Wear a Helmet

I grew up on a bike. I watched Wayne Stetina at the little 500. My brother got us to race around a local business parking lot – he broke his collar bone. I rode 12 miles to school in 9th grade following my bro. I started racing when I joined a Little 500 team in school. I raced for 15 years – Road, Criterium, Mountain bike, CycloCross and Velodrome (single speed fixed gear bikes where you can’t coast or break on a banked concrete track). I trained in the hills of Bloomington Indiana on dangerous country roads with locals in trucks armed with firewood, guns and anger – I was once showed into a ditch by someone hanging out a car window, I did a full flip and landed back in the road, broken but glad that I didn’t got into the barb wire fence. They laughed and called me faggot (as was the name for all cyclists).  I commuted the downtown streets of Chicago for 15 years during all four seasons and commuted the urban streets of the Chicago metro area for another 10. I’ve ridden over around and through anything and everything. Some people say I’m a good bike handler. I’ve probably ridden 30,000 miles on public roads and another 2-3,000 miles racing. I was a Cat 4 entry level racer for 2 years and never crashed – I’m pretty sure this is in the Cycling book of Guinness records, Cat 4 is for learning how to race and how to crash! I’ve been punched while riding by someone hanging out a window, had firewood thrown at me from the back of a pickup, mustard squirted on me, beer bottles thrown at me, been hit by a car, almost slid into lake Michigan on black ice, did slide into lake Michigan when I crashed on snow, hit a runner on the lakefront path (please headphone runners, look before you leap), I’ve gone down a rain slickened hill at 40mph with 120 riders while my bike hydro planed, I’ve sprinted to the line at 38mph with 5 guys on fixed gear track bikes and done a bike toss at the line and I’ve danced 36 miles a day in Chicago city traffic but only once had I ever lost skin and that was to the cinder track of the Indiana University Armstrong Stadium and the Little 500 – and I’d never had a crash that scared me (we’ll sliding into the lake was a bit exciting). Until two weeks ago on a Saturday after an wonderful vacation visiting my parents with my two kids. Coming off vacation and a great evening jam with my band. I went for an early morning ride, the weather was beautiful, music was great, family was good, life was good. What you’ve done in the past does not prevent the future.

Wear a helmet. I’m still not sure what happened. I was a mile from home on my favorite tailwind downhill into a long smooth flat and I was working hard to bump my ride average speed from 18 to 19mph. The road is 4 lanes wide of smooth concrete and I’d just cleared the section with bumps, cracks and holes. I was cruising at 23.5mph with no cars ahead or behind and I’m riding about 2ft out from a curb . I’ve ridden this road probably 200 times. I’d already ridden it 15 times since winter and knew the cracks and bumps. This section was smooth. I was looking down arching my back and winding up power to blast up the final incline and finish the ride at 19mph. All I have in memory is a snapshot of my front wheel being in the air and my whole bike leaning to the left. My only thought was Noooooo I’m going to skin my leg! FUCK! I had a millisecond to prepare for impact and then I remember nothing until I was sitting on the road. Instinctively I sat up quickly to move off the road and my head tingled like a mix between brain freeze from ice cream and seeing stars from a hard blow. I made sure I could stand, then moved off the road and sat down. Total and complete shock. Like a missile had come from the sky and blown me off the road. I assessed my head, my collar bones and my body. Still woozy I sat for a minute to recover from what was like being struck by lighting on a sunny day. I didn’t slide in gravel, I didn’t get tangled in traffic, I didn’t take a corner to fast. I was on smooth road going in a straight line 1/2 mile from home. I was able to stand and went to check where I crashed. There was a single small chunk of concrete about 3″x4″ in the road. I couldn’t see anything else of consequence that would have taken me down. It appears I managed to find a white on white chunk of the white road and hit it in such a manner that it took my front wheel out from under me. That, or a tractor beam from space. And with that I went to do the walk of shame home. Wait, my back tire is flat, how did that happen? The only damage to the bike was to both brake levers – heavy grinding.  Later to find my rear innertube had a “snake bite” flat where the tube is pinched and cut by the two top sides of the rim – always caused by hitting a pot hole or something so hard that with the riders weight the 110psi inflation isn’t enough to prevent it from pancaking onto the rim and the tube gets two slits when pinched on the rim that looks like a snake bite. How the… what…  I take stock – both brake handles are toast, both my hands have large divots on the outer 3 of 4 knuckles, both knees have lost skin. But I only crashed on my left side?  My bike is completely undamaged other than the levers and a flat. Rims are fine, seat is fine… My helmet has a large crack in the front shell and inner EPS liner (high density foam).  It appears the reason I hit my head so hard is it was the pivot point of a flip – I was literally parallel to the ground at 24mph hit and my head slammed hard on the top left side, pivoted me into a flip and I scraped the other side and somehow ended up sitting on the road ahead of my bike, and my bike tire has an impact flat from flipping. I’m not sure exactly what happened but it was scary and it hurt. It was a freak accident that happened in a manner that makes it more scary. Keep your head up. Wear a helmet.

Post Crash - Road Rash
Post Crash – Road Rash

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