At nearly forty miles of our weekend ride, my wife and I were heading west on a section of Route 64 to reach County Line Road and head south. There was a northwest wind, so we were tacking against it as we traveled on a 15-foot wide road shoulder.
We’d covered the half-mile segment and were nearing our spot to turn when I glanced down at the radar reading on my Garmin device to see if there were any cars approaching. I still took a quick look back before calling out to Sue that we would have to wait.
At that precise moment she swerved a bit to avoid something on the asphalt and slowed at the same time. I caught that movement in my peripheral vision and instinctively whipped my wheel out of the way of her back wheel. We were moving at fifteen miles an hour, so there wasn’t much time to react any other way. That quick action sent me wobbling back to the right, toward the ditch. But at least I’d avoided colliding with her wheel.
Typically we ride with Sue in front and me behind because her triathlon training doesn’t really benefit from her drafting on me, especially in aero position on the bike. This year we’ve covered about 1500 miles together without incident. Sometimes I ride close on her wheel and at other times sit back and think through the miles. My main priority in all those miles is to avoid touching her wheel.
Still, it is probably inevitable that once a year we have a close call. Last weekend was that moment.
Yes, mistakes happen. As I careened toward the grass after avoiding a collision with her, I took instant notice that there was a traffic sign to my right. In all my years of sports and more recently, bike handling in criteriums, I’ve learned to read situations of that nature and avoid the worst outcome. In this case, it would be striking a 4″ pole of the sign with my head or body.
That didn’t happen. Instead I veered around the pole as the front wheel plunged down the grassy bank. I flipped completely over the front and nailed a landing by rolling with the momentum in a somersault (For the Benefit of Mr. Kite) to wind up on my hands and knees.
Water bottles were scattered in the process. So were my phone, the contents of the top tube took carrier, and sunglasses too. I was relieved those were okay. They are brand new and I already broke one pair this summer by slipping on the incline of my driveway while wearing cycling cleats.
Surveying the damage
Sue stopped and spun around when she heard me land. The flip on my part wasn’t her fault. As all cyclists know, I should have been watching ahead of me as we approached our turn, not looking behind. Sometimes we act against our better senses.
Standing up, I could sense my neck was strained from landing high on my shoulders on the grassy incline. I also knew the soreness would increase. The next day my body was stiff and tight. There was a bruise on my upper thigh. It was turning purple in the nearly exact place that I injured that leg during a higher speed fall due to bike wobble way back in 2012. I was going forty miles an hour that day, and through all that panick of speed and the inevitable crash, it was hard-earned athletic instincts and fast awareness that enabled me to yank my feet out of the clips. The bike frame struck me on the same part of my thigh just above the knee. Funny how those things happen.
Such are the various and strange injuries of life. Beyond the physical bruising we take, this recent incident makes me realize that we likely carry around repeat injuries of other types, emotional wounds where we’ve been struck before. These occur either through bad luck or repetitive instinct. Sometimes it is easier to take the hit where we know we can bear it. Let the bruise heal with time. Get back to what we were doing.
We can learn something from these visible and invisible bruises. They warn us that bad habits, inattention or selfish preoccupation often lead to bruising outcomes.
As the purple (or other colors) fade away, consider the possibility that there is a little thing inside you that even wants to be hurt, a cry for attention or a painful desire to be noticed. In the rush of life, it’s hard to slow down and recognize these needs. So we stub our toe on the bed frame or knick ourselves while carving vegetables with a knife. These amount to small cries for help, for our pain to be recognized, and a desire to be comforted.
These are hard truths to admit sometimes, but the little hurts can add up to big knowledge if you take the time to study them.