Update: The young man Suz and I came across passed away due to head trauma. If you're inclined, send up a prayer for his family. I can't imagine what they're going through right now.
I had one of the most sobering moments of my entire cycling career today. Suzanne and I rode the Bangtail Divide, it's twenty-five miles of epic singletrack, ending with five miles of down-hill on Grassy Mountain. A mile from the end of the trail I came upon something I hoped I'd never see, and that I pray to God I never see again. At the top of a switchback there were two paramedics and eight guys standing around an eighteen-year-old kid. They had him hooked up to a pump to help him breathe because he had punctured a lung, and they were stabilizing his head because he had broken his neck. As near as Suzanne could figure from listening to the kid's friends, he had launched off of a roller about fifteen feet from the switchback, but cased the landing and landed on his head on the next section of trail below the switchback, which means he fell about eight feet straight down. I later saw his buddy pull his bike from the bushes about ten to fifteen feet off of the lower trail. One of the first guys on the scene told us that when he showed up the kid wasn't breathing and that his friends started performing CPR, while the kid coughed up the blood that was in his lungs.
We do this because we love it, it gives our lives meaning, brings us a greater spiritual center, there are many reasons; and the fact that there is a huge potential for injury is part of what makes all of those positive things so much more intense. But none of that matters when you're watching a kid struggling to breathe because of the fluid filling his lungs, and praying he doesn't die before they get him to the hospital.
I'm certainly not going to quit riding (I've got a dawn patrol scheduled with Mr. DNA in the morning) and I'm also going to continue to get everything out of cycling that it has to offer. But I'll never forget my harrowing view of the dark side of this sport.
So be safe out there. You always want to make it to the next ride.