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!