I've heard numerous times that there are two types of cyclists in the world: Those who have crashed, and those who will crash. I now belong to the former group. And this is where I warn you that this post contains pictures that I don't consider all that gory, but some of you might.
Oh sure, I'd had the embarrassing slow speed tip overs before. Nothing quite like unclipping the wrong foot at a stop sign while a car full of people watch. For those who don't know, bike shoes "clip in" to your pedals (called clipless pedals, thanks to the history of the road bike pedal and just to keep things confusing). This makes cycling much more efficient because you pull up as well as push down, but you have to swivel your heel to the outside to get your foot off the pedal and should you unclip the right foot, but get the balance of the bike over to the left side while you're coming to a stop, over you go. That kind of a fall is more damaging to your ego than anything else.
This was my first ride on the road after we got back from our trip. I put on brand new tri shorts and a new hand me down jersey and set out to circle a large empty parking lot I stick to when I want an easy ride without traffic or obstacles. We had still been getting way more rain than normal for our area, but it wasn't actively raining. I've ridden safely in the rain before, so I was over confident about bike handling since the road was mostly dry with just some puddles (mistake #1). My bike is far from the greatest around and I'm not super speedy, so I was regularly making my corners at a nice, moderate 12mph. I kept feeling the back end of my bike shimmy. I was looking down regularly to see if I could see anything wrong with it, but nothing stood out. So I kept going, and it kept happening (mistake #2). In hindsight, I should have gotten off the bike and REALLY looked it over, especially paying attention that this was happening when the tires were wet and it would be safer to let out a little bit of air so they had more grip.
15 minutes into the ride, I take the same corner I'd already take 5 times. I ride it at the same 12mph. And my bike goes one way and I go the other. You can see my moment of terror on the data that came off my garmin. My speed's in gray and heart rate's in red
After the adrenaline spike, at least I recovered quickly. I was sprawled out on concrete on my left side, with my right foot still clipped into the bike (I don't know how the left foot came out, probably just the instinct to try to put my foot down moved it the right way). I took a breath, said a few cuss words and unclipped the right foot. I stood up and took stock of the situation. No obviously broken bones or bike parts. My left shoulder and elbow weren't right, but they did move. I put the chain back on the gears while dripping blood on the concrete 'cause I figured I'd ride back home (mistake #3). My head had hit the ground and I wasn't completely sure if my face was scraped up or not (it wasn't). Someone asked if I was okay and I said I was and they went on their way. I actually got on the bike again, but things were all a bit wonky from hitting the ground, so I decided it'd be better to walk the bike.
At this point, I called Josh (good decision #1) to let him know I had crashed. I told him I was fine to walk home and he said he was coming to get me (good decision #2...people who have hit their head shouldn't be trusted to think clearly). I told him I'd start walking towards home and meet him on the way and he told me to take off my bike shoes so I didn't slip (good decision #3...it doesn't hurt to state the obvious). He arrived a few minutes later and I gingerly got in the car while he loaded the bike. I minimized the severity for the sake of the kids, but I wasn't feeling real great. I was also really annoyed to have torn my brand new bike shorts
Josh told me the best thing to do was just get in the shower and clean up the road rash that way. That was loads of fun.
Later on, it was easier to assess the damage. Josh put the bike back to rights. My body was gonna take a little longer. I had road rash and a big hematoma at my elbow and small scrapes all the way up to my armpit. My left shoulder didn't move right and my left elbow was really stiff, but that seemed to be more hematoma related. Sure enough, the next day it had full range of motion, just felt bruised.
My leg had some road rash that was a pain in the arse to heal up. I tried leaving everything dry at first so that I could still swim. It kept cracking open though and hurting a lot, so I soaked and cleaned everything and switched to hydrogels. That worked a lot better, but it was hard to keep them in place on my knee because I react to adhesives if I have anything taped more than a few hours. I ended up using tubular gauze to hold on whatever dressing I was using, and that worked pretty well.
My hip though. Because my shorts covered it, I didn't even realize at first that my hip was that bad off. Before long I had a sizable hematoma built up, and by the next day it was easily the size of a c-cup breast implant (sorry, that's really the best description). We decided it eventually looked like I had Mars tattooed on my leg
Did you know hematomas can calcify? I learned that when I was looking up suggestions on easing road rash pain and then the PA confirmed it. I was warned to do lots of massage and use a heating pad (this was 2 weeks post crash) to disperse it. I got it down to about large marble size, but it's looking like I may just be stuck with that longer term until my body decides to reabsorb it. The pretty colors did eventually fade and it looks a lot better now
So, now that I'm all healed up, what's next? First of all, a few lessons learned. Namely, to just stop and think over the situation if the bike has a shimmy to it. I knew something was off and ignored my gut instinct, won't be doing that again anytime soon. The other big lesson was to watch closely and assist if you see someone crash. My helmet was scraped but not broken and my face looked fine, but those outward signs don't necessarily guarantee that everything is fine. I'm the kind of person that gets embarrassed if someone hovers while I'm injured, but sometimes it's just needed. It reminds me of the time I was stricken with some post-gallbladder surgery GI trouble on a run. My friend and I were close to a building with bathrooms, so I just told her go on back to her car and I'd make my way down there on my own when I felt better. She looked at me like I'd lost my mind and informed me she had no intention of leaving me, and rightly so. If you see someone crash, offer to lend your phone so they can make a call or offer to call someone for them. Wait for them to be picked up, and just be sure they actually get help.
Much to my surprise, I was not scared to get on the bike again. Pain held me back for a little while, and I started on the trainer just to get the feel for it again, but when it was time to get back on the road, I did not approach it with a sense of dread. That is, until I had to cross a sandy patch on the road. There are several new homes being built in the area I usually ride and a lot of sand and gravel has washed into the road. I just can't bring myself to ride there and risk those slippery spots, especially on corners, just yet. I've started riding in what used to only be my long ride spot and I'm more comfortable there. My shoulder couldn't handle being in aero position until last weekend, so it was only then that I realized I'm scared to ride in aero. You have less control on the aero bars and I'm just not ready to take that risk again yet, so I found myself riding in the drops instead. And corners. I am taking corners ridiculously slow these days. More like 6-7mph instead of the 12mph I was doing the day I crashed. Perhaps that will come back with time and practice. I've been enjoying running so much more since I started following a heart rate training plan and I have found myself thinking "maybe I should just do running" whenever I have to turn a corner on my bike. The good news is these all feel like logical decisions, not fear-based ones. There's not an andrenalin-filled panic behind any of it. I have a definite, "well, I know what that's like now" feeling that makes it somehow LESS scary to think about crashing (at 20mph or less speeds without car involvement). I don't know. It's been less than a month, so we'll see what the future holds. Bike days hold more tension these days when they used to be my carefree days. Swim days were all about sensory deprivation and meditation. Bike days were all about "flying" and escaping the heat. Run days were about slogging it out. Now swimming reminds me of the nagging ache in my shoulder and bike days are about how to mitigate the risk of future crashes, while runs have become time to catch up on NPR podcasts and contemplate new ideas. I'm curious how the race I have coming up will go. I have some other health things going on too and all of it combines to put me solidly in the "just enjoy it and finish" category, but I've always had more fun when I had a time goal to shoot for. It'll be interesting to see what I end up doing in 6 months.
So there you go, I am officially the kind of cyclist who has crashed. Hopefully for the last time.