Keep it Rubber Side Down!
As I’m recovering from my 4th concussion (3rd bike-related) and have suddenly found myself with a bit of free time thanks to doctor’s orders: I thought I’d share a few cycling-related accident insights – both past and present, as well as a few lessons learned. There’s a saying, if you ride a bike, you’ll crash, it’s just a matter of when. Sounds morbid, but it’s reality. Very few avid cyclists get through life without hitting the deck at least once, especially if you happen to ride frequently in urban areas or race. Most of those I ride with have at least one scar that comes along with a story.
Some are working on a collection.
It’s true that accidents happen, but they seem to happen more frequently these days to folks who AREN’T putting their life at risk while riding in a competitive event. This can be attributed to a variety of reasons ranging from inattentive, jerk drivers to inattentive and potentially ignorant fellow cyclists. Strangely there seems to be fewer experienced cyclists beating the ‘rules of the road’ into the heads of the newer bike riders. Cycling etiquette is there for your safety, not just because a few people like rules. But that’s another blog for another time…
Regardless of why you may find yourself having a close encounter with the ground, there are a few considerations that I have stubbornly ignored in my past – to my regret.
- Cracked Helmet
If your helmet is cracked, you get to take a nice ride in an ambulance: Period. No questions asked. Don’t second guess yourself or argue with your friends. Go. To. The. ER. I have had the dubious distinction of cracking (3) helmets in my career as a cyclist so far. In only one instance did I go to the emergency room. The first time I drove home! I will admit that this was amazingly stupid. Don’t do this! Now, I didn’t have but a teeny concussion from #2, but the fact still remains that the average person is not a concussion expert. You are running on a huge boost of adrenaline, so you really have no idea – just go to the ER. Even if you have a friend take you to avoid the ambulance bill.
You only have one brain and it might be important to you.
- Finishing the Ride/Race
Speaking of adrenaline, how many times have cycling fans seen a competitor go down only to win the race? Lots! Of course they do – they are super-charged with adrenaline after a crash! We also hear about how they later found out they broke their pelvis, spine, or something equally uncomfortable and unfortunate. It’s amazing what the human body can tolerate. Here’s the deal, unless you remember the entire accident, have no obvious injuries (except for a bit of missing skin), no cracked helmet, and are 100% positive you have no broken bones…. just don’t do it. If you are racing – at least get checked out by a medic. I’ve gotten back up and finished a race before (and a ride). There are times I shouldn’t have and there are times I was ok. You are taking a risk and, in local bike racing, that risk is for what?? A $20 gift certificate?
You might want to consider your life choices.
The Pro’s get paid a lot more than us local schmucks to race – just saying.
- Get Road ID!
If you don’t have a form of emergency identification (like Road ID), go ahead and pay the minuscule amount that it costs to have a road id band or what-have-you. It’s worth it and it saves a lot of waiting plus hassle while you are laying on the ground still trying to figure out what day it is. Mine has (unfortunately) come in handy. Don’t forget to keep it updated! If you have more than a few medical issues that might be important for emergency responders to know: Road ID has a hotline that you can subscribe to as well and they can give all pertinent info to the medics at the scene.
Top Tip: keep your insurance card and any emergency insurance (accident insurance) information handy just in case. It makes everything much smoother and less stressful for you in an already stressful situation.
- On Healing
This is where most cyclist will also make a big FAIL, in the area of allowing themselves to heal properly. I’m no exception. As a matter of fact, I’m fairly bad at allowing my body to rest. It’s not that I don’t’ want to take care of myself and I’m not necessarily afraid of losing fitness – it’s just that I want to be on my bike so badly! You know the kid who’s been told they can’t do something and now that’s all they want to do? Yeah, that’s me. I love riding my bike and always have. It’s tough to sit and ‘take it easy’. Ultimately: you need to be realistic with yourself and do your best to separate that inner kid that’s bouncing up and down from the facts. Don’t push it. Give your body time to heal and take it one step at a time. It takes longer than you think to lose any significant amount of fitness and less time than you think to get it back. If you force it, you could cause more injury. Pay attention to the warning signs of your body!
I hope this was helpful! Of course, none of us think we will be involved in an accident. But, trust me: you just never know. A few precautions and a little common sense goes a long way.