Ride Hard: When Your Body Hits the Road

I rode cross country, then crashed outI've had quite a few bike crashes in my life. A couple casual tip-overs due to clip-in pedal malfunction (or I-don't-need-to-clip-out hubris), one slide on a gritty road that left my thigh covered in road rash, a loss of balance on the Chestnut Street bridge that resulted in some purple toes (they were probably broken) and long weeks of limping.

Then there was the big one. Ironically, it occurred just a few short weeks after I finished a cross-country ride intact.

Jersey Shore. 94-year-old man. Left turn. Over the hood. Broken knee cap. 12 stitches in the other knee. What can I say, it was a party.

I never doubted that I would ride again, but it took me a long time to feel comfortable. (Honestly, I think will never feel completely comfortable again.) That said, with bikes—for me—the good far outweighs the bad.

So, what does this have to do with anything? Yesterday, multiple people (aware of my bruised, battered and broken history) forwarded me the link to this New York Times story. The author recently crashed, cracked a collarbone, and immediately felt like she never wanted to ride again. 

I’ve since heard from other cyclists who broke bones or were badly bruised and shaken up in crashes. Many say they, too, vowed, at least initially, never to ride outside again. It’s not a universal response, but it is so common that cyclists nod their heads when they hear my reaction to my injury.

Yet almost no one swears off running after an injury, even though — and I speak from experience — a running injury can keep you away from your sport at least as long. And that made me wonder: is a cycling injury qualitatively different from a running injury? Is it the drama of a crash, or is it that a crash makes you realize you could actually be killed on a bike? Is it the type of injury? Or the fact that you can feel, as I did, that the accident was unfair and out of your control?

 What follows is an interesting mediation on the mindset of cyclists, and their reaction to injuries. A great read, whether you've had a life-changing crash or not (yet).