If you ride a bike long enough, you’re sure to fall off of it. The explore/shred/discover team is definitely no stranger to injuries. It seems we’re all one bike ride away from a broken collarbone or some other injury.
I’ve been fortunate enough to not be hit by a car on the road, but I have been hit by a cat. That was my second collarbone injury. The little guy ran right out in front of me. I tried to swerve out of his way but he hit my front tire, a little too much front brake on my part and I was hitting the deck, err curb on the side of the road. The bike was fine other than a scrape on my new Brooks saddle. I, on the other hand, had two bruised ribs, a fractured collarbone, and a giant hard lump on my right side that took about 6 months to disappear.
My first broken collarbone happened on a group ride. We were headed to Tempe and right before we reached Tempe Beach Park, I caught my wheel in the light rail tracks and down I went. It’s funny how adrenaline kicks in - you jump up, dust yourself off and jump back on the bike. “I’m fine, I’m fine.” Only after about five minutes, you start to realize how much pain you’re actually in. I somehow managed to get the bike home on my own after the cat incident, this one, not so much. I told my friends I was riding home. I made it about a mile away and collapsed on the side of the road.
There have been other incidents on the road, but nothing more than a few aches and pains and a little road rash. I’ve also been fairly lucky on dirt. When I first got my mountain bike, I crashed a fair amount but nothing all that serious. Even crashing into a cactus wasn’t all that bad. It seems dirt is a bit more forgiving than the road.
I hit the deck a couple of weeks ago pretty hard. Hard enough to need a new helmet anyway. Since getting my Yeti, I’ve been riding singletrack pretty consistently and have been getting a lot better than I ever imagined I would. The uphill grinds are always a challenge, but I don’t mind them. The sketchy technical downhills that I used to walk, I’ve learned to ride. My confidence has gone up and I’m trying more and more things that are out of my usual comfort zone. Practice makes perfect, but practice will also knock you down a peg or two when you’re not perfect.
I’ve been trying to ride most mornings before work. I get up a little bit earlier than normal and stop at North Mountain Preserve on my way into the office. I’ve worked out a nice little route, about an hour’s worth of riding. It has some flowy areas, some technical descents, some difficult climbs and even a hike a bike or two.
You’d think I’d get bored riding the same stuff every day, but the diversity of the route keeps things fresh. I also think working on the same stuff every day helps you get better. Mastering a technical descent that you never thought would be possible, makes other technical descents not as challenging. You become familiar with your bike, the way it rides and the way it handles. You learn what you can expect out of both yourself and the bike, your confidence grows, and you keep moving up to harder and harder challenges.
Working up to a harder challenge was what I was trying to do before I endo'd. There’s a really steep hill that feeds into another descent. Honestly, it looks less like a trail and more of a water runoff, rut down the middle of it and all. I’ve never seen anyone ride down it, and have only seen people hike up it once.
With a 40% incline there was no way I’d be riding up it, so hike-a-bike it was. I paid careful attention to the line as I hiked up, working out where my tires needed to go on the way down. The pitch got a bit steeper as we got to the top and I thought about walking back down. There’s no shame in waiting until you’re comfortable, but after a few minutes the nerves faded and I set off down the hill. Things went well at first but as I slowly picked up speed, I lost my line and I was quickly approaching the rut that would swallow my wheel and send me over the bars. Only I never made it to the rut, instead, I grabbed a handful of front brake and did to myself exactly what I thought would happen if I hit the rut.
Time stops as you’re flying through the air over your handlebars. You look at your bike and tell yourself “please be ok”, then you look at where you’re going to land and try to figure out what the worst possible scenario could be as you tell yourself, “please be ok”. No broken collarbones this time but I landed hard on my back, with my helmet slamming loudly on the rocks. Again, time stops. You wiggle your fingers, your toes, move your legs, arms…all is well, but shit still hurts so you lay there a bit and let sink in what just happened.
The adrenaline starts pumping and you get up and brush yourself off. Some scrapes on the arm, a dented helmet, my pack up the hill, my sunglasses down the hill, my bike lying awkwardly, but all in all, not bad. I picked the bike up, got my shit together and finished my ride.
When I arrived at work, I joked about hitting the deck, but still felt fine. When I was changing my clothes and freshening up is when I noticed the giant dirt stain on the back of my shirt. I laughed and went and got my phone, joking with my coworkers about the incident. When I took my shirt off, I finally noticed the severity of the crash. I mean, still nothing that bad, but a pretty nice mark, nonetheless.
After work, I came home and finally took a well-deserved shower. (I wash up in the sink at work because there’s no shower, it works, but that's another topic.) It sucks and it hurts a lot, but you’ve got to scrub the wounds clean so they don’t get infected. After that and some hydrogen peroxide, I put some 3M Tegaderm on my wounds. From everything that I’ve read, Tegaderm is a cyclists’ best friend. It’s basically a tape that sticks to your body, covering the wound. Don’t mess with any antibiotic ointment, just stick the Tegaderm directly over the injury and then leave it. The tape is supposed to last up to seven days, but results may vary. You can shower with it on and everything, however, sweat isn’t the best for it, so if you plan on riding through your injury, you might have to redress the wound. Trying not to be too graphic, but if your wounds are weepy and oozing fluid, you might want to redress the wound as well because giant puss pocket under clear tape looks pretty gross.
For the most part, it works wonders though. No gross scabbing, no scarring, and the injuries just fade away.
My crash happened on a Tuesday and by Saturday, I was pretty much healed. The Tegaderm stuff is a bit pricey, but the ease of use and how quickly you heal makes the price completely worth it.
I took a couple of days off the bike. I was awfully stiff the second day, almost felt like I had whiplash. I could have ridden the following day but thought I’d take another rest day for good measure. Friday, I was back on the bike - nothing technical, just some easy riding at Papago. Saturday was back to normal with some sweet singletrack and sessioning at Phoenix Mountain Preserve with the boys.
There’s a lesson here somewhere, maybe something like, “if it doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.” We’re all going to eat shit at one point, but don’t stop doing what you love because of it. Take a few days off, take a few months off, just get back out there and do it again. And stock up on Tagaderm, you’ll need it. Oh, and put a first aid kit in your pack. Alcohol prep pads are a godsend out on the trail after a crash, let me tell ya!!