding with my friends.

Recently, I even had the chance to go on a group ride where I was able to demo a very high end, very expensive bike. I was so glad when the ride ended, and I turned that bike in! As nice as it was, it made me nervous to be riding around on something that expensive. What if I’d damaged it? I’ve owned cars that were less expensive than that bike.

The snazzy bike really underscored how equipment and gear dependent this sport can be. There are special helmets, gloves, saddles, shoes, water backpack systems, pants, shirts, and more. The technical aspects of the bikes are enough to fill a person’s head, and then some. The deeper your pockets, the more you can afford. But I think what that group ride really brought home to me was that although those things are all nice and helpful, unless you’re out there competing, that to have a fun day all you really need are the basics.

When I remember the good times about a ride on the trails, I don’t remember the gear. I remember how lovely it was to go from warm sunshine into the deep cool of shade, and the glorious feeling of taking a roller coaster run down embankments designed to give a thrill. I couldn’t tell you what I was wearing or what fabulous space-age polymer made up my water bottle.

So all those elements became the genesis of my story. I know how hard it is to get someone to go on a ride, and how often I’ve headed out on my own. I know how fun a group ride can be, and how solemn it is to pass a marked spot where someone had an accident and didn’t make it out. That last one is luckily quite rare, but people can get hurt. Most interactions on the trail systems tend to be head nods (bikers are very focused), so I wanted to play with that interaction. What would it take to actually get two bikers together? To make them have some serious chemistry between them?

Most of all, when you’re writing a story, you can write about all the mud, rocks, and mosquitoes but you don’t really have to deal with them. Your characters do. Much nicer that way. At least, for the author it is.

Here’s an excerpt from my story, “Falling Off the Single Track”, which is part of the First Response anthology…

Excerpt from “Falling Off the Single Track”

Falling head-over-handlebars wasn’t great for a single-girl weekend warrior, but falling head-over-heels with her mountain biker rescuer put romance on the right track…

Everything happened in a blur. Her left shin and shoulder banged something, and her opposite ankle banged something else, and from nowhere a stick jumped in to tangle up her spokes. Dust flew everywhere.

The thump of the landing stunned her so that she laid there breathless, unable to gasp in any air. She could see a glimpse of blue sky through the trees as she waited for the pain to subside and her ability to breathe to return. Her shoulder and leg started to hurt, and she knew she’d have to investigate those when she could move again to see how badly she’d hurt herself.

A face came into view above her. It was the sweep rider from two weekends ago. This close up, she could see that his eyes were a lovely dark gray, and the stubble on his chin suggested he would have light brown hair when he removed his bright blue helmet.

“You okay?” he asked.

She nodded her head because she didn’t have any air for speaking, but even as she did, she thought perhaps she was already lying. Her instinct was always to brush off an injury. Maybe, this time, she should actually do an evaluation before sending assistance away.

His eyes narrowed. “Stinger?” he asked. “Or are you hurt worse?”

The pressure in Emma’s chest eased, and she was able to suck in some air. “Just got the wind knocked out of me,” she said, gasping between each word. “But my shoulder. And maybe my ankle….”

She twisted to release her shoes from the pedal clips, and that hurt but not too badly. Dumb. She should have managed the release prior to falling. Then she eased herself away from the bike. The guy removed the stick from the spokes before hefting her bike away. Then he returned, squatting in front of her.

Emma realized they were off to the side of the trail, and she was amazed at how far she’d skidded. That rock had really kicked her ass.

“Let me see.” The guy gently touched her knee. “I’m going to help you turn your leg, okay? If it hurts, say so.” He pushed her leg a little and leaned over so he could see the damage.

Emma peered at her leg. A long, red abrasion bloomed across most of her shin, and it was just starting to bleed. But it was her ankle that throbbed the most. She reached down to pull away her sock and was relieved to see everything intact.

“It’s going to be a really nasty bruise, I think,” she said. She wiggled her foot. It didn’t feel strained or sprained. It felt like it had gotten whacked with a rock.

“How about the shoulder?” he asked.

She thought about it and carefully moved her arm. Nothing felt torn or broken. “More bruises, I think.”

“Can you stand?” the biker asked.

“Probably.” Emma slowly got to her feet. She ached, and her ankle throbbed, but she was mainly okay. “I think I’m done riding today.”

The guy laughed. “Good choice. I’ve taken falls like this and stupidly gone on riding. I paid for it later, that’s for sure.” His face pinched as he looked at her. “You got lucky. Your helmet is toast.”

Emma unclicked her chin strap. She didn’t remember hitting her head when she went down. But when she looked at her helmet, sure enough, a huge crack had appeared through the shell.


For a chance to win a $5 Amazon gift card, tell me if you were ever a bicycle enthusiast!

Don’t forget! These contests are still open!

  1. Ava Cuvay: The Tentacle Dilemma (Contest — 4 Winners!) — Win an anthology or a cool T-shirt!
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8 thoughts on “Tray Ellis: Falling Off the Single Track (Contest)

  1. Weeeeelllllllll . . . Back in the day, when I was seven, my grandparents bought me a brand new Schwinn. At the risk of hinting at my age, this was in the days before multiple speeds, helmets and pads, and all that wonderful gear mentioned above. I was a basic girls 24″ Schwinn bike with a basket. Did I mention I was only seven? I am also rather short. But that bike . . . I learned to ride it and was on it almost everyday for years. Loved that bike. I believe it may even still be in my brother’s barn. Can’t say I was an enthusiast by any means. It was transportation. Then I got a car, and I got old and can’t sit in the saddle anymore. *sigh*

  2. It’s probably been 15 years or so since hubby and I rode bikes together. We used to go on long rides around our neighborhood and the adjoining ones.

  3. I wouldn’t say I was ever an enthusiast 😉 I used a sturdy bike as transportation around campus when I was a student, but don’t ride much these days. And I recall more than one (single-rider) accident back then, often caused when I was trying to avoid errant squirrels, LOL!

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