Well, I had my first…

Well, I had my first wipeout on my bike this morning. Not my first wipeout on a bike ever, of course -- I remember fondly the many times I'd attempt the steep hill next door to my parents' house, only to crash in a glorious profusion of bloody knees and elbows. I did try to steer onto the grass by the side of the road, but generally to no avail. 'But Mary Anne,' you say, 'why didn't you take the gently sloping roads to the east instead, bypassing the steep hill, in order to reach your destination?' 'Ah,' I reply -- 'it is not the destination, but the journey, young grasshopper.' Also, when I was ten, I liked to go very fast. I still like to go very fast, but I have a sense of my own mortality now.

The point being, I was actually going quite slowly this morning, on a flat surface, thankfully with no cars in sight, when I wiped out gloriously. I'm honestly not sure what happened -- one minute I was reaching up to get some wind-blown hair out of my eyes, the next, the bike skidded at a ninety-degree angle, heading one way while I went the other. Thankfully I wore jeans today, or my right calf and thigh would have turned into a scraped-up bloody mess. As it was, I picked myself up, took a second to breathe and catalog the extent of my injuries -- no broken bones, check. Lots of bruises, check. Wind knocked out of me, check. Feel like an idiot, hell yes. I had a pitiful moment of wanting to call Kevin to come pick me up (he drove in today because he stayed up all night grading), but I got over it, especially since it would have made him severely late for class. I was fine, and before long I picked myself up and went on my merry way.

Despite the bruises, it really was a lovely bike ride this morning. I took it very easy, in part just because I was tired after Kavi woke us up several times last night. (Something is bugging that kid at night the last week, and we don't know what. Very frustrating and bewildering.) So almost no exertion -- I barely broke a sweat -- and it was cool and autumnal and sunny and there was lots to look at and people to smile at.

I love how much more interaction you have with folks when you bike. As I pedalled slowly away from the scene of my accident, a black man leaned his head out of a parked car window, cell phone still attached to one ear, and called out, "You okay, baby girl?" Yup, I'm fine, thanks! Not sure I actually qualify as a baby girl at this point, getting rather closer to forty than not, but it was sweet, y'know? And a young-ish white guy across the street smiled ruefully at me, as if he, too, knew the ways of wayward bicycles. A few days ago, while waiting on my bike for a light to change, I overhead two older black folks waiting for the bus talking about me -- the man said something about whether it was safe for a little girl like me to be biking in traffic, and his even older female companion (in her 60s or so) said sharply, "Well, she has a helmet!" So cute.

Any good bike stories out there? Tell me about your crashes, if you like, or your conversations with strangers... :-)

8 thoughts on “Well, I had my first…”

  1. Eep!

    Glad you’re okay.

    My biggest bike wipeout was when I was in high school, biking to the movie theatre to see Pirates of Penzance, when suddenly something happened, I wasn’t sure what, and there was a loud noise and I was lying on the ground.

    A passing friendly motorist stopped and helped me up and I think offered me a ride. I don’t remember what ended up happening; I think I got back on the bike and painfully continued to the movie.

    Later, I figured out that something had gone weird with my chain, and I had pushed down and forward with my foot (as one does while biking) but suddenly encountered no resistance. I think that chain issue continued to be a problem with that bike for a while, but I don’t think I actually fell off it again after that.

  2. I had two memorable bike accidents as a child. None as an adult.

    When I was six years old, in the summer of 1950, a few weeks before I started first grade, I convinced a teenage boy to let me coast down a gently sloping schoolyard on his bike. My legs were too short to reach the pedals. The first time, I turned to one side and stopped safely, putting down a foot as I slowed down. He let me try a second time. I coasted much further and faster and sailed over a retaining wall at the bottom of the gentle hill, falling about five feet, landing on my face on the gravel road below. I got up crying and told the boy he would have to get his bicycle, that I could not. My mother called the family doctor and convinced him to make a housecall. I could not talk well for several days; my lips were swollen and cut pretty badly. I don’t remember what treatment I had. I don’t think I had any stitches. I still have a small lump inside my lower lip that is either a scar or a tiny gravel embedded there which is a lingering effect of this accident. (It is a little bigger than a pinhead.)

    You see why I tend to be very reassuring when you report that Kavi has fallen or something.

    I have to go teach a class, so I shall report on my other bicycle accident later.

  3. Pull your hair back with something. You need to not have distractions like that when biking, or when driving a car, for that matter.


  4. Mary Anne Mohanraj

    Oh, it was pulled back in a headband, and I had a bike helmet on. Nonetheless, my hair apparently has a mind of its own.

  5. My second wipeout occurred when I was about 12 years old. I was riding a bike along with a friend of mine. He was a little ahead. I thought it would probably make a really neat sound if I grazed my front wheel against his back wheel as we rode along. I tried it. He was not hurt, but my bike flew out from under me and I tore my jeans and scraped my right knee and shin pretty badly when I hit the pavement. And, I still do not know what the tires rubbing together sounded like.

    I had forgotten about the third one. I was riding on a two lane highway, about a half mile from home. I was about 15. There was a car coming, but I had plenty of room. The driver of the car had no concept of how fast I was going, nor of how fast she was going, so instead of staying in the lane that I would have been out of by the time she got there, she swerved into the other lane just in time to hit me. It almost seemed that she wanted to hit me. I was not hurt, but the bike was damaged beyond repair.

  6. I don’t have any wipeout stories to share, but I’m glad you’re OK. And this is why I asked you first thing if you had a helmet. Also, bike gloves would not be out of the question.

  7. Oh, bike crash stories!! I think I’ve only ever wiped out as an adult, I was probably more conservative as a kid. (And I didn’t learn to ride a bike until I was about twelve, if you can believe that.) Two of my best crashes were on ice. I always wear bike gloves because I find them much more comfortable, but they’re also good protection!

    A bandana/kerchief can help with the hair, by the way. Oh, and while I’m fussing, if you hit your head at ALL, replace the helmet. They’re so light because they’re one-use, meant to absorb the impact by breaking down internally, so if your helmet hits anything, it’s time for a new one. Funny story about one of my ice-slides: I went down really slowly, and thought it was a miracle that I hadn’t bruised or scraped my face or broken my glasses. I figured I’d just managed to keep my head up. Later someone reminded me to check my helmet, and sure enough there was a little dent on the side, where it had hit the ground and kept my head and face away. Go little helmet! A shame that its reward was destruction, but I appreciated it.

  8. I had 3 wipe-outs on a bicycle plus one on a horse that was a lot like one of the bicycle incidents.
    When I was about 12 I took a corner too fast and skidded out in front of an oncoming car. Fortunately the woman driving it was able to stop.
    At about 20, I was riding on city streets and I screwed up the timing on a traffic signal. I had to jam on the brakes, and my rear brake cable broke. I went over the handlebars and the bike followed me through a forward somersault. I landed on my feet still holding the bike upright in front of me.
    A couple of months later, I did the same thing on a horse. I was showing off, riding at a gallop and standing in the stirrups. Something in the brush spooked my horse and she stepped about 3 feet to the side, right out from under me. Again, I know that I was upside down in the air at one point and I landed on my feet without letting go of the reins.
    The last bike crash was when I was about 22. I was in an informal race in a city park when I hit a patch of loose gravel on a paved road in a curve. I was able to keep the bike upright, but eventually I found myself skidding flat along a curb with no way to turn. That was OK until I got to the cast iron light pole just behind the curb. I hit it with the handlebars, my left shoulder and the left side of my helmet. I broke a cheek bone and had to straighten my handlebars to ride home. For about 2 months, any time I sneezed my cheek would puff up.
    I dont know if I got more careful or luckier.
    With all of love,
    C. J. Czelling

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