Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Falling


In my short biking career (since May of 2011), I've taken 3 falls to this point, all on different bikes.

My first was really due to lack of experience: I was on my father's bike (a nice hybrid), on a short ride with a friend, and turned too sharply on some gravel. I fell to my left, scraping up my left knee, elbow, and right ankle (still have a chain shaped scar).

My second spill was possibly the most entertaining: Our group of 4 was biking through Philadelphia on tour from NYC to Washington DC. I had been told very clearly that if you get a wheel in the trolley tracks that go all around the city, you will go down hard. A good friend of mine had moved there after attending school at SUNY Binghamton, and had taken a really, really nasty spill, involving broken bones. I don't know details, but I do know that this contributed to her moving out of Philly. I asked her to write up a guest blog here, which she may oblige at some point.
I didn't really fully appreciate this risk of the tracks, and had images of getting a wheel caught and being able to gracefully brake to a stop. The reality was a much uglier. We had gone about 30-40 miles to that point that day, and I was last in the group. I watched my 3 friends cross over a track that was parallel to the road to take a left. I almost took a sharp enough angle over it, but my front wheel got caught. I went down to my left, scraping up my left elbow and knee. It was fairly terrifying, though I was quite lucky: I was really not badly hurt, and the bike was totally fine. The feeling of being totally out of control and moving quickly is really scary! Your body is in essence being thrown up against the laws of physics.

My most recent fall took place on the way to give a press conference at Binghamton's City Hall this past December 2011, whilst on Fransesca. People familiar with biking in Binghamton may know about the wavy pavement on Hawley Street in front of the government building complex. There is a patch of pavement that is very heavily grooved from tires compacting it for years. The worst part is that it blends in to the surrounding road almost seamlessly, and is not cracked at all. I was cruising through a green light and was focused on a pedestrian beginning to cross ahead, when I was simply bucked from the bike. I again fell to my left, scraping up my left knee and elbow. If it hadn't been for my steel toed boots, I would have bruised up my left foot. Fortunately, Francesca was completely fine. I showed to the conference with a ripped up shirt and pants and a little bloodied, but more just annoyed with losing my one pair of dress pants without bike grease on them. My elbow and hip are still a little bruised a month later, but arehealing.

A few common themes here: I've been quite lucky in terms of being completely healthy despite these falls. I am also yet to mess up a bike from falling.
 None of these spills has taken place on a regular commute to or from work. I somewhat attribute this to familiarity: I know nearly all of the potholes and risky areas on my commute.
I'd like to conclude by acknowledging the risk of biking in traffic (or not, as is the case with my 3 spills). You owe it to yourself and those who love you to be as smart as possible when biking: be as visible as possible, recognize that you are the slowest and most vulnerable vehicle on the road, and finally, you may have right of way, but if you are dead or injured it won't matter.

This is an original ad for my my 1982 Schwinn. Mine is in Blue Metal. At some point in the indefinite future, I will include a picture of my actual rig. It's such a gorgeous ride for touring!!


Update: 3/21/12
Today I took my first fall due mostly to my own distraction.  I was coming down the 201 bridge off of the highway and was slowing down. I was a bit distracted by wanting to unbutton my dress shirt to allow more air flow and just veered off the sidewalk and onto a grassy ledge. I fell pretty hard coming back on the road. My left knee feels a bit bruised up and I scraped up my right calf and elbow. 
Francesca was a bit tweaked. I did some cosmetic damage by breaking the plastic housing for the shifters, but the worst of the damage was that the front wheel was not perpendicular to the handlebars. Fortunately I carry a multi tool and was able to straighten out the wheel and tweak the shifters and brake levers. 

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