After more than four years of fall-free cycling, not counting the tumbles I took when I first started using clipless pedals, I have had two crashes in as many months. The first is described in Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡!! I was lucky to come away from that crash with only two injuries of note. The bruise on my upper thigh turned into a haematoma that needed draining twice before it healed into a lump of scar tissue. What I thought was a slightly separated shoulder turned out to be a rotator cuff injury. I had some pain and restricted movement of the left arm, but nothing that required me to stop riding.
“What about the bike” you ask? My bike had only two injuries of note as well. A broken right shifter and brake, and a front rim that needed to be trued. Both of which were expertly repaired by Husher and his crew at Meng Thai Bicycle Centre.
Since that crash I did a lot of rides, including the Shah Alam Enduride 2014, the Klang Premiere Century Ride 2014, and the Kuantan Century Ride 2014. All without incident. There was no reason to expect that the climb from Kuala Kubu Bahru to Fraser’s Hill and back would be any different.
The first time I did the Fraser’s Hill ride was in February 2013. I was looking forward to seeing if my revised hydration regimen would get me to the top in better shape than I was the first time.
All went well on the way up. I was able to hold a faster average speed, and did get to the clock tower without cramping this time. My rear tire had a slow leak after our stop for coffee at the stall at the Gap. The 8 kilometers from the Gap to the clock tower is the steepest part of the climb. I elected to make a couple of stops to pump more air into the tire, rather than change the tube whilst in a sweaty mess. I swapped tubes at the top before we made the final short climb to the food court for lunch. A piece of fine wire that looked like it came from a casing or a car of truck tire was the culprit.
All was going well on the way down. The food court is at 1,290 meters above sea level. The Gap is at 860 meters above sea level. The road between the two is 12 kilometers of descending delight. Lots of sweeping curves, but with a few tight ones as well. Riders have to stay alert for the tight turns, and areas where the road surface is less than optimal.
I made it down to 995 meters. As I came into a left-hand turn at 50kph my front tire gave out. Perhaps I had picked up a piece of that fine wire in the front as well. I’ll never know.
I do know I had that “Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡ !!” moment before I started preparing as well as I could for the inevitable crash.
There are lots of articles on the web about how to fall off your bike. These are the things they all tell you.
Wear a helmet. Excellent advice. This is what my helmet looked like after the crash.
Much better the helmet cracked rather than my head. All I had was a slight bruise on my right temple.
Wear your cycling gloves. Gloves will provide some protection for your hands. I wasn’t wearing gloves. I didn’t scrape my hands because I did the following three things.
Choose your surface. I did not want to fall onto the tarmac. As my bike started sliding I worked to stay upright long enough to get to the side of the road. I managed to feather my braking so my tires kept rolling rather than sliding out from under me. I also tried to steer so that I was as parallel as possible to the curb. The last thing I remember seeing before impact was the concrete curb and open drain that I was flying over. And that I was going to land on the grassy verge.
Don’t lock your elbows and knees. I fell on head and right shoulder first. Grass and mud were jammed into the large ventilation slot on the right side of my helmet, and there was a grass stain on my right shoulder. The rest of my jersey was unmarked. Oddly enough my first thought was that I had broken my left arm. My upper arm hurt the most. A quick check showed that my left arm was intact. As were my other limbs and my collar bones.
I didn’t land on my hands. I had no cuts or scrapes on my elbows or knees. I had scratches on my calves, which I can only assume came from my lower legs running through a thorny plant. I assume that I rolled on impact, which dissipated some of the force of the crash.
Tuck your head. This is to protect your neck. I must admit this must have been an unconscious reflex. Or I was lucky not to land on my face. My neck is intact, but as you can see from the x-ray of the back of my neck, the vertebrae weren’t exactly in a straight line.
Practice falling. This is the last piece of advice from the web. I think I have practiced enough.
The outcome of this 50kph shunt was that my upper back was incredibly sore for a week. I sprained every muscle in my neck and shoulder blades. I also aggravated the rotator cuff injury. So I have a limited range of motion in my left shoulder. I also severely compressed the nerves leading from my neck to my left arm. That was the cause of the burning pain in my upper arm at the time of the crash. I have ongoing numbness and tingling in my left hand, weakness in that arm, and pain in the areas illustrated below.
The short-term outcome of my visit to the orthopedic surgeon is a collection of pills.
Methycobal. 500mg three times a day, to help with nerve repair.
Myonal. 50mg three times a day to help relax muscles which are spasmodic.
Celebrex. 200mg twice a day to combat inflammation.
Ultracet. 375mg three times a day to combat pain.
Motilium. 10mg three times a day to combat nausea caused by the Ultracet.
The longer-term outcome is physiotherapy three times per week. This includes decompression of the vertebrae in my neck through traction, and treatment of the rotator cuff injury with laser, ultrasound and electrotherapy.
And perhaps most painful of all – no bike riding until the injuries heal.
It could have been much, much worse though. I could have crashed on the valley side of the road and fallen who knows how far down the side of the hill. I could have hit a tree, or a guard rail, or a electricity pole. I could have crashed on the tarmac. On my face.
I was very, very lucky. Hence the title of this post. A Yiddish saying that I now firmly believe in.
After my last crash I resolved to ‘Look Forward’ whenever I am on a bike. After this crash I added a second mantra . . .
“What about the bike” you ask? No damage to the bike, apart from some scratches on the left front fork.
How does that Yiddish saying go again?