A few days ago, Bob and I rode the Crop Circles / Mr. DNA / Tapeworm trail system. It was raining lightly (yes, even though it was spring in Seattle), so the roots, rocks, and wooden stunts were slippery.
Early in the ride, we came to a seesaw. This one was taller and shorter than the seesaw I had ridden the last time we had been in the area, the board was narrower, and it was made of smooth wood. Also, the approach was downhill and around a bend.
I admit it: I was scared.
I approached the seesaw too slowly. By the time I was about halfway up, my front wheel was wobbling. I nearly stalled out, and my front wheel rolled off the right side of the seesaw.
This, as you may expect, was not a desirable situation.
From a height of probably five feet, I fell over the front of my bike. Ordinarily, I’d put my hands out to catch my fall, but this time I didn’t. I pulled my arms in toward my chest, and landed in a nice forward roll, finishing in a sitting position, astounded that I was not hurt even a tiny bit. I sat for a moment, stunned at my good fortune.
Bob shouted, as I sat there, dropped his bike, and ran over. “Are you OK?” he asked.
I admitted that to my amazement, I was just fine.
Bob then started laughing, recounting how the fall looked from his perspective, describing the contributing factors to my crash, and how surprised he was that I hadn’t snapped a wrist on that fall.
It was at this moment that I realized the reason I really like riding with Bob. He knows proper crash etiquette.
And Then There’s Brad
Bob’s behavior stands in marked contrast to how another friend of mine reacted after I crashed. Let’s just call him “Brad” (because his name is in fact actually Brad). He and I were riding a goat trail coming down from Jacob’s Ladder, which is part of the Hog’s Hollow network. I had never ridden this descent before, and so was surprised when it suddenly terminated with a three foot dropoff onto a dirt road. I flipped over my handlebars and landed on my back. It hurt. A lot.
Brad, naturally, took this opportunity to immediately begin laughing his head off. Without asking if I was OK. Without saying, “Sorry I didn’t warn you about how this trail ends.” Without any clue that several years later, I’d be tearing him a new one in the most public way I could imagine.
Proper Crash Etiquette
So, let this be a lesson to you. If you don’t follow the rules of Crash Etiquette, you may someday reap the consequences (Have I mentioned that this is the same Brad who bailed on his last lap when we were racing the 24 Hours of Moab as a 2-person team, and then didn’t even stick around to see me finish when I did his lap for him? Yep, he just packed up his gear and went home while I was on the course.).
Luckily, the rules of Crash Etiquette are quite simple. Most anyone can follow this simple five-step procedure:
- At the moment of impact, express astonishment and dismay. The best possible noise you can make when another person crashes is the noise you imagine yourself making if you were to have that selfsame crash. But an audible gasp or “Whoah!” will do fine.
- Immediately check to see if the crasher is OK. Saying “Are you OK?” is the correct way to do this. If a pool of blood or a compound fracture is evident, you should still ask the question.
- Recount the incident. While the crasher is collecting his or her wits, describe the accident, in as dramatic fashion as you possibly can. This will help the crasher feel like the pain is worth it. Anything for a good story.
- Once the crasher stands up, you are allowed to laugh. But not before then. And if the crasher is crying, you are not allowed to laugh. However, you are allowed to pretend the crasher is not crying, awkwardly avoiding looking at the crasher’s face.
- Speculate. Spend a few minutes describing the root causes for the crash. Slippery rock, mossy root, off-camber trail, and scree are all excellent reasons.
Most of you will learn this procedure quickly and will have no trouble with this important process.
Brad, you may want to print it and tape it to your bike.
PS: Obviously I’m not writing as regularly as I usually do. This doesn’t mean I’m getting ready to abandon this blog. I’m just really busy trying to get my house ready to sell, wrapping up my old job, getting ready for my new job, and so forth. I’ll write as often as I can, and hope to get back to a regular schedule really really soon now.