Letter to a buddy

May 5, 2015 § 36 Comments

Hey, Buddy

Very bummed to hear about your fall. The worst thing about crashing is that it makes you think about crashing. However, there’s a cure. “Get back on the horse” isn’t just an old adage.

I was even more bummed to know you’re questioning the whole cycling endeavor. I ride my bike fully cognizant of the risks and I embrace them. Those risks – death and catastrophic injury – are definitely worth it because the alternative is … what? Golf?

Pedaling lazily down the bike path isn’t my thing, and from what I’ve seen, it’s not yours, either. Our mutual friend’s terror-stricken approach to bicycles (only rides by himself, restricts his cycling to ITT’s on the track) is an equally unacceptable compromise.

In fact, I ride and race precisely because there is an element of danger to it. It is the danger that crowds out complacency and boredom. I’ve had some hard falls too; we all have. Track crash in 2010, head splat on the NPR in Oct. 2013, splat on the back of my skull doing a wheelie in 2014 up Ganado (cracked the helmet and got a “little” concussion), falls in ‘cross races in 2012, ‘13, and ‘14, and a high speed crash on the BWR two weeks ago that miraculously didn’t deliver me to the ER.

That doesn’t even begin to count the thousands of close calls with motorists and the thousands of close calls I’ve had in packs over the years, nor does it include the race crashes and road accidents I’ve had in the 30 years prior to 2010.

I get where you’re coming from about avoiding the dangerous stuff, but the problem with limiting yourself to safe rides is that there’s no such thing. You can only pick less and less congested,  less amped-up situations, and the problem with that is that your skill level quickly deteriorates to the level of whatever your average ride happens to be. I’m not an especially good bike handler, so I need the challenging scenarios to stay sharp, or rather to slow the inevitable rate of decline.

One guy I know in his late 80’s only cycles on the bike path because his hearing, vision, and reaction time aren’t good enough to handle riding in traffic. I’m not there yet, and neither are you.

Cycling for me is more than an outlet. It is a source of connection to social, political, philosophical, economic, and personal journeys, 99% of which have nothing to do with cycling. It is a switch or conduit and one that is well worth the risk. It has helped me in my struggle with alcoholism and keeps my nose to the grindstone with regard to work. It’s been a passport and an instant friendship potion.

That said, I don’t descend the local weekend slugfests with others, certainly not with groups. Some riders are crazy, or bad, or simply unable to control their bikes at the high speeds at which they insist on descending. I’ll go somewhere else rather than be anywhere near people who are truly hazardous. Certain riders are going to harm you if you give them a chance.

You ride intelligently and with a high level of awareness, and as you know, the more you ride, the more you will fall down. Isolation is no savior; our other mutual buddy who’s the ultimate road hermit still had that terrible accident on the track a couple of years back that put him in the ICU.

I’m not encouraging you to keep riding, but I’m not discouraging you, either. Riding seems to have a very important place in your life, and if the only thing you have is a broken bike, some rash, and soreness, then HTFU. The bike is replaceable. You’re not a crash magnet, so don’t let one event overshadow all else. We know plenty of cyclists who have had catastrophic accidents and they keep on pedaling because the alternative is so very unattractive.

I also get the thing with your family and their wish that you dial it back. As for your kids, unfortunately it’s not their decision to make, and parents who live for their kids don’t, in my opinion, make very impressive role models. Moreover, your life is much more endangered by sitting behind the wheel of your car than it is by riding your bike, and even if it weren’t, quality matters.

Glad the worst you got were some bumps, road rash, busted equipment, and a splash of self-doubt. But unless I’m missing something … get back on the horse.

Seth

END

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Wankmeister cycling clinic #13: How to crash properly

September 29, 2012 § 16 Comments

Dear Wankmeister:

I recently, as in “today,” crashed while riding through Portuguese Bend. Several of my riding buddies said that I did great because I didn’t break anything or get hit by oncoming traffic or knock anyone else down or get my head run over by the rider behind me. I’m still not sure I did it properly, though.

Perfectionistically,
New Girl

Dear Girl:

You are correct to be concerned. Eyewitnesses say that when you lost control, you flew over the handlebars and did a “superman” onto the pavement, fully extended, smacking the side of your face.

Crashing style points are typically awarded as follows, and generally speaking, faceplants of any type score very low, if at all.

Tuck and Roll, concluding in a full standing position, bike unharmed: 10 points
The Sergio, where the full catastrophe is caught on film, you are twelve feet in the air, and don’t leave the scene in traction: 9 points
Collarbone Crack, where there’s little to no external damage to kit or bike: 8 points
First Day of School, where you crash your new ride on its maiden voyage, but only scratch it: 7 points
Psycho Mike Biketoss, where you flip yourself over the bars from a standing start for no apparent reason, flinging the bike forward so that it clips the recently-mended broken elbow of the rider in front of you without taking him down: 6 points
VeloCenter Warmup Takedown, where you clip the wheel in front of you during a warmup behind the motor and take down seven other riders: 5 points
NPR Glide & Slide, where you take the wide, easy, uncluttered, open turn from Pershing onto the Parkway but nonetheless slide out and torch your bike: 4 points
Canyon Leap, where you ride off a cliff on Piuma going uphill at 4mph because you’re staring at your wattage display: 3 points
Stern-O Pussy Riot, where you flip off a motorist, who flips out and beats up your friends while you stand off to the side and watch: 2 points
Ricky Rocket Garage Crawl, where you beat up the motorist, then run off into a neighborhood hiding in someone’s garage while the police troll the streets looking to charge you with a felony: 1 points
The Frankendave, where most of the face and all frontal teeth are removed on impact: 0 points

Judgingly,
Wankmeister

PS: Glad it’s just scratches and bruises! Heal up!

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