Tag Archives: Crash

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):

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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:

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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.

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

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