“As soon as you get comfortable and confident on it, sell it, because you’re about to get hurt.” I’ve heard that saying in reference to motorcycles before, but I’m starting to think maybe it should apply to bicycles too.
Well that didn’t go as planned. This was the result of not looking far enough ahead. I slid down that flat rock on my back–fun times indeed.
I’m a very confident rider. Not “I can do anything imaginable” confident, but I’ve got enough miles in me to know how my bikes handles and what I can do on it. It’s like the bike is an extension of my body, it just feels so natural. I don’t have to think about what I’m doing, it’s completely second nature. It’s as if I know how each knob on the tire is interacting with the dirt. It’s magical really.
Then I bought a road bike. It is not second nature. Narrow drop style handlebars, really low bottom bracket, narrow high pressure tires with tiny contact patches. It took me a while to get comfortable on it. I ride it to work a few days a week, and so far I’ve put a few hundred miles on it–I was just starting to get comfortable.
Glad it was just surface damage, these things aren’t cheap.
One day on the way home I got caught in the rain. The bike has fenders, so I wasn’t worried about it, I stayed pretty dry. I got all the way into my neighborhood and then made the mistake–I quit thinking about the ride, quit paying attention. I was 45 seconds from the driveway and already thinking about what I needed to get done that night, when all of a sudden the front end washed out on a right handed off-camber turn.
It was that awful feeling, when the world goes into slow motion, you know the front wheel is too far gone to save it, and you’re about to go sliding across the deck. Yep, this is gonna suck. At least I was aware enough to get my hand out of the drop.
Half a second before hitting the ground that’s where I was gripping the bars. Would not have been good to get caught between the bars and pavement.
It really wasn’t a bad crash, I wasn’t going that fast. I only slid a little ways, and only got some minor road rash on my right leg, a little puncture on the left (no idea how that happened, pedal maybe?), and a small spot on my wrist. The bike had worse damage. Scratched up the brake/shifter, wore through the bar tape and scratched the bars, ground down the corner of the rack, and bent the derailleur hanger. Luckily it was just cosmetic damage, except for the derailleur hanger–I had to get it bent back. Why anyone makes a frame with a non-replaceable hanger is beyond me… but that’s another post.
The post-crash hassle of road rash is way worse than the crash itself. It’s almost enough to make me shave my legs. Almost. This was my first crash on pavement in a long time and I had forgotten how efficient asphalt is at removing skin. Crashing in the dirt is way better.
So, I was off the bike for a few days while letting the road rash heal up (tip – cut the hair around the wound, then it wont get matted up in the scab and pulled whenever you move). When I did get back on the bike, it was one of my mountain bikes. A bike I have hundreds of hours on. And the trail was a trail I’ve ridden hundreds of laps around, I know every root, every corner, all the fast lines, and all the slick spots. I was reminded of the crash when I put my shoes on and discovered the rachet buckle on my shoe had been ground down. Now it sticks. That’s annoying.
The first lap was terrible, my confidence was shaken. I didn’t trust the bike like I used to, and I questioned myself. I had to think too much about it, it wasn’t just natural anymore. I had lost my mojo.
But, as the night wore on and the lap count increased my mojo started coming back. By the end of the night, I once again felt at home atop my WTB saddle and knobby 29″ tires. Life was good.
I guess sometimes we have to crash. A blood offering must be made. Or maybe it’s a way of learning a new lesson, or reminding us of a basic skill. In this case, it was simple: pay attention, stay in the moment! That buckle on my shoe will remind me every time I saddle up.