My Computer Doesn’t Crash, but my Bike Does

13 Jul 2006

I’m trying to remember what I wrote Monday on the subject of my bike crash, before the posting mysteriously vanished. I’ve set Blogger to e-mail me my posts in case this happens again. Hmmm…

I’m typing a little more slowly than usual, although not quite as slowly as I was on Monday. I’m pleased to announce that my right leg has been accepted into the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art! It shows an amazingly colorful set of bruises and abrasions, in colors ranging from pale pink through dark red scab color, along with purple, blue, green, and a swollen, jaundice-colored yellow. The subject is “the chainring on my mountain bike,” and the technique is best described as “impactful.”

To set off this composition, on my right wrist I’m wearing a splint in contrasting colors of natural cotton ace bandage and white gauze, over a formed-plaster wrap. My left elbow is covered with a network of cuts and gashes, but these are healing rapidly. Completing the ensemble are a scattering of additional bruises on my left leg, hip, and shoulders.

How did I come to create such a powerful, you might even say forceful, piece of visual art?

On Saturday afternoon I went out biking with Isaac in County Farm Park, which is very close to my apartment building. It has some easy trails through a combination of woods and open fields, and allows biking.

We were having quite a good time — Isaac was doing very well, and I was trailing behind him — until, as he put it, “it got a little crazy at the end.”

County Farm Park repairs the erosion damage on the dirt trails by laying down gravel. And not your nice, smooth, eroded sedimentary pebble gravel, but sharp, large, irregular limestone gravel. It would look nice in a garden border, but this gravel is not really a good surface for bike tires, even the knobby, fat tires on my mountain bike. It makes me wonder whether they intentionally set out to punish cyclists!

Approaching the top of the first descent (not even a very big hill, but a bit steep), I came upon a woman walking with a CD player and headphones on. I called out “on your left,” but I’m not sure she heard me. The net result is that I gave her some extra clearance, and slowed way down. Now, if you’ve ever ridden a mountain bike on loose gravel, you know that you don’t really want to try to slow yourself down and do a lot of steering, especially not right at the start of a descent.

You have to kind of compromise with gravel, and basically agree to give up most of the control of your bike, relying on your basic intertia and gravity to do the rest, while you try to relax, bend your knees and get up off the seat so you can react to shifts in balance, and keep your hand from gripping the brakes too tighly. If you do this, the gravel will generally reward you by saving your skin (literally). If you anger the gravel, it will have its vengeance upon you.

While a crash takes place very quickly in objective terms, subjectively you have quite a bit of time to think. I had thoughts like “I’m glad I’m wearing a helmet,” “I hope I don’t go over the handle bars,” “I hope I don’t shred my leg on the chainring,” “I hope I don’t tear open my forearm on that gravel,” and “I hope I don’t break my wrist,” and “I hope my bike is not badly damaged.”

Well, these hopes didn’t really pan out for me. Although I was able to walk home, and ride the bike a bit, although it needs some work: at the least, a new seat, and some work on the handlebars; there may be other damage, although it is a tough little thing — a Marin Bobcat Trail, aluminum-frame bike, and it has been extremely reliable and serviceable.

I didn’t quite go over the bars, but instead more-or-less landed on them. Whether this was actually better or worse is subject to debate.

Isaac was hot on my trail and managed to avoid crashing into me by veering off the trail and into a tree. He is not damaged, but his bike needs work — something came loose in the rear casette. So we’ll have to take both bikes to Two-Wheel Tango this weekend.

When I got home, I got into the tub. I first soaked off a little of the gravel dust, then gritted my teeth and got out a bottle of Cetaphil soap and a plastic scouring pad. The wounds needed to be cleaned of all chainring grease, dirt, and dust the hard way — by scrubbing them all out until everthing was cleaned out and, in some spots, bleeding freely again. Then I asked Grace to Wipe down the worst of it with rubbing alcohol, and then go over it all again with the scrubber, including parts I couldn’t reach or see clearly.

Finally, it was time to dry off, and last, to have Grace drench the deepest wounds in alcohol and bandage them. Aaahhh. My back and neck were a little bit wonky, too, but I could function.

Twenty-four hours later, my right wrist was still pretty swollen, and I couldn’t move it freely without some disturbing sensations, so I asked Grace to take me to an urgent-care clinic so I could have it x-rayed. This was done. I took a close look at it along with the doctor. It is often hard to see hairline fractures, but it looks like there is a small crack in one of the bones in my wrist — hence the splint. They also checked over the various wounds and basically confirmed that they had been thoroughly cleaned, and that nothing seemed infected. I got a tetanus booster shot, which made my right shoulder ache to match everything else. As an undocumented side effect, I could sense colorful auras around people for a few hours, which changed with their moods! But that went away by the next day, sadly.

I’m supposed to follow up with an orthopedist, but after Grace spent a couple of long waits on hold before giving up, I’m half-inclined to just forego the long wait for an appointment and the long waits in the waiting rooms and dealing with time off work and just wear the splint for a few more days and just leave it off if I can, and try to go easy on the wrist according to the feedback it gives me. Although it does have the advantage of reminding me to do that “going easy” by getting in the way.

So there it is — my computer doesn’t crash, but my bike does. Now if I just had MacOS X for my bike, I’d be all set!

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