‘So, why do you do it then?’ my eight-year-old daughter, Millie, asked after another episode in the litany of bike crashes I have succumbed to over the years. "Excitement, adrenaline and the opportunity to get some space and embrace danger" came my response, as I questioned myself and if I really meant what I just said. "Why does anyone do anything a bit edgy?" I asked her before spending the next 10 minutes explaining what I meant by ‘edgy’ and what ‘adrenaline’ was (it’s a hard thing to define verbally when the comfort blanket of Google is not to hand).

It’s true that we embrace danger, however you define it, in differing ways to yesteryear. Now we mitigate risk in all manner of activity. I recall labouring on building sites in the 1990s wearing but a pair of shorts, a T-shirt and some battered Nike Tailwinds. Nowadays if you dare to attend a site without safety boots, a hard hat or hi-vis, you risk being ejected from the building company's employ as the mitigation of risk is the core product, as opposed to an afterthought.

I remember Mother braking too hard and my flying over the back seat, headfirst into the front passenger footwell when she got a bit frisky on the brakes in her Daf on the way back from school in the late 1970s. Far from putting in a claim for whiplash, I was thankful for the large bag of milk bottle tops we had been collecting for the blind that cushioned the fall, as I dusted myself down a short while later with a knickerbocker glory in Demarco’s restaurant in Hastings, rubbing my bruises with one hand and the strawberry syrup from my lips with the other.

As I booked another summer trip to Bikepark Wales, where I will again be one of the oldest swingers in town, I consulted the online almanac to ascertain just how risky it was for me, Captain Slow, with my cycling PPE, as I plan once more to cling on for dear life down the side of a Welsh mountain.

Now, there is conflicting information as aficionados of each sport attempt to be Gordon large-Gahonas by claiming theirs to be riskier than the next man’s partakings. Street luge is up there with 25 deaths over a recent three-year period, which makes it sound relatively safe, but I am yet to see anyone street luge in my nigh-on half century of existence, so I am unsure if it is actually ‘a thing’.

Skiing is risky, as it is apparently difficult to avoid objects such as trees, whereas scuba diving is even more so with the dangers of the bends, bad gas in the tank or knocking oneself unconscious, and that’s before you bring sharks into the equation. Boxing, MMA and bull riding are, on the face of it, fun sports, if you should feel so inclined. Like a Piers Morgan interviewee, for an average of eight seconds, bull riders attempt to tame a 1,800lb beast which has been riled to the nth degree, before being thrown unceremoniously from its back and then, battered and bruised, attempting to bypass a goring.

According to health provider Beneden, football is the UK’s most dangerous sport, with one in five of us having suffered ‘serious’ injury, with ankle sprains and breaks accounting for 40 per cent of the total. They list running as the second most arduous activity, followed by rugby, and our friend cycling in fourth, which shows you are 17 times more likely to die in a bike accident than you are in a car crash.

Surprisingly however, the world's most dangerous sport, if indeed it is a ‘sport’, is cheerleading. In the US, 66 per cent of all ‘catastrophic’ injuries occur when giving us a ‘C’, an ‘A’, etc. with permanent disability commonplace as, mainly young women, are thrust up to 30 feet in the air in the hope that Crystal and Susie can avert their eyes for long enough from their mobile devices to remember to catch them on the way down.

As I wouldn’t wish the sight of me waving pompoms like a deranged lunatic in a tasselled mini skirt and sequined crop top on anybody, I will, for now, stick with downhill mountain biking in the hope that those relaxing, serene trips through the forest don’t again turn on a sixpence as I come to and find a branch has speared me where the sun don’t shine after face planting a pine tree. But that is why any of us do anything risky, isn't it? To embrace the danger and pat ourselves on the back in the café at the end of the day, as we thank our own personal Jesus that we are still here, with a story to tell, as we share the gruesome pictures of bruises, cuts and scars on social media to put across the narrative of a life well lived.

  • Brett Ellis is a teacher