By Christopher Cudworth
So the aftermath of last Thursday’s crash into a downed tree while riding my road bike at 20 miles an hour and letting my attention drift to creative ideas rather than paying attention to the trail ahead is this: I’m now a very colorfully adorned guy. The bruises look like a work of art. So I’m really pleased about that. Really I am.
The canvas actually extends all the way from my lower back to a patch of apparently floating blue bruise material migrating toward my crotch. Blood is weird. Especially dead blood. But it makes good art. I can tell you that.
Back at it
By Saturday afternoon I rode the bike for 15 minutes to see how I felt and everything was fine except for the pain getting on and off the bike.
Sunday morning I went to church and it actually hurt pretty much to get up and down from the pews. But like all good Christians I fought through the pain because someday if I’m lucky that could make me a Saint. Never mind that we Lutherans don’t really brand people saints. I figure if I suffer enough for God the Catholics will pick me up on a free agent option and a player to be named later. I think that’s how they got their current Pope, who seems a lot more like a bleeding heart Lutheran than some hardass Catholic like Rick Santorum.
So, after church I was visiting with congregants when one of them said, “Have you seen (name redacted)? He was in a bike accident yesterday…”
I thought, “What?” My buddy never gets in bike accidents.
And then I thought again. Actually he’s been in quite a few accidents of many types. Just last winter while skiing in the Birkebeiner he did a forward flip so legendary the fans who witnessed it were talking about it in the bar a few hours after the race. Listening to their conversation he asked, “Where did you see that guy flip?”
They described the location and he admitted, “That was me.”
“Dude!” they all yelled in beer-soaked voices. “That was epic!”
He’s a good athlete. One of the best pure endurance guys I’ve ever known in running and cycling. A few years back in his middle 40s he was riding with the hotshot Tuesday-Thursday group that averages 28 mph on training rides and regular flips it at 30-35 plus. So my boy can ride and he could always run.
But once he gets turned sideways, he goes down hard.
And this time was no exception.
He and a riding partner were turning onto a trail when his tires slipped out from underneath him on a bridge and down he went. His entire hip and butt are an oozing mess of road rash and bruises. About an hour into a graduation party we were both attending we slipped aside to compare war wounds. He won. Hands down. Mine are prettier, but his are worthy of every Expressionist artistic work every completed.
I was secretly relieved that he had gone down too. He’s the more experienced cyclist having ridden since the early 1980s. I was worried what he’d say about my stupidity in not paying attention on the trail. As it turns out, you can crash whether you are paying attention or not.
Life likes to kick your ass. That’s all there is to it.
So we’ll both spend a week getting our lower back flexibility back. Like I said, he’s got a bit more experience in that area than I. Over the years he’s gone down in cyclocross and other bike accidents. It’s familiar territory.
Which makes it all the more funny now that I look back on our first “serious” ride together back in the early 2000s. I had my red Trek 400 but my other buddy insisted on me riding his Pinarello so that I could get the feel for a “real” bike. And one mile into the ride I fell over sideways trying to clip in and he quipped, “You’re a real cyclist now.”
Being clipped in was both a death-defying and liberating experience. It became moreso after we stopped at a place called the Mill Grill and drank 4-6 beers. I lost count at some point.
Then we climbed back on our bikes for the ride back home to his place and I never managed to get the second shoe clipped in. I was a little drunk from the beer and should not have been riding a bike at all, much less clipped in when I was over the legal limit drinking-wise.
But I half-pedaled the whole way home not saying a thing about my inability to get the other half of my cadence to work.
Sometimes the cycling gods have mercy. Sometimes they do not. That is the moral of this story. It is what you gain from the experience that counts.
So yes, I’ll be paying better attention from now on. But I was already doing that because of some videos I’d seen about the dangers of driving while texting and all sorts of other shit on the Internet that can scare you into being a better driver. In general.
The question for me is not just safety, where I’m being pretty careful about intersections and traffic lanes and such. It’s about paying respect to the cycling gods. Yes, that’s a bit of a pantheistic philosophy but when you’ve gone down because some random tree seemed to appear out of nowhere it may be time to burn some incense and pray that you don’t run into anything again soon. The cycling gods must be assuaged. In the blood or smoke of life, you make your own choices. Nudge your own fate. Or go down trying.