While there were several parts of the century ride that I deemed “scary”…nothing was as frightening as hearing the tales of several riders who had crashed on the course breaking bones, needing an ambulance, and being unconscious. The hairs on my sore, sunburned forearms stood straight up when I heard phrases like: “broken collar bone,” “road rash,” or “cracked helmet.” As probability dictates, one day this conversation will be about yourself (you may or may not be there to hear about it).
There is no denying that at some point in your cycling career whatever bike you ride, you will wreck. I have found in the woods, I am more likely to crash into trees as they tend to jump right out in front of you (oak trees are sneaky!). From a distance other riders may think you are a tree hugging, spandex wearing hippie but you will likely be feeling a broken face, busted nose, cracked teeth which lacks the zen of the first image. Besides trees, other worries on the trails include jagged rocks, tire grabbing tree roots (they grab your tire and WILL NOT let go), mud, water, creeks, log crossings, joggers (with or without pets), bee’s (bee stings distract you from navigating your bike), furry daredevil critters, other cyclists (we sometimes run into each other literally….a variation of a tribal group hug sometimes involving stitches). If you can make it through a mountain bike ride without bleeding, consider yourself lucky. Then there is road cycling.
Now, take ½” (if that wide) tires and place a cyclist on top navigating traffic (cars and bicycles do not play well together), other cyclists, pot holes, road kill (not to self: do not ride through a bloated dead raccoon, it smells), stop lights, stop signs, more insects, railroad tracks, steep uphills and even steeper downhills, rain slicked roads--then you will understand why at some point YOU WILL WRECK, CRASH, or DNF a ride. Even on the best day of riding, one or more of the above obstacles that you have navigated a million times before will fail you causing “something” to happen.
Countless videos adorn You Tube displaying flailing cyclists sliding across a road, slamming into a tree, or attempting dangerous stunts resulting in a top tube smashing into a male riders crotch (ouch!). It is hard to NOT close your eyes and watch these videos and yet, who wants their brief fifteen seconds of fame to be shredding epidermis or crotch racking or helmet splitting? Not myself.
What can a cyclist do? NOTHING and this is perhaps the most helpless part of the sport. This is the worst part of owning and using bikes on a regular basis….you are powerless to prevent some accidents. It is not about IF but more about WHEN. Every ride I leave out on, even if it is just around the park (2.0 miles from my house), I take my picture I.D. (in case my face is shredded on asphalt), my insurance card, my cell phone and a credit card (ambulances do not take checks). There are days I have made jokes about wrapping myself in bubble wrap but of course…that would look ridiculous perhaps more than the spandex (is that possible, really?). It is a risk you accept but do not take lightly. The best you can hope for is a good story that YOU can tell and raise the arm hairs of others.