Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Spinning Wheels (Lessons from Two Years of Cycling): Accidents Happen

Helmet, First Aid Kit, Cell Phone, my three essentials
Soon after I started riding with riding shoes and cleats I was getting ready to ride with a young friend for the first time. After taking my bike off the car rack I clipped into the pedals without first checking the brakes and gears. Clipped in, I started to pedal away but my pedals went round and round and I went nowhere but down onto the paved parking lot, in full view of my young friend and a few other riders in the lot. Clipped in, I starting falling over before I had time to unclip and stop the fall.

My chain had obviously come off the chainring when I put the bike on the car rack, during transport, or when I removed the bike from the rack. When I tried to pedal away, all I had was a stationary bike. Had I checked all the bike’s components before clipping in I would have seen the problem and fixed it. Fortunately, the only thing damaged and injured was my pride.

A few weeks later I was nearing the completion of what would be my second longest ride of the season. I was riding on a semi-remote and unpaved section of The Panhandle Trail, Cruising downhill at perhaps 12-15 mph. I crashed into a bush.  Cycling can sometimes be very meditative for me and apparently I had zoned out. All at once I realized I was just a couple of feet from a low hanging thick branch sticking out from a bush and the branch was at about eye level. I closed my eyes, ducked, and the next thing I knew I was under my bike, on the ground, under the bush.

I continued to lie on the ground a few moments to assess my condition and the situation. When I got out from under my bike and stood up I realized that my sunglasses had been knocked off my head and that my rearview mirror had been dislodged from my sunglasses. I had a few scratches on my arms and legs and a scraped shoulder but was otherwise fine. My bike was also fine. A few days later, however, I noticed that my helmet was cracked! I can’t imagine what my condition might have been if I had not been wearing a helmet.

A few weeks after that, I was riding along a paved section of the Montour Trail when a rider having trouble controlling her bike and coming toward me from the opposite direction forced me off the trail in order to avoid colliding with her. I recovered without spilling but recognized the incident as a close call.

The lessons I have learned from these two accidents and one near miss is to always check the essential components of my bike before clipping in and attempting to ride away, always wear a helmet, and to be more aware of myself, others, and my surroundings when I ride. In addition, I also always ride with a small first aid kit that I know how to use and a cell phone to call for help if I need it, though I am not always guaranteed of having a good cell signal.

I now consider my helmet, first aid kit, and cell phone my three safety essentials. What do you, what should you have with you when you ride in case an accident happens? And accidents will and do happen that are sometimes beyond a cyclist's control.

I am posting this installment less than a week after five cyclists were killed and four more were injured after a group of riders was struck by a pickup truck in near Kalamazoo, Michigan. As many in the cycling community already have, I express my sympathy to the family and friends of those killed and hope for the speedy recovery of those injured. 

Here are links to previous installments in the series:

Pedals for Cleats (Sixth Installment)
Riding Shoes with Cleats (Fifth Installment)
Be Kind to Your Behind (Fourth Installment)
Combating Hand and Arm Numbness (Third Installment) 
Reading and Riding (Second Installment)
Starting Over (First Installment) 

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