There is a stretch of 2-3 miles early in the regular Saturday Ride that makes me think of a member, Jim Good, every time I ride it. I tried to get the name of the road today but when I make that right turn I lose all self control! It is downhill and sweeps left and right. There is a pretty house on the right in an S-turn area. Just past that there is a little rise but if you hammer through it there is another long downhill. Stan Huie has painted a circle around a hole I still hit two out of three times. Hammer through the next little rise and there is a third downhill stretch. One day last fall I went through that whole run faster than I ever had before. The unique thing was that for a lot of the run, if Jim was not leading, he was at least in front of me!
I took a little pride in that moment, but not because of the time split for that run. You see, I started riding with Jim the same time I joined the club three or four years ago. Back then it was obvious I was a “newbie”. Anyone in that category who rides around Jim will probably notice he is cautious and constantly aware of who is riding around him. If he is not comfortable, he simply bails out. That day, through that stretch, he felt comfortable enough to run a pace line with me directly behind him and I recognized then that I had come a long way.
Then, it happens again! I am riding the second of three days at the Cycle North Carolina ride when the pace line I am in accordians, and I have no choice but to put my bike (and my body) on the pavement. I was sitting in a SAG van when I realized there are three stages to every crash. Any one who rides a bicycle realizes a crash can and most likely will happen. No matter if you are involved in the accident or just a witness to it, recognizing these three stages and knowing what to look for will help anyone who finds themself on the side of the road after a spill.
The stages are simple. First is the time before the crash, then comes the moment of impact and finally comes the post crash stage. The thing to remember about the first stage, Pre Crash Stage, is that the main goal is to avoid stages two and three! Getting Jim and others to feel comfortable around you may mean you have to improve some riding skills. Keep working at it. Keep riding with a group. If an accident happens, whether you are involved in it or not, learn from it. Good riding skills are helpful. Knowing those riders around you is a plus. In Florida this year I rode with a lady who when she got tired she kept popping her head and shoulders up. If you can tell the rider in front of you is tired, back off. Entire books can be written about all three stages, but the intent in stage one is to not get to stage two.
Stage two is the Moment of Impact. All I can say is find a way to minimize damage. I have been down twice. It hurt both times. Part of minimizing damage starts by being prepared. The first time I went down I did not know my head hit the pavement until I inspected my helmet the next day. WEAR A HELMET! My first club photograph has me in cotton shorts and shirt with deck shoes. When I went down though, I can say that spandex material actually minimized my road rash. After my crash last month my left palm felt like I had a stone bruise in it for weeks. The gloves kept me from ripping all the skin off my hand when braced for impact. Stage two happens in an instant. As soon as you go down, there may be more to come, depending on how those behind you react. Protect yourself, protect your head and as hard as it may be to fathom, do not worry about your bike.
Stage three is strange for everyone involved. Last month most of the “peloton” kept going. That was a good thing because I wanted to smack a couple of them. My club friends all stopped for me; thanks Dan, Tom, Steve and Sandy! However, my first reaction was to jump on my bike and chase that group down. Part of me actually thought if I could get back on my bike fast enough I could reverse some of the damage. Last summer I was with Winston when he crashed and broke ten ribs. I had to wrestle his bike away from him while we were waiting on the ambulance! It is apparently a natural reaction. Fight it. First take inventory. First check yourself out, then worry about your bike. Fortunately for me, the SAG truck was right behind me and my injuries were minor. They cleaned my road rash, wrapped me up and I finished that ride that day. After the crash, though, I stopped myself, took a couple deep breaths, and assessed my injuries. Once I determined I would survive my attention turned to whether or not my bike could continue. Only after you have a cool head should you get back on the saddle.
The other part of Stage Three is to learn from it. I was not comfortable in that pace line but I stayed with it. Even if you are three riders back from the incident, learn from it. If you find youself in that same situation in the future, being able to recognize it will enable you to better react to it in all three stages of the next big crash. Meanwhile, if you get a chance to draft Jim, that man can fly! Don’t let him fool you!
John Summer, FCC Ride Captain