On average in the U.S., a cycling enthusiast will crash while riding once every 4,500 miles. (Source: Bike shop guy :))
I estimate that I have ridden about 3,400 miles in the last year a half since I got my bike and yesterday, for the first time, I crashed.
I certainly don’t want to sound overly dramatic or woe-is-me, but I want to share the story and hopefully someone else can learn from my mistake (and the things I did right!).
(Also, despite telling myself over and over, I hope that at some point after writing this, it will sink in my thick head how lucky I was and I will stop being pissed that this threw off my whole week’s training plan.)
I rode out from work at 4:45 yesterday afternoon. It was a little bit windy, but overall an absolutely beautiful day, compared to the blazing hot and humid weather we have had this summer. The plan was to ride 1:30 by myself on a loop that I have ridden dozens of times, then meet my friend, Jenni, to finish off with another 1:15. I expected to get in nearly 50 miles total, making it my long ride for the week, since I will be out of town this weekend.
About 55 minutes in, I was heading back toward where I would meet Jenni and having an absolutely awesome ride. I was averaging a solid 17 mph and since I finally got a new seat, my butt was even happy! I was just truly enjoying being on my bike.
I believe that the fact that I was enjoying myself so much created the problem.
As I was soaking in the rare “rider’s high”, I completely zoned out. I stopped being acutely aware of the road, my surroundings and what I was doing.
I was on a flat road, going about 18-20 mph, when all of a sudden my front wheel caught in the gap in a railroad track and slid along the gap, taking me and the entire bike to the ground.
I can honestly say that I was so oblivious that I don’t even remember coming up to the railroad tracks at all. In fact, when asked if I was riding in aero at the time, I truly couldn’t answer the question. And as you can see from the picture, you MUST make a concerted effort to turn your front wheel so you hit the tracks perpendicular to the way they run.
Once I was going down, it happened so unbelievably fast and I was quickly lying under my bike on the ground. Nothing in particular hurt, but everything hurt. Two ladies pulling out of the adjacent parking lot immediately stopped their cars and got out, asking if I was okay and bringing over my water bottles that were slung across the road.
I just laid there, terrified and out of breath, trying to collect myself. At that point, I could have broken every bone in my body or I could have walked (or ridden) away fine, but it took me several minutes before I could even assess that.
After a few minutes, some sense of reason started to come to me and I could tell that I wasn’t seriously hurt. Eventually I was able tell the ladies that I thought I was okay. But as I lay there, with one foot still clipped into my pedal, they both looked at me skeptically like…”If you are okay, why are you still laying on the ground in the middle of the road?”
Finally I lifted the bike off of me and unclipped my foot and stood up. At that point, I KNEW I was okay. Things hurt, but there was no blood and everything seemed to be working fine.
As I walked around a little, I eventually convinced they ladies to go ahead. I told them I could either ride back to my car or call my friend who was a few minutes away. (It actually even crossed my mind that I could finish the whole ride?! Um, notsomuch.)
Before one of the ladies left she told me that a motorcycle and another cyclist had both fallen on those same tracks in the last week!
My next concern became my bike. I inspected it and started bending things back into place and I quickly saw that other than some superficial scratches, either the front wheel or handle bars were bent and that the possibility of me riding away on it was slim.
I called Jenni and she sent Char to come get me (she knew EXACTLY where I was and what tracks I hit), then called Brad. As soon as he answered, I started bawling. The adrenaline was subsiding and reality of what had just happened hit me. Eventually I calmed down enough to tell him I was okay and I just needed to get home. Char (a physical therapist) showed up shortly after and assessed all my wounds, confirming that everything on ME was also just superficial and I was fine to drive home.
The drama of the whole thing was relatively short-lived and within the hour, I was dropping my bike off at the bike shop to get fixed. They offered me a beer, told me how lucky I was and assured me the bike would be just fine.
I am also a little sore in my left wrist and palm (?), have some knots on my right shin and that left knee is really stiff, but not as swollen today. But again, all very minor and I feel 10x better today than I did last night.
What went wrong: I was not paying attention. Bottom line. I must be alert and focused at all times when I am riding my bike.
What (I think) I did right:
- I had a cell phone with me. When I ride alone, I always carry it with me.
- Also, (this wasn’t under my control) but, because I was so relaxed on my bike when I crashed and didn’t see it coming, I think this also contributed to the *lack of* injuries. (I am sure this one is debatable…so feel free to disagree.)
- Calling a friend and not attempting to ride my bike back to my car was the right decision. Even though my bike wasn’t in great shape, I could have ridden it, but you never know until you have a true mechanic inspect the frame if it is cracked or damaged in a way that an untrained eye can’t see.
My plan is to take today completely off and probably tomorrow too. My bike is actually all fixed at the bike shop (already!) and I will probably pick it up and try to get another ride or two in this week before I leave.
Crashing has always been my worst nightmare on the bike. It is why I was hesitant to get into the sport in the beginning. I knew it was just a matter of time before I would have my first crash, and part of me is relieved that I got one under my belt. I am thankful beyond belief that I am not injured and that I will probably be 100% in a couple of days. I know that it could have been much, much worse.
Anyone else have good crash stories?