Friday, January 14, 2011

Slip-Sliding Away

Before I tell you about the "accident," let me first make this perfectly clear: I had no choice.

Really, it could not have been avoided ... probably. Sure, I could have not biked in to work Thursday, but it was a compulsion. For one thing, I made a New Year's resolution to bike in to work at least one day every week this year (except when I'm in France in August), and I was running out of days. For another thing, I had not been on a "real" bike since riding in and out from work last Friday.

You see, the weather here lately sucks. (Okay, I'm sugar-coating that, but this is a family blog.) RandoGirl and Iwent to Atlanta to see family over the weekend, rather than ride in the cold and snow, and when we came back Sunday evening the damage was done. Then, every other day this week, Mother Nature has done more damage.

Wednesday night, it was either get on the rollers or go to a spin class. I did two hours of classes, taught by my friend Tom Spears. Tom does a great class, and I would love to write a blog about them. But they're spin classes. The only thing more boring than taking a spin class is writing about spin classes, and the only thing more boring than writing about spin classes is reading about spin classes. And, as you now can probably testify, the only thing more boring than reading about spin classes is reading about reading about spin classes.

Maybe this is because I'm such a lousy writer. A real writer would make it thrilling.

Hemingway: "He spun. Outside, it rained."

Steinbeck: "He kept trying to focus on keeping his legs from going all wobbledy-jongle like they usually did when the cadence got crazy, but the darned things just kept going all wobbledy-jongle anyhow."

Elmore Leonard: "'Take it to 9. Crank that dial,' Tom said. 'Shoot me now,' Jane thought. At least she had the gun to do it with."

Anyway, even after Tom's excellent class, I still needed to ride outside. So, Wednesday night when I checked the weather forecast and it said no more snow, I decided to bike in.

It was still bitterly cold, but I've got stuff for that. Temperatures in the low 20's just mean an extra ten minutes of putting on clothing and chemical warmers, but I rolled out in the pre-dawn dark feeling almost toasty. The patches of ice in my neighborhood had enough pavement around them so that it was no trouble, and the roads further on were almost completely clear.

I stayed on Edmondson down to Old Smyrna, where I found more ice. Fortunately, the treads of cars had left narrow lanes of clear pavement here and on the road through Annandale. I crossed onto Cloverland -- a nice busy road, which meant that it was also clear ...

And then I screwed up.

Cloverland dead-ends at Old Hickory -- a six-lane road with lots of folks hurrying towards the I-65 on-ramp. You have to be a little insane to ride a bicycle on Old Hickory. While I am a little insane, I am sane enough to normally cut my time on Old Hickory by taking a left here onto Valley View, which also dead-ends on Old Hickory, but about a tenth of a mile further west.

As I headed towards Valley View I saw a car turning on to it very slowly. When I got closer I saw the reason: Just past the start of the road, there was lots and lots of ice. So, now I have to choose between either the dangerous extra tenth of a mile on Old Hickory, or test my ice-biking skills.

I went with the test.

Epic fail.

Now, normal bicycle tires on solid ice don't get any traction. Maybe studded tires would have gripped better, but I doubt it since that ice was solid. It was slick. And it was hard. Really hard. The kind of hard that, when your bike goes ZIP out from under, you whack that ice with all of your weight smack-dab on your hip. Ouch.

But, hey, I'm Randoboy, right? I crash my bike all the time ... or so it sometimes seems. I got up quickly (didn't want to get run over by the next car) and slip-slide-walked my bike to the edge of the road. There, I checked everything out, making sure that the wheels still spun, and that my clothes and skin didn't have any new holes. Check, check, and check. Then, I picked my broken coffee cup up, put it in the bottle cage, and headed down Cloverland towards Old Hickory thinking that cars could not be any more treacherous than ice.

Four miles further on -- including a brief stop at Panera for more coffee, and a bit of riding on and then walking next to an icy sidewalk -- I got to work. My hip was numb when I changed clothes, and the swelling there looked like I had been grafted onto a large purple eggplant. Walking around hurt even more than biking had, which was just a little more than sitting at my desk hurt. As the day went on, the pain got worse and the joint stiffened up, so I wimped out on biking home and got RandoGirl to pick me up on her way home from work. After I got in the car, we then decided to head to the ER for an x-ray, just in case.

Fortunately, all bones inside me remain solid. I would post a picture or a copy of the x-ray, but frankly both would end up showing some parts that you don't want to look at ... trust me.

Since neither I nor my bike is going to experience long-term loss of function, I'm not even going to call this an "accident." Instead, this is just a "learning opportunity." Fools rush in where angels fear to bike, and I'm going to be a little more cautious around ice in the future. In addition, maybe I need to just accept the fact that spin classes and riding on the rollers may be boring, but sometimes boring stuff is less hazardous to my health.


  1. Get studded tires, they really do work! Even on slick ice. But, you still do have to be careful. Glad you're ok!

  2. They only sell studded tires in the frozen states ... like Indiana!

    John: Thanks! Pain is just weakness leaving the body.