When I started biking in 2008, George told me it’s not a matter of “if” you crash, it’s a matter of “when” you crash. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was about to immerse myself in a sport in which I’d fall, crash, and get otherwise hurt on a regular basis. Strangely, biking accidents have not deterred me from my love of riding. (And unfortunately for you, dear reader, I have no pictures of me crashing.)
Luckily for me, most of my biking accidents have been relatively minor. One example is a “slow fall”. Any mountain biker who tries clipless pedals for the first time will tell you about the “slow fall”. This is when you tentatively roll up onto a log pile without enough speed. When you come to a stop on top of the mound, you try to unclip a foot and put it down. At this point, the gods of biking whisper in your ear to unclip your left foot, and then they gently push you to the right. You have plenty of time to think about how much it’s going to hurt as you tip over. Often the worst part about this fall is when the chain ring teeth dig into your leg that's pinned under the bike. Although it hurts, a slow fall usually doesn’t end your ride.
I’ve had my share of slow falls, but the accidents that stick with me the most are the ones where I was moving considerably faster. “Endos” rank up there as some of the worst of my accidents. These happen when you’re leaning too far forward over your front wheel and you hit a rock or a log. Usually, you’re going down hill at the time, and hence, have a lot of speed. A good rule of thumb is to make sure your weight is always centered over your bottom bracket (and pedals), but often times a rider forgets this.
I had an “endo” when I was riding the One Mile Loop at Camden County College. My mistake was that I was trying to get a look at the back end of the A-frame ramp, while I was riding up on it. I was leaning too far forward while I rode down the hill and over the ramp. When my back wheel bumped over the hump of the log, my body was sent flying like Superman. As I continued to fly out over the ground, and the hill continued to drop down and away, the laws of Physics dictate that my body must fall a greater distance. As I got ready for impact, I remembered that bikers often break their wrists if they put their hands out to stop their fall. I broke my wrist before and I didn’t want to go through that again, so I absorbed the impact by bringing my arms into my chest and sliding down the hill on my forearms and elbows. My head hit the ground and bounced twice. There went a $230 Specialized S-Works helmet. I was left with a ringing headache for 2 days, sore ribs, and some minor scrapes on my knees and elbows.
Oh, there’ve been so many more falls. There was the time I endoed on a rocky descent at Brandywine and hit my pubic bone as I went over the stem. That left a bluish knot for months. Then there was the time I crashed while going 22.1 mph on the road bike, but miraculously came away unscathed. There have also been many other high-speed mountain bike crashes where I landed hard, but it was pain-free due to the soft ground.
If you don't ride bikes, you may be asking yourself, "Why does she do it if she gets hurt so much?" Well, the primary answer is because I am... well... the Bikinator. The secondary answer is because the rewards that I get from riding my bike far outweigh the occasional spill.
The rush of adrenaline I got while speeding down a hill at 44.1 mph (the fastest speed I’ve gone on my road bike), the elation I felt when I’d finally nailed a rocky section of trail that always terrified me, the thrill of pushing myself to new limits when I race… These things have kept me coming back, regardless of how many times I end up lying in the dirt with my bike on top of me.
Check back with me tomorrow for the "The Anatomy of a Crash".