Jul 7, 2012

Anatomy of my First Bike Crash

I took a pretty hard fall on a bike ride this past Friday, June 29. Both bike and me are fine, but I wanted to detail in written form what happened because .. I want to.

The Bike I was riding
It was an eventful ride. My intention was to ride all the way down to Long Beach Island, NJ (LBI), from Suffern NY. Because of the navigational/neighborhood/traffic/road condition mess that riding through Newark/Elizabeth would be, I decided to bypass all that by riding into Manhattan and taking a ferry from Pier 11 (Wall Street) to Atlantic Highlands (Sandy Hook.) My ride, originally planned to be about 135 miles, ended up being 38 to the ferry, and 68 from the ferry to when I stopped on Rt. 72, a mile or two before the bridge onto LBI proper. 106 miles total. 

The ride, which started at 4:30AM, took me all of 12 hours to complete, and featured a Thunderstorm, three flats, close to two miles of walking the bike (with the flat tires), and, of course, the bike crash.

The crash came about 70 miles into the ride, when I was going through Point Pleasant, NJ. After stopping at a 7-11 for a cold drink and to take a break in the shade, I had gone less than a mile and was riding at 18MPH down Ocean Avenue. Ocean Avenue at this point is one of those roads that has two driving lanes and two parking lanes. Nobody was parked at this time, so I was cruising down the parking lanes. The time was a little after noon. The temperature was well above 90ºF.

Location of the crash. Click for a larger view.
Up ahead I saw a police car parked. Cars in the driving lanes were going slightly faster than me - perhaps 25MPH. I signaled to the next car behind me that I was going to move into the driving lane to pass the cop.

The surface for the driving lanes was different than that of the parking lanes. When transitioning from the parking surface, my rear wheel got caught on the edge of the driving surface, which was apparently set slightly higher than the parking.

I'd be unable to describe exactly how I fell. I seem to remember fishtailing a bit, before the bike being turned 90º and being thrown forward down the road, off the side of the bike.

I first fell on my left hip, and then onto my back and rolled until the back of my helmet crashed into the pavement.

As you can imagine, my mind was racing. I remember with amazing clarity what was going through my mind in the seconds after the crash. The first thing I thought about was how my helmet did its job - That fall would certainly have caused a concussion, yet I didn't feel a thing. I picked up my head and the first thing I saw was that the car I had signaled to had stopped. I then looked at the bike, which was on its side and noticed that water was flowing out of the bottle fastened to the aerobars. I then looked at the police car - I was probably a car-length in front of it - and saw the door open and the cop step out. I started to get up as he asked if I was OK.

As I got to my feet, we talked for a second about how the surface boundary caused it, and how he saw the whole thing. I then mentioned that I should get the bike out of the road.. so I walked it to the side, leaned it against a tree, and laid on the grass. Meanwhile, he went back to the car and radioed something in. In retrospect I assume he called an ambulance, although it didn't occur to me at the time.

He then checked on me, as I was still lying on the grass.

If I could think clearly, I would have told him that "I don't feel any pain at all, and I feel pain everywhere, at the same time." I guess the adrenaline spout was wide open and I was experiencing the corresponding hormonal rush. The wind had been knocked out of me, but it was otherwise obvious that nothing was seriously wrong. As I commented to the cop how the whole thing was in slow motion, I checked on the bike. Aside from the chain haven fallen off, the bike seemed fine. I didn't even have a flat (which is amazing, considering I ended up getting three flats in unrelated incidents that day.) The cop when back to the car to radio something else in - I assume he cancelled the ambulance - and without anything else to do, I thanked him, got back on the bike, and rode away.

It wasn't until an hour or two later, in Toms River, where I started to feel some pain in my left hip where I initially hit the pavement. It caused me to limp slightly that afternoon and the next day. I ran fake zeros that afternoon and the next morning. That pain persists today, but it's also getting better. Otherwise, everything is absolutely fine, except that I had no desire to get back on that bike for a while. Conveniently, the current heatwave is keeping me from wanting to train much anyway.