Thursday, January 16, 2014

Crash and burn

1/24th of a second off the deck.

Long experience has taught me that if you ride a bike long enough, sooner or later you're going to come off. It's preferable not to of course and a degree of care and experience - on the road in particular - can go a long way to reducing the risk. But most riders are still going to have the odd incident, whether through clumsiness (not getting your foot out in time) or just sheer bad luck - or pushing your luck. The latter of these probably best describes what happened to me on the weekend.
Glovers Bluff. Well worth the ride. 
On Sunday four of us set out in fine weather for a ride along the gravel roads in the Tahune. It was a lovely day and we were feeling good, so we rode up to Glovers Bluff to enjoy the views. On the way back down the narrow road from the lookout I managed to crash. One moment I was zipping along at a comfortable speed, the next I was lying on the ground, groaning in pain. 

I had a GoPro camera attached to my handlebars and turned on at the time. The footage shows the rider in front of me bunnyhopping a small obstacle, which I apparently didn't see or properly avoid. The still frame at the top shows that my handlebars snapped to the right. In a moment I was on my back. (I'm blaming a combination of speed and inattention for the mishap.)

The happiest rider.
The first few seconds after a crash I find it hard to tell how badly I'm hurt. The rider ahead of me stopped and we established my collarbone wasn't broken. I had gravel rash type grazes on my right leg, side, shoulder and arm as well as skinned left knuckles. My helmet had taken a blow on the left side and I had some pain in my back. Oddly, my new summer jersey wasn't damaged, nor were my shorts.  We were about an hour's riding from the cars in an area with poor or non-existent mobile phone reception so there wasn't much choice but to keep riding. 

After straightening the handlebars, we continued on. The dérailleur hanger on the bike was bent inwards, so I made a mental note to avoid the bottom two gears where the dérailleur was hitting the spokes. We stopped for lunch at the Tahune Airwalk and feeling sore, but ok, I continued on for the last sub-20km push back to the cars.

Everything was going ok until I managed to put my derailleur into the spokes, breaking it in half and making a bad day even worse. An attempt to rig the bike as a single-speed by breaking and shortening the chain wasn't much of a success because the chain was badly bent and the other riders left me alone and went to get a car to retrieve me with. Once they left, I fiddled around and fixed the gear and stubbornly continued as best I could, reaching the carpark not long after the others.

A trip to the doctor and for x-rays revealed no broken bones, although I seem to have done something to my one of my ribs which is making breathing painful. An osteopath I visited told me the damage I've done will take some days or weeks to heal. Given the amount of pain and my inflexibility, I've taken some time off work and the bike and will hopefully bounce back soon. I've managed to repair the bent dérailleur hanger by bending it back - one of the advantages of steel frames.

Looking back over the last ten years, I seem to have had four crashes worth noting. Two were minor and caused by mechanical problems, the third - in 2006 - was caused by hitting a tram line in Melbourne and left me with lower back pain for several months. The fourth was in Vietnam recently, and while spectacular left me with not much more than a grazed knee. Hopefully there won't be anything more to add to the tally for a while yet.

257km so far this year.

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