Monday, September 7, 2009

How Not to Ride

I've never seen "What Not to Wear" but I think I can deduce what the show is about from the title and the fact that it airs on TLC. Today, I was thinking about "How Not to Ride" as a possible blog post and then perhaps as the sole subject of a blog. Think about it. An entire blog dedicated to learning from and being entertained by the mistakes others make on a bike. I'm not talking fashion mistakes (like men wearing arm warmers with sleeveless jerseys). Instead, I want to explore errors of judgement like the guy who, while riding along at 20 MPH, decided to smack in a loose bar end on his road bike leading to the cycling equivalent of a self-goal .

The reason I was thinking about How Not to Ride was that I was remembering my trip yesterday to Kettle Moraine. Those of you who know me or read the blog know that in a typical year I put in thousands of miles on my road bike and hundreds of trail miles on my cyclocross bike, but only dozens of miles on my mountain bike. I love mountain biking and would do more of it, but the local trails are rather limited and it's 3-hours round trip to get to either Kettle or Palos. Yesterday, being the middle day in a three day weekend, gave me an opportunity to do something different, meet some friends and get in some handling practice that I hoped would serve me well when Cyclocross season begins in two weeks.

We started on the white loop, which had a few challenging sections and sharp turns, but I was pretty much in cautious mode, rode it reasonably well and felt pretty good when we regrouped at the end. I took some advice on how to take the sharp turns smoother and faster and we went off on the blue loop.

My handling was getting better and things were coming together nicely for me. I was climbing the hills well and descending a little faster, but still cautiously. We hit the most technical and difficult section of the trail and I was getting a little cocky. Still, I managed to keep the bike upright and mostly under control.

That is, until we hit a particular descent. First of all, let me ruin the suspense and mention that I didn't break any bones or bike components. I don't remember exactly how it happened, but it seems that I was out of the saddle as I began the descent and hit a rut which pitched me a little forward. Not much, but enough that when I hit the next rut immediately after, I went all the way forward and knew this was going to end up badly.

The rider behind me had a great view of my crash. I think she described it as spectacular. I wound up next to my bike on the ground in front of a tree. I was in front of it because it didn't move when I hit it. Nancy said my feet were up in the air when I hit the tree. I remember my back hitting the tree and I must have slid down it like a cartoon character. The tree left it's mark on my back in a red scrape reverse image of its bark starting at my left shoulder and ending above my right hip. This would appear to give the angle at which my body hit the tree. As I think about it, if I was going to hit that tree anyway, having endo-ed right before impact probably have saved my body and bike a lot of damage.

As I lie on the ground thinking that I really wish I hadn't done that, I began a quick self inventory. I remember thinking that the fact that I wasn't in any immediate pain was a good sign. I said out loud, "I'm OK, I think". I collected my wits for a moment and began to move and sit up. Still no sharp pains, but I felt some tenderness in both calves, more on my right one than my left. It felt like they had been hit with a blunt instrument (which, I guess, a tree qualifies). My biggest worry was injuring my back, but there was nothing besides the scrapes. The only damage to equipment was a large tear on the back of my jersey and a bent derailleur which Brendan fixed for me in about 30 seconds.

I got up and walked around and realized that I was quite lucky to have had such a spectacular fall and not any significant injuries. We rode back to the parking lot. I arrived quite a bit later than the rest of the group taking my time and walking down the one remaining steep rocky hill. I said my goodbyes and headed home. I got in about 90 minutes of riding and had to be home by 2 so it was a good time to leave even if I didn't crash.

At home, there was ice, Vitamin I and rest. Today I got out and did an easy road ride. I noticed that I had also hurt my left shoulder when I attempted to signal a turn. As I expected, I'm slightly sore in a number of places that I didn't feel yesterday, but the legs are better and I think I'll be able to get in a run or two this week in addition to my morning rides.

As for Kettle. I can't wait to get back to ride the blue trail at my pace. I got too aggressive for my skills and paid for it. Luckily, the price was rather cheap.

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