The River Took My Bike

Posted by on Jul 5, 2011 in Bike | 31 Comments

It’s been a week. And still, I’m in a state of unbelief.

What exactly happened to me?

I lost my bike to a river. I nearly lost my life.

Hindsight has revealed several small, seemingly innocuous decisions that individually were harmless. But collectively, and in sequence, lead to me clinging to a log in the middle of a swollen river and wondering if I’d live to tell the tale.

The evening was perfect. The sun had dropped behind the mountain. It was quiet in the canyon. I rode well. My legs and lungs were clicking, and my evening workout had been flawless. I was feeling very good. After spending a few minutes admiring the view of Box Elder Peak and Timpanogos I started my descent back home.

And that’s when I saw it: a trail. A trail I’d never ridden before. A narrow, smooth piece of singletrack that went… where? Only one way to find out.

I followed the trail.

And that was my first mistake.

I was short on time. I was alone. And I had deviated from my plan. But the trail was well established, and so had to lead someplace useful. Right? After a mile I came to a river. End of the road. But something nagged me forward. I could see the trail on the other bank. The river was flowing swiftly, but not deeply. I plunged ahead into the cold water, and crossed onto the other side without any problems. I had the perfect leather jacket to protect me from the harsh weather conditions. You can visit their website and learn more about their collection. In fact, the icy water felt great on my legs. I pedaled away the cold on the flowy singletrack.

And that was my second mistake.

It would have been an easy climb back to the dirt road had I simply turned around on the banks of the river. I needed a little more climbing anyway. But, I didn’t turn around. Instead, the trail I rode ended—exactly where I thought it might—just a mile from Tibble Fork Reservoir. And from there, it was an easy, scenic coast back to my house. But in between me and the road was yet another river. This one flowing much deeper, and much faster than the one I had already crossed. I walked up and down the bank looking for an obvious place to cross. I couldn’t find one. Ahead of me 2 logs spanned the river, only 10 or 12 feet wide.

“If I shoulder the bike, I can use the logs as a handrail…”

I stepped into the river.

And that was my last mistake.

I wasn’t quite half-way through when I started to lose my footing. The swift current was pulling me deeper into the water. My handrails weren’t helping. In a terrible moment of reality and horror, I realized that I was in trouble. No. In danger.

And that’s when the river took my bike. It vanished in an instant. Ripped from my grip easily, and abruptly. When the bike went, so did I.

I don’t know how I managed to get my arms around the logs. But I do remember—vividly—the water rushing up and over my head. I gasped for air, but only inhaled water. The water rushed maniacally around me. I screamed for help. For the first time in my life I screamed in terror. A desperate, hopeless scream. It was all in vain. Nobody was nearby. And even if there had been someone close, the rush of the water drowned my voice in a violent roar. I was on my own.

“Don’t let go. Don’t let go. Don’t let go.”

My feet searched for the bottom of the river. A rock. Dirt. Anything. I found enough solid ground that I was able to push myself out of the water 2 or 3 more inches. Enough to get my face above the current, and a better grip on the wood. My helmet had been pushed down around my neck, but once my head was above the water, I was able to retreat back to the bank I had come from. I pulled myself out of the water and back onto dry land. I coughed up water and immediately began to shiver. I stood up and looked downstream. No bike. No bike!

“But I’m alive!”

I paced up and down the river bank, trying to stay warm, but also (and irrationally) looking for another place to cross. I might have been on the verge of panic when two mountain bikers appeared on the opposite bank. Seeing other people pulled me back to reality. I needed help. And maybe they could offer it.

“Wheres your bike!?”

I pointed down stream.

I crossed the river using the logs. But this time, I crawled atop them. The others lent an outreached hand when I came across.

I stripped out of wet clothes and pulled on a dry wind breaker that one of the riders had. It was a warm evening, but I was shivering terribly. We walked down the road, my mind reeling.

How did I end up in the river? What stupidity did I entertain long enough to nearly drown in the swollen, merciless runoff that has been so publicly and infamously dangerous this summer? Had I really just had my mountain bike swept away?

But the question that swirled most hauntingly had nothing to do with bikes or stupidity.

“What if I had let go?”

I wouldn’t have lived.

Not a chance. Not in that river. It would have broken me into pieces.

But I didn’t let go.


The next day I went back. I stared into the water wonderingly. I marveled at the raw, unbridled power and force of the river. A river that was very nearly my own watery, violent grave.

And then I saw it.

A bike.

My bike!

After a couple of hours of fishing, we managed to rescue it from its own watery grave.


  1. Janeen
    July 5, 2011

    I watched the video when you first posted and wondered what the story was leading up to it. Thanks for posting and glad you’re here and able to share it. Now, as Warren Zevon so wisely advised: Enjoy every sandwich!


  2. Twin Six
    July 5, 2011

    That’s insane.

  3. Flahute
    July 5, 2011

    So, so glad that you’re okay. A bike is just a bike, it hurts to lose them, but it would hurt a whole lot of people more if we lost you.

  4. Nate
    July 5, 2011

    Wow, wow, wow! Insane! So glad you were able to pull yourself out. Your bike is nice but, not worth a life. I can’t imagine. Take care of yourself.

  5. Filip
    July 5, 2011

    Wow. Crazy. So which components survived?

  6. Sarah
    July 5, 2011

    Wow, Adam. Insane. Glad you are okay.

  7. Rev Big Ring
    July 5, 2011

    man the best part of that story is the fact we get to hear it from you.

  8. Mike
    July 5, 2011

    All hail the Gary Fisher. That bike is still rideable…


    • Grizzly Adam
      July 5, 2011

      Ah, sadly the frame was crushed in a couple of spots. I do think some of the components are salvageable though.

  9. Alex/Watcher
    July 5, 2011

    I read this from Stanley, ID, where I’m visiting this week. I was debating riding a favorite trail from last year (Potato Mtn Loop) but remembered a couple of deep, fast stream crossings and was wondering about what they’d be like right now. Your post talked me out of it. Glad you’re OK and got the bike back to boot.

  10. Bill Martin
    July 5, 2011

    Wow, so glad you didn’t perish and then to get your bike partially back. Now that is adventure. Stay safe.

  11. Don Meredith
    July 5, 2011

    I’m glad to hear you were able to struggle out of there. We all get the subtle reminders now and then to be smarter… more conservative on these adventures. Unfortunately, yours was more like a bat to the back of the head. Thanks for posting and reminding us all to think twice…


  12. Fatty
    July 5, 2011

    I would suggest that your first mistake was not seeking medical attention when you discovered that your lungs click.

    Glad you’re OK.

  13. Erica T
    July 5, 2011

    I am so glad you are OK, that is crazy. Who cares about your bike; your wife and kids have YOU back and that matters so much more than anything. And I rarely like to admit that anything matters more than biking.

  14. Gavin Macfie
    July 5, 2011

    That is one of the best blog posts I’ve ever read. In an age of the phoney and the contrived that stands out as TRUE adventure.

  15. Mom
    July 5, 2011

    This is one of the times that a mother’s prayer for her adventurous son’s safety has been answered. Be safe, my son. You are loved by many.

  16. Grizzly Adam
    July 5, 2011

    Thanks everyone!

  17. KDAY
    July 5, 2011

    Happy you didn’t let go man. We all make foolish decisions from time to time and sometimes we don’t fight to correct them, letting the waters sweep us further down stream. The fight for survival is in us all. You took one for the team and taught us all a good lesson.

  18. Meg Anderson
    July 6, 2011

    You were so lucky to survive that. Looking at the photo’s I’m amazed you did. If this can happen to someone as experienced as you, it could happen to anyone, and they might not be so lucky. Just very happy you did survive, and recovered your bike.

  19. Moogy
    July 6, 2011

    Damn dude…glad you’re K!

  20. dug
    July 6, 2011

    “the river took my bike”

    a naked american man stole my balloons.

  21. Deaner
    July 6, 2011

    I wonder if you’re able to qualify for a Darwin award even though you survived?
    glad you’re ok

  22. mark
    July 6, 2011

    In a week with so many mishaps, glad to see this one only resulted in equipment damage.

  23. ricky
    July 6, 2011

    thank goodness those logs were there and that you had the presence of mind to latch onto them. glad you lived to tell this story. keep on dancing.

  24. Sonia
    July 6, 2011

    Glad to read about this from you in a blog post instead of a sad news story. I’ve seen cars swept away in streams that size. Thanks for sharing the lesson!

  25. Kerry
    July 8, 2011

    Amazing. Glad you made it out. Question: How did you get the rope attached to the bike?

  26. Ryan
    July 12, 2011

    I made this for you…

    • Grizzly Adam
      July 12, 2011

      Ha! Very nice Ryan.

  27. Chris Haleua
    July 13, 2011

    Amazing story. Glad you are ok. That video should be a Gary Fisher commerical.

  28. Flying Ute
    July 14, 2011

    I have ridden that very same trail several times and walked across those logs. They are always very, very slippery and hard to balance when carrying a bike AND wearing bike shoes.

    I have never seen the river that high. Knowing how difficult it is to cross on a normal day just looking at those pictures scare me. I mean they truly frighten me. I for sure would’ve turned back. I estimate that water at that point to be at least 5 feet deep maybe 6. That is some fearsome power ripping through that spot.

    You are lucky it didn’t pin you to the log from all that pressure building up behind you. Also lucky that you found some footing there.

    Glad you made it out ok.

  29. Devin
    July 17, 2011

    Very intense accident. Finding the bike after is almost to perfect, like you got away with something more than you should have. Ive never had something that serious happen while riding, but have had some gnarly crashes on my own that made me think…”what if”.

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