The Crash

If it’s been a little quiet from ARB Cyclery this summer (i.e. you haven’t seen our e-newsletters hit your inbox), this blog post will help explain.  And speaking of blog posts, it has been a while since we last posted!  We hope to be more consistent through the rest of 2017.

If you’ve been cycling long enough, there is a good chance you’ve “hit the deck” at some point.  Sometimes you get by with just a few scrapes and bruises.  Other times, it’s worse.  The dreaded broken collarbone is one of the more common cycling injuries resulting from a crash.  And, of course, there is no shortage of stories of road cyclists getting hit by automobiles.  Either it’s happened to you or you know someone who has been hit.

Technical Singletrack in Sedona, Arizona

I’ve never been one to think of cycling as a particularly risky sport.  Of course, the rider has some say in this.  If you race criteriums, hammer in large, fast group rides, regularly do climbs that feature harrowing descents, or ride lots of technical singletrack, you up the ante.  Then there is always the debate about which is safer, road cycling or mountain biking.  I’d venture to say there are more falls and injuries in mountain biking.  However, mountain bikers will always fire back by saying at least we don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car – which, in the worst case, can lead to death.  Yes, this is true, but I’d say the odds are low when you consider the number of deaths per cycling miles ridden.  Of course, one life lost is one too many and we need to do everything possible to make cycling safer.  It is also true that you take a risk everyday just by getting into an automobile.  Bottom line:  there is risk in many of life’s activities that people find enjoyable.

I’ve been road cycling on and off for about 26 years, not counting my childhood.  That adds up to well over 25,000 miles (based on my estimations) and in that time, I had never really crashed.  In other words, nothing I didn’t get right back up from.  In 2004, I decided to give mountain biking a try and that’s when I suffered my first crash of any real consequence.  On a ride from Point Mugu State Park in Malibu, I crashed on some singletrack, suffering a small compression fracture of a lower vertebrae.  Fortunately, no surgery was required and after a short hospital stay and a few weeks in a back brace, I was pretty much recovered.  So, I thought, why not just stick to the road – much safer than those unpredictable rocky dirt trails!

Mt. Tantalus Drive, Honolulu, Hawaii

Then came the summer of 2017 and a one week family vacation in Hawaii.  I was able to get a “hall pass” for one day of cycling on Oahu with a native cyclist who knew the best places for road riding on the island.  We rolled out and cruised some of Honolulu’s city streets before my guide led us to the base of a popular local climb, Mt. Tantalus Drive.  Strava shows it as a 4.5 mile climb at an average gradient of 6%.  It feels like you are climbing up into a tropical rain forest with some amazing peekaboo views of downtown Honolulu below as you round various switchbacks.  Of course, I had never done this climb before, but more importantly, I had never done the descent before.  Of course, I wasn’t thinking about that – I just wanted to get to the top!  As we turned around to descend, I started to realize the road had some damp spots from rains the night before.  So as I picked up speed coming into the first corner, I wasn’t as aggressive as I’d normally be.  And unfortunately, this put my line too far to the outside, causing me to go off the edge of the pavement.  Trying to get back on the pavement, I could not keep my balance and I hit the tarmac hard.  Just how hard, I was about to find out.

Laying on the road, I was ready to get back up, but as I tried to roll over onto my back, I realized something was wrong.  I couldn’t move without severe pain in my left leg.  I now knew this was serious.  And, I felt a little embarrassed in front of my cycling guide – how did I manage to mess up going around this corner?  And then something else dawned on me – I just really messed up our family vacation.  Someone wasn’t going to be happy.  Eventually, an ambulance arrived and I was off to the hospital.

After some X-Rays, the verdict was in – a broken and fractured femur.  (I also injured my left shoulder which wasn’t really noticeable at that point.)  I was brought in for surgery almost immediately.   I was going to get a titanium rod put into my leg so my femur bone could heal properly.  When I woke up, my doctor said he was very pleased with the surgery and that I now had a long recovery process ahead of me – somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 months.  Of course, the first two weeks was going to be the hardest.  For that, I refer you to this very accurate blog post of another cyclist who suffered a broken femur!  You can start reading from the part:   Week 1:  Standing on my own Two Feet. Just.

Richie Porte, GC Favorite, TdF Stage 9 Crash

After one week in the hospital and another in a rehab hospital, I was allowed to fly home.  By then, I was still using a walker to get around but I soon graduated to a cane.  In those first few weeks, I spent a lot of time in bed with the TV on.  One good thing was that it coincided with the Tour de France.  It was always something to look forward to each day.  This year, I could really empathize with every rider that crashed.  In the very first stage, Alejandro Valverde went down on a wet time trial course breaking his kneecap.  And then, probably the scariest scene in the Tour came when G.C. favorite Richie Porte went down going over 40mph on a descent in Stage 9, fracturing both his pelvis and clavicle.  When I saw pictures of each of them in the hospital, I knew exactly what they were going through.

Fast forward to today and I can even hobble around without the cane.  I am doing a lot of outpatient physical therapy and am now starting to feel a lot more normal in terms of everyday functioning.  But, it will be a few more months before my leg is near 100%.  It probably won’t ever be exactly as before, but I hope to get close.  During this time period, unfortunately, our Store Manager of five years, Tony Lederman, left to take another job in the bicycle industry closer to his home in San Diego.  We wish him the best as he moves on to another chapter in his career.  I am now back in the shop a bit more often and you will still see many of the other familiar faces at ARB, including Jason, Jesus, Barrett, Bruce B, Les, and Danilo.

Hello Trainer!  I’ve never been a big fan of trainers because I much prefer to do the real thing outside.  Isn’t that one of the reasons we live in Southern California?  But now I’ll do my best to embrace it as the indoor trainer is a great way to rehab and get back lost fitness.  If you come into the shop, you might see me on the Wahoo Kickr doing some rehab.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to get back outside on the bike come fall!



20 thoughts on “The Crash

  1. I’m glad you are on the road to recovery, Bruce. I just found out about your accident this past Tuesday from Barrett on the LPB-TNR. I hope to see you soon!

  2. Sorry Bruce I didn’t know, femur is a very tough bone so you must have hit hard, can definitely relate to missing the bike!
    Get well soon

  3. Bruce,

    Wish you a speedy recovery!
    Been there myself with a broken clavicle.
    I highly recommend Dr. Duddey in HB for physical therapy.
    Take it slow and heal well!

  4. Wow…thank you for the update, but more importantly, thank you for sharing your experience with us and that you’re on the path to riding again!

    Didn’t know Tony left the store. 🙁

  5. Thanks for sharing. I experienced my first crash on the descent of an HC climb last July (2016). 35 mph to zero in about 3 seconds on the pavement is not fun. My right pedal didn’t unclip when I flipped so tore my groin pretty bad. Fortunately, that was the worst of it (although road rash not fun). Glad it wasn’t worse for you and you’ll be able to ride again.

  6. Bruce, God speed. Any activity we pursue comes with its risks and rewards. Sounds like you reaped the rewards for 26+yrs. unfortunately the odds caught up. Count your blessings you’re able to enact a recovery plan. And you’ll be a much more informed cyclist for going through this experience. At least that’s how I looked at it as a disabled vet. You have a terrific and loyal team. The short time I’ve known them, they’ve been nothing short of amazing from Barrett fitting me with my first ever road bike-a Guru-and being his test subject for his exercise research, to Bruce, the only mechanic I allow to work on my Guru, to Tony who became a close friend and the rest of the crew. Thx for the update and look forward to seeing you around. Robert G.

  7. Thank you for sharing your experience! You do a great job of putting your thoughts/feelings to ink. I did TANTALUS repeats a few years back, and it can definitely get dicey on those roads. It’s constantly raining or misty there and so you get areas of dry and wet. There’s also shadows cast on the roads that may hide wet spots. Beautiful area to ride, but can be tricky. Here’s to a full recovery!!

  8. I rode Tanatulus MANY times living on Oahu…. grest climbing- but SCARY and Technical Descent. The guys who rode motorcycles and bikes knew exactly how to descend and puck the right entry speed, late apex and line to avoid runnung out of pavement. I learned all if this very well in Irvine when I started runnin Ducatis on Ortega Highway. So sorry for your mishap…. i too am recovering from a briken fibula!!!! Cycling IS a dangerous sport.

    • Thanks Jay. Yep, I ran out of pavement. Hope your recovery is going well. Tantulus is a great climb but I wasn’t fully congnizant of the road conditions until I began the descent. I was just thinking about getting to the top. We are pretty spoiled here in SoCal with dry roads almost all the time.

  9. Bruce, so sorry to hear about your accident 🙁 But welcome to club titanium.. not a club any of us wants to be in, but we have the hardware .

  10. Bruce,
    Sorry to learn of your accident and recovery. I am also sorry Tony left. Tony was instrumental in most of my purchases from small to large. He was always introducing me to something new….75% of the time those recommendations were valuable. Don and Tony were my main contacts at ARB. Now I will feel like a rookie or novice on entering the shop.

    • Tom,
      Tony will be missed but we still have some great people here, including Jesus, bike fitter extraordinaire Barrett, and excellent mechanics in Bruce B., Danny, and Les. Hope to see you drop by again soon.

  11. Another member of the Titanium Femur Club

    Hi Bruce,

    I couldn’t help noting the similarity of our crashes this summer. I’ve always heard that misery loves company, so I will share my story too. I too have ridden road bikes (and a recumbent) for more than 30 years, not counting my growing-up years. I’ve accumulated approximately 70,000 miles so far, most of which took place in the Western area of Washington State when I lived there. I’m 72 years young and have been living in Southern California for 13 years now. I really like the weather here and enjoy riding the river trails and other paved paths in Orange County. As you know, the trails in Newport Beach and Irvine pass through some beautiful park, residential, as well as wilderness areas. Just like most people who have ridden a long time, I’ve had some near misses with cars and have hit the pavement and slid several times and, as a result, suffered serious road rash. With this in mind, I no longer ride on the road with cars, if I can avoid it. Nevertheless, I had been lucky enough to have never broken a major bone, until the following incident occurred.

    On Tuesday, July 11th, 2017 I was riding my Trek Domane on the University trail in a semi-wilderness area in the City of Irvine. About 30 miles into my ride that day, I came to a place where the concrete path dips to allow a small stream to flow over the pavement. I had successfully rolled across the wet dip without incident many times before – once or twice a week during the prior 3 months. So I didn’t anticipate a problem in crossing it again. I slowed down to about 3 miles per hour and just as I got into the middle of the stream, both wheels instantaneously slid out from underneath me. It happened so fast that I was still gripping the handle bar when I went down and hit really hard on my left hip. Later, I realized that, probably due to recent hot weather, algae had grown thick on the wet pavement making it extremely slick.

    Anyway, I found myself lying in the middle of the stream with small fish swimming around me. I was experiencing excruciating pain whenever I tried to move. Since my cell phone was now wet, I couldn’t get it to work. So I tried to keep it above and out of the water so it would dry off enough to call or text somebody to help me. After what seemed like a long time of being all alone, maybe 10 minutes, one guy on a bike came along. I warned him of the slipping danger and he rode on through the stream successfully, not saying a word and not stopping to offer assistance. A little while later, perhaps another 5 minutes, a young man named Regis stopped for me, got off his bike and asked if he could help. First he tried to pull me out of the stream, but my pain was unbearable with any movement, so I just had to lie there in the water. Eventually, my phone dried enough in the warm sunshine to work sufficiently so that I was able to call to my wife and daughter, who then called emergency responders. Regis rode to the nearest intersection to wait for the ambulance and direct them to where I was. I am so thankful for such a caring and compassionate person. He stayed with me the whole time, leaving only after crews from the fire department and an ambulance were able to get me onto a padded stretcher. There was one other man on a road bike who stopped just before the medics took me away. He told me that a couple of days before, he had also crashed while riding over the slippery algae at exactly the same spot. As a result, he said that his arm and upper body were still messed up. He suggested that somebody should sue the City over not providing proper warning and a better way of passing over the stream safely.

    At the hospital, x-rays photos were taken and I learned that my femur had broken diagonally across the widest part of the bone just below the trochanter. The fracture had separated the femur into several pieces. Fortunately, there was an orthopedic doctor who was able to operate on my leg that same night. A titanium rod, which extends the entire length of the femur, was inserted into the middle of the bone. Titanium screws were used to secure the rod to the bone. So now I have titanium body structure. The surgeon was top notch, the hospital staff was great and I’m so thankful for this.

    The recovery has been a painful, tough experience. Yet, seven weeks after the accident and surgery, I now have better mobility; can walk using my left leg, but need the walker for support. My leg muscles get tired sooner than I might want, but I surely see progress. I’m still taking a pain killer at night to reduce the pain enough so that I can sleep. The surgeon estimated that I’d be using the walker for another couple of months to steady myself. The surgeon and the physical therapist both recommended that exercising on a stationary bicycle would greatly aid my recovery. I didn’t have a trainer stand for my bike because the weather here in Southern California is usually so nice that I ride outside most of the time. To aid my recovery, I went ahead and bought a trainer to use with my bike. I can now say that it feels good to be rotating the legs again on my bike with the trainer. I can say that, for me, pedaling circles is a lot easier than walking. I’m really looking forward to riding again on trails in beautiful Southern California. But from now on I’ll be especially careful when I encounter anything but dry pavement.

    • Robert,

      Wow! You went through exactly what I did almost a month later. I can totally relate to what you were going through, although I was luckier than you in that I was riding with someone at the time. I can’t believe someone rode by without stopping to help! That’s awful. I’ve had the experience of going down at slow speed crossing water. Once I was riding up the Maple Springs trail (paved portion) beyond Silverado canyon and there are a lot of small streams that cross the road. I was climbing and only going about 8 mph and I went down too – no doubt due to the algae. Fortunately I was able to get right back up and keep going, no damage done. I know sometimes those slow speed crashes can wreak a lot more havoc than you’d expect. When I first crashed on the descent in Hawaii, even though I was going pretty fast on the descent, I wasn’t expecting to have broken anything, maybe just some bruising and road rash. I was ready to get back on my bike. But it was that terrible pain when I tried to roll over when I realized something was wrong. The pain was brutal when I was forced onto the stretcher by paramedics.

      I, like you, had a very good experience in the hospital with my surgery and recovery. Great doctors and nurses. They were amazing. I’m glad I was in Honolulu and not a more remote island. Since coming home, I’ve been continuing my physical therapy and like you, riding some on the stationary trainer. I think you’ll continue to see rapid progress and be able to go from walker to cane pretty soon. Then you won’t even need the cane, but you’ll be limping and still know that you have a ways to go before the leg is fully healed. That’s kind of where I am now.

      Feel free to stop by the shop. I’d love to meet and swap club titanium stories! We’ll both be out riding again pretty soon.

      • Bruce,

        As in your case, for a second after I had gone down, I expected the pain to be transitory. I too, was ready to get back on my bike, especially since I had a precedent occurrence. But the excruciating pain I experienced when I tried to roll over told me I had a serious injury. Strangely enough, the accident I’m now recovering from had happened to me once before. On a cold winter day, about 25 years ago, when I still lived in Tacoma, I was riding my Cannondale road bike and came to a spot in the road where water had run across it and froze. Knowing that it was black ice, I slowed down to maybe 1 or 2 miles per hour for safe passage, or so I thought. The instant that both wheels had passed over the ice, I went down hard on my left side. Only that time I didn’t break anything. I don’t know why I was so lucky then, but guess I have learned that wet algae can pose the same danger as ice.

        Thanks for the encouraging words on the recovery. Yes, I’d like to meet you and we can talk about our experiences.

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