Tuesday, November 10, 2009

When Fixed Breaks (and Brakes)

Tuesday afternoon, I'm riding home thinking that I was just hitting 100 miles of post fixed flopping, and had not yet attempted the suicide knee-wrench coast. This is common with people that don't ride fixed a lot -- you try to coast (which you can't do without a freewheel hub), and the bike explains why it doesn't want to do that. It explains this in a forceful manner, much like the debate style favored by B.A. Baracus, or the way Han Solo ended the discussion regarding the reactor leak in the detention area.

Now, normally I love speed bumps. These are what civil engineers call "traffic calming devices," because they calm the speed of vehicles by irritating the spit out of drivers. They can also calm the speed of a bicycle, if you don't want to go a little airborn. And a little airborn is not a good thing on a fixie ... particularly one loaded down with 25 pounds of computers and clothing.

Normally, I coast over speedbumps -- particularly the ones in Chenoweth that are really high. And right now you're thinking that I tried to coast over a speedbump there and did the suicide knee-wrench ... but you're wrong! I kept my wits about me and spun over all of the bumps. Including the one on which I went a little airborn.

But that did not make me crash ... at least, not at that time.

Instead, I landed and rode on, although the bike felt funny right after the landing. But it was fine for the next half mile, up to the stop sign on Edmondson Road, so I ignored it.

Now, this is a busy road. There is an ad hoc traffic calming device going on just north of where I hit this road -- they're widening it and/or repaving it and the speed limit is 20 mph there -- which keeps things nice and quiet lately. So, I came to the intersection and it was clear, so out I went.

But I had no sooner made the turn than I realized that a car was coming over the hill to the left. And, since I had to make a left turn at the bottom of the hill I was now on, I started spinning like crazy to keep my speed up, and I took the lane in preparation for my turn. I was easily doing over 30 mph when the chain came loose, fell between the cog and the spokes, and locked up my rear wheel.

Kids: Don't try this at home.

In the calm afterwards, you try to reconstruct what then happened. Logically, my legs could no longer turn the wheel, which makes for a lot of frantic energy in your body that suddenly has nowhere to go. As any student of physics will tell you, energy does not like to be thwarted in this manner. If if wants to go, it will go ... unless acted upon by an immovable object. Like pavement.

So, my whirring legs were quickly thwarted, and I tried to brake really quickly, and I would like to say that the bike then skidded forward straight and true, slowing down gently like a drag racer after deploying its chute. I really, really, really wish that I could say that.

Instead, things went (in the words of the immortal Swedish Chef), "Gersh gurndy morn-dee burn-dee, burn-dee, flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip-flip."

I totally suck at maintaining composure during an accident, such that I could minimize damage to me by hitting only soft parts ... or better yet, rolling along the road instead of grinding myself. But I am proud to say that I am really good at jumping up after accidents and making sure that cars don't run over me. One day, I may fail at this, in which case I hope somebody reads this blog at my funeral and everybody laughs and laughs and laughs. After that, drinks are on me!

Anyhoo, I jumped up like Clark Griswold and said, "I'm okay!" and grabbed the bike and moved it out of the road before the car could run over me. Which he obviously had no intention on doing, since he rolled down his window and pulled up next to me and said, "That's what you get for not riding on the sidewalk, Lance!"

Okay, not really. He actually asked if I was okay. I said, "Sure, the wheel just locked up. Golly." Or something stupid like that. Then a lady who had been going the other way and had seen the accident pulled up and she asked if I was okay, and I said about the same thing.

Again, thinking about it now, I bet it was really a spectacular crash. On YouTube, it would be "Fail."

But I have this thing about never letting cars know when I am miserable. That's why I will smile and wave at a car passing me when I'm in the pouring rain, or sit at a busy intersection in sub-freezing temperatures and sip my coffee and smile at the sky like some kind of idiot. I am trying to convince them that they should join me in riding like this.

And I'm sure that the drivers of the cars that watched my Wild World of Sports Agony of Defeat crash are now just freaking dying to get out there and ride.


So, anyhow, I got the bike over to the side and figured out what had happened. Then I checked myself over and made sure nothing was broken or separated or bleeding uncontrollably. It took me about five minutes to fix the wheel, and another 15 to ride the last three miles home, very slowly, and somewhat painfully. Moving air on road rash hurts.

I took pictures for you to enjoy. Here's the scrape on my knee and the road rash on my calf:

Here's the hole in my malleolus (the bone that sticks out on your ankle). This will match the scar that I installed on my left leg last March. I think it is very important to be symmetrical in your deformities.

Here's the hand. Oddly enough, this is the one that worried me, and made me go to the hospital. RandoGirl is taking me there now. I wish that I could show you this in the picture, but you can see bone in there.

Isn't that cool?


  1. So sorry to hear about the fall and ewwww! on the photos.

  2. If I click "LOVE it!!!", am I complementing your writing or saying that I love the fact you fell?

  3. DAD!!! What did you do to yourself?!


  4. Would you have been insulted if the passing motorists' first questions had been, "Is your bike OK?" Or would you have recognized you were in the company of fellow cycling fanatics?

    I'm relieved you and your bike are both OK :)

    Can you photoshop into the image a big chunk of bone hanging out???

  5. You know, there's something to be said for battle wounds and at the end of the day? You conquered the road!
    Love your blog : )

  6. Sorry about the accident, RB. I can definitely relate to the putting the best face on it in front of the drivers. "It's only a flesh wound," comes to mind. Glad to hear you're ok and still going strong. See you soon. -BobR