Category Archives: Biking

Lessons learned from the crash and a new plan

It’s been twelve days since I crashed my bike and brought a temporary halt to the No Rest Out West tour. The recovery is taking longer than I expected. All of the superficial cuts and scrapes are almost completely healed, but I still have general pains down my right side in my wrist (like a sprained wrist feeling), my back (sore at night) and my hip (general ache and feels weak), so I’m not yet ready to start riding again. My head is mostly fine now and the fractured cheek bone is healing up nicely (wait, but it still hurts when I yawn!). So I think another week or two of rest, interspersed with some gentle rides to get moving again, is needed to get back to full fitness before resuming the tour. So, we’ve made the decision to head back home to the East coast, so I can recover there.

I’ve spent a considerable portion of time since the crash thinking about it, trying to resurrect any fleeting memory of what happened but nothing is forthcoming. So I’ve done the next best thing and tried to piece together an anatomy of the crash from anecdotal evidence and many conversations with my brother, who was riding behind me at the time and saw it happen.

The crash was caused by three elements, with the first element being the primary suspect:

– riding into a patch of deeper, loose gravel that caused me to lose control and start weaving left and right (if you’ve ever ridden through a section of sand, you’ll know what this feels like). Finally the front wheel twisted 90 degrees, causing me and the bike to crash to the ground (with enough force to bend the brake levers – see photo below). This whole process happened within a couple of seconds.
– having all the weight at the rear of the bike which made the front wheel skittish and light, and therefore easily twisted sideways.
– going downhill at the time, so that gravity was increasing, not decreasing, my speed as I lost control.

The brake levers were badly skewed and my helmet was well bashed up on the right side (I’m replacing it):

20140714-162039-58839422.jpg

20140714-162211-58931052.jpg

After being ok, the next most important thing to take away from an experience like this is the lessons learned, which can be applied going forward, in the hope of avoiding such fate again. From this experience:

– don’t tour with all the weight in rear panniers only. Best to travel lighter (for a whole host of reasons) or, if you insist on the kitchen sink, at least balance between front and rear of the bike or use a trailer.
– the transition from riding along without a care in the world to a serious situation can happen very, very quickly.
– accidents can and do happen so be prepared.
– wear bike gloves, especially when riding gravel roads.
– when a trip doesn’t go to plan, don’t get too down about it, learn the lessons, make a new plan, look forward and get going with it!

So our new plan is this: whilst I’m still recovering we’re going to return home to DC (hotels get expensive and monotonous after a week) and start again with day rides, short tours and build up to a new four week tour starting from DC. I can rest up for another week or two and still fit a four week bike tour into our original time frame, so that is our current thinking.

This time however, we’ll make two major changes. Firstly, we’re concocting a route here on the East coast so we can ride straight from my front door, thereby avoiding the hassle and expense of flying with the bikes again. We’re looking at a loop going from DC up to the Great Lakes, then heading north east into Maine and returning along the coast to DC. I’ll post up our revised route in the coming week or so. Secondly, we’re making a huge commitment to going lighter and ditching as much unnecessary gear as possible. The panniers are definitely going, so too is the cook gear, inner tent, and various other “luxury” items, so that we can keep the weight really low. This should allow us to ride further and faster each day, and hopefully avoid a recurrence of my nasty crash (look for an upcoming post about this lightweight transition). We’ll be looking to emulate some of the philosophy espoused over at the ultralight cycling blog. Stay tuned.

During our enforced downtime, we’ve been enjoying watching the Tour de France from the awesome Velo Cult bike shop and bar here in Portland:

20140714-162417-59057702.jpg

A crash and minor setback (day 9)

I’m tapping away, one finger-style-typing, from a hotel in Coos Bay, propped up in bed wearing hospital scrubs. Two days ago I had a crash on my bike and I’m still trying to piece it all together in my head.

We had departed Humbug Mountain State Park camp around 8.30am for our 9th day of cycling. We had another superb day of cycling, with many more wonderful coastal views. We stopped for a late seafood lunch in Bandon – excellent Pacific cod and chips – before continuing for our final 15 miles or so to camp. We were delighted to turn off the busy 101 highway and take the back roads into Charleston, where we were headed for the night.

Further along the ominously named backroad of Seven Devils Road, it turned into an unsealed, gravel road. I cycled into a patch of deep gravel and felt the front wheel writhe around and spin out from under me. Next thing I’m aware of is waking up in a 4×4 pickup (thank you SO much to these kind strangers) on way to the nearest hospital, at Coos Bay. (I think the combination of the loose gravel and having the luggage weight on the back of the bike meant the front wheel of the bike was “light” and prone to slipping. I think the front wheel twisted 90 degrees sideways and threw me to the ground on my R side.)

I have two sets of two stitches in the R side of my face and have fractured two of the bones in my cheek around my eye (zygomatic bones). I have scrapes and missing skin from both hands, forearms, R hip (also stitch here) and R knee. Thankfully the CT scan came back clean so my head is ok.

My bike and clothes also took a hit – both brake/gear levers are bent sideways, I have holes in my shorts and shirt, my sunglasses are heavily scratched on the R lens, and my helmet is bashed up on the R side.

So where do we go from here? Well, I’ve been told to have a week off the bike so we’re holed up in a hotel here in Coos Bay for the next few days. Then we’re going to head to Portland by car on Monday, and get the bike fixed up again. Hopefully we can then resume our route from Portland middle of next week. Fingers crosed. I’ll post some updates early next week.

My brother has also written about the crash from his perspective here on his tumblr.

20140704-105125-39085677.jpg

20140704-105127-39087607.jpg

And some photos from earlier in the day before the crash:

20140704-105419-39259866.jpg

20140704-105421-39261314.jpg

20140704-105422-39262032.jpg

20140704-105420-39260584.jpg

20140704-105422-39262742.jpg

Goodbye California, Hello Oregon (days 6 and 7)

Day 6: 54 miles, Day 7: 85 miles
457 miles from San Francisco

Silhouettes at sunset, Patrick Point, end of day 6:20140701-144913-53353205.jpg

Two excellent days of cycling, with a mix of coastal scenery, another avenue of giant trees, more big hills and constantly rolling roads. Of course, there was also some hard cycling along Highway 101 to link up the prettier sections (the noise of the traffic is the worst part, after coming off the much, much quieter side roads).

Sunset at Patrick Point, end of day 6:20140701-145003-53403876.jpg

Waking up to the sun streaming through the trees on morning of day 7 at Patrick Point State Park campsite. A beautiful site that we shared with several other bike tourers.20140701-145057-53457075.jpg

We had great (read, large) burgers at this real redneck bar. All manner of country paraphernalia adorned the bar – moose antlers on the wall, a chainsaw hung from the roof, nascar lampshades above the pool table, and photos of fishing and hunting conquests proudly displayed on any remaining wall space. 20140701-145233-53553770.jpg

We pushed on during day 7, the scent of the Oregon border drawing us on. Everyday we’re getting stronger, although the hills do not feel any easier, but perhaps we’re just stopping less! So far, Oregon is much like the section of Northern California we’ve ridden through, with stunning coastal scenery, steep hills and big RVs and pickups thundering along the roads.20140701-145653-53813464.jpg

Beautiful sea stacks in Oregon, seen from Arch Rock viewing point.20140701-150052-54052689.jpg

Avenue of the Giants (day 5)

20140629-124729-46049926.jpg

83 miles

A day of contrasts. Stunning cycling through the Avenue of the Giants, a scenic roadway through some of the most massive and oldest trees on the planet. These venerable old Redwoods are so huge, it’s impossible to capture them all in one frame with the camera. Necks crane skywards as we ride, taking in as much of this majestic corridor as we can. We pass through several interesting little towns en route, stopping for lunch at the deli in Myers Flat, where we strike up conversation with some motorcyclists from Houston, Texas.

The wonderful cycling sections were interspersed with some unavoidable, and rather torrid, riding along the 2 or 3 lane freeway – US101. The shoulder is mostly wide, so it’s safe, but the noise, the dirt, the speed of the cars and trucks is disconcerting. We were always relieved when we turned off the freeway again.

The final 10 miles into Ferndale (our camp – see picture below) had some murderously steep hills and stiff headwinds to keep us pushing through to the end (no rest out west, right?). The campsite was a bit weird – an RV/trailer ground that was hosting a dog show (plenty of big, gnarly dogs (and owners!) about). We camped in a nearby field, half expecting to be eaten in the night. Well, we survived, so onwards we go!

I’m writing this from a Starbucks in Eureka, whilst we charge up batteries and catch up on some news. Another 40 miles beckons this afternoon…

20140629-124732-46052034.jpg

Up and down and up and down (days 3 and 4)

20140628-100527-36327311.jpg

68 miles and 63 miles respectively

Our days now begin with a cup of tea and bowl of porridge, having decided that dry cereal bars just don’t cut it. Two hard days of cycling along the beautiful Pacific Ocean Highway 1, took us from Stillwater Cove camp to a night at Van Damme camp to a night at Standish Hickey camp.The coastal scenery was stunning – eroded cliffs, rolling forested hills cloaked in mist and relatively light traffic.

We were both pretty cold and tired by the time we reached camp at the end of day 3. Everything was wet from the persistent drizzle, but once the tent was up and a hot dinner consumed, order was restored in the world. Later an ultralight bike tourer (sans panniers) rolled into camp after a 160 mile day! Impressive stuff and inspiring this early in our tour. We discuss strategies for cutting down our own gear.

On both days the road undulates, up and down and up and down all day. There are two notable climbs on day 4 as we turned away from the coast. Up and over Rockport Hill (690ft up from sea level) which serves as a warm up for the subsequent climb up Leggett Hill (1950ft, starting from 200ft). Pedal furiously, stand out the saddle to get round the hairpins, pedal some more until the legs are screaming and the heart pounding, then pedal round one more corner, a desperate last push before much needed break. Breathe, relax, gulp of water, procrastinate for as long as you can get away with until one of us suggests we should get going again, then off we go. Repeat until one can go no higher!

Camped in Standish Hickey now (end of day 4 – a brilliant day). They have hot showers, such luxury! Today (day 5) we’re cycling through the Avenue of the Giants – tree photos coming this way.

20140628-100529-36329322.jpg

20140628-100617-36377012.jpg

20140628-100619-36379063.jpg

20140628-100621-36381056.jpg