Sunday, February 2, 2014

Absolute Beginners: Fortune Favors the Prepared

A bicycle helmet saved my life.

This helmet:
Figure A: This is the Helmet
I was doing my ordinary ride: Bear's house to the Nimbus Fish Hatchery on the American River Bike Trail. Usually that ride is 2 hours and 33 miles. On Friday, it turned into a 12 mile one-way ride. You can click the link or the web widget, below. The route ends, essentially, where I crashed.

Actually, I'm totally guessing that I crashed, because I don't remember the 5 minutes before the route ends, or the 10 minutes following. I can only surmise that I crashed because my face was battered and bloody:

Figure B: My Bloody Face
The next thing I remember is hearing someone telling me that I couldn't get back on my bike. I can't see the person in my remembering, but I can hear him. The next thing I remember after that was being helped to a nearby road by two nice guys who ended up being paramedics (not there on official business but getting in some exercise). They wisely asked me to sit and call Davey to come get me. Davey came and took me home.
Here, I'd like to give a serious shout out to the two fine gentlemen who assisted me. At the time, I didn't have the capacity to get their names, but one of them named Conner wisely took my number. I know he's gonna read this, so: THANK YOU CONNER! Its the spirit of sportsmanship that keeps my faith in humanity alive!
Now the question is: what happened? Well, looking at the map, I know I was in the midst of a turn on a bend in the trail — a turn I've taken many times in the past. I was going about 15 miles per hour on a turn I usually take at around 17. It had just rained, so the roadway appeared damp, but not wet. It was about 54ยบ F, so it couldn't have been icy.

Still, somehow I managed to end up on my face, needing assistance.

The more I think about it, the more the pattern of damage leads me to the conclusion that my wheels slipped out from under me because of slick conditions. My face was damaged on the side I would have been leaning. The chain of events I surmise are as follows:

  1. I entered the turn without braking and steering appropriately (thrusting out with the outside leg) as I usually do. (Evidence: my habit.)
  2. My wheels hydroplaned on the newly-wet surface. (Evidence: my observation and the recent rainfall.)
  3. I tumbled forward onto the pavement and hit the corner of my helmet hard. (Evidence: The helmet was damaged in only one spot. (See Figure A, green circle.))
  4. The helmet bore the brunt of the impact, even though the styrofoam doesn't appear deformed. (Evidence: the helmet must have hit first as it is the only damage showing slide marks; the contusion under the helmet is the least of the wounds, and was nearly healed the day after the accident. (See Figure B, green circle.))
  5. I slide forward onto my face after the helmet did its job. (Evidence: the wear marks on the helmet show sliding, but my face doesn't show slide marks.)
  6. My bike fell away in the opposite direction and landed with little slide. (Evidence: the bike showed only very minor damage to the right shifter.)

Had I not been wearing a helmet, I surely would have had a much more traumatic blow to the head. The moral of the story is: WEAR YOUR HELMET! I've blogged about this before: helmets save lives!

I'm not going to proselytize but if I see you riding without your helmet on, I'm going to point at you and laugh. So be prepared.

If you found this article useful, please consider a donation of $5 or more to my AIDS/LifeCycle ride. Click "DONATE," above.

Your Bear

PS: should look at the end of the ride, you can see where I speed goes from 15 mph to 9:

Over the next couple months, I'm going to write a few articles with the lead-in title "Absolute Beginners," explaining some of the basic principles of cycling. Most of the information is stuff I've learned from other cyclists, bike shop mechanics, classes I've taken, and Google searches. Please help me out and comment with corrections, additions, or supplements which will help my readers learn about how to operate their bikes!


  1. Been there done that four broken teeth three root canels 14 stitches in face road rash broken wrist torn tendon still healing after 4 months concussion still they say getting new mri results tomorrow same thing turn to fast I normally take at that speed see u at alc June 1st

  2. Ugh this broke my heart a little! So glad you're okay, and that you were wearing a HELMET!!!! Can't wait to give you a big bear hug on Saturday ;-)