05.4.2007 | 8:11 am

A Note from Fatty: Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Al Maviva. I’ve never met Al in person, but consider him a good friend. Also, I’m pretty sure he is insane.

All riders talk about crashing like it is some random event. “Hey did you hear about Joe going down at the Church of the Gnostic Irredentist Parking Lot Crit Training Series? I’m surprised. He rarely crashes.”

But we all know that’s a lie. Joe is either crashing, or always on his way to crash, if he’s anything like any of the rest of us. Maybe it will take him a week or three weeks to get to his pre-ordained crash. But he’s about to crash, whether he knows it or not. It’s not a case of if, but when.

Going fast, suffering, and more than anything painful crashes, define road biking, along with their lesser brothers, the bonk, expensive gear, and Eurotrash-looking guys with shaved legs. If you don’t crash once in a while, you just aren’t riding much, and you darn sure aren’t racing.

Do you want to know the hell of it? You may not be able to do anything about it.

Most of the crashes I have been in, could not have been prevented. Wrong place, wrong time, BANG! SKREEEEEEEEELLLL! Down goes Al. Down goes Al! You want examples?

I was on a hot group ride recently and hit a patch of black ice, or maybe just some goop in the road. Bam! I used an excellent tarmac scrubbing pad to remove some dirt, excess skin, fat, muscle and hair off my arms and butt, and it happened quicker than I could blink. I know it was quicker than a blink of the eye, because before I could blink, I noticed my water bottles, frame pump, sunglasses, and dignity bouncing down the road. I was doing nothing wrong – but like Nietzsche, cycling is beyond right and wrong. Right and wrong is irrelevant. Henri Desgrange’s appetite for suffering and freshly ground meat must be sated.

Another time I was on a fast group ride with my club. I low sided, wheels going out from under me on a beautiful piece of smooth tarmac, as we rounded a curve. Everybody circled around and looked at the road to try to figure out what caused it… but nobody could find any flaws in the road surface, and the guy behind me said I was riding fine, hadn’t done anything wrong. But I know what happened… The road decided it didn’t want to sit there under me any longer, so it dropped me.

And racing… don’t even get me started on racing crashes. Unlike most crashes, which are at some level self-inflicted, your friends and enemies often inflict crashes on you in racing. Last year, for instance, I was in this flat crit where we were positioning ourselves for the field sprint (which would start 800 meters up the road, but in a flat race nobody is going to get away, so everybody wants to be somewhere between about 3rd and 10th before the hammer drops. Everybody was going all out, but everything was cool… and all of a sudden the guy next to me goes over his front wheel. I believe he may have inadvertently ridden over Henry Desgrange’s disembodied handlebar moustache. I was a little in front Tarmac Chewing Boy™ and doing almost 35, and thought I was clear, but he actually passed me on the way down. I guess he didn’t want anybody to get to the all-you-can-eat asphalt buffet ahead of him. The next thing I know, there I am at the bottom of this enormous pile of broken bikes and moaning (and in one case screaming) riders, wondering what I ever did to deserve it. Then it struck me: I got on the bike that morning.

I was doomed from the start.

No Escape
Sure, you can briefly duck the Reaper’s playful rabbit punch, but that just gives him a chance to wind up and pummel you with an enormous roundhouse. So if you find yourself going down, it’s best to brace for impact, and take your medicine. Nothing you can do, no penance, no prayer, no bike handling drills or nutritional supplement, can get you off the Purple Path of Pain.

For example: I was racing in a neighborhood crit where the streets had these enormous new granite curbs installed. The field was huge, it was early in the race, nobody was dropped, and we were all packed in tightly between the curbs.

Everything then unfolded in about three seconds.

Near the front, a bunch of helmets just disappeared and we heard The Noise. I rode to the left of the crashed-out meatpile, riding shoulder to shoulder with three guys, literally in contact for about 10 seconds as we pedaled along and leaned on to each other, and got clear. The riders on the other side of the divide had a tougher time. They tried to go to the right, between the meatpile and the curb. Unfortunately, they were too close together, all half wheeled, so each guy’s back wheel overlapped the next guy’s front wheel.

The end result was mayhem, with each man taking out the bike behind him in what appeared to be some infernal domino match. A bunch of guys went upside down, up over the curb as their tires hit it. The coldest move I saw came from two guys near the back on the right, who were riding shoulder to shoulder. They somehow got a little tangled up. As they passed the meatpile, the one on the inside (closest to the meatpile) decided to disengage himself by pushing the one on the right toward the curb. Of course there was no room, so the guy on the right got curbed, drifted along with his tires scrubbing the curb for a second, then BAM up and over it, launched like a missile.

Yes, once Henri Desgrange, sitting on his Brooks saddle in hell, has issued a decree that you must crash, it is unavoidable and I recommend you do not resist.

Anybody else feel their crashing is pretty much a matter of destiny?


  1. Comment by Clydesteve | 05.4.2007 | 8:31 am

    Anybody else feel their crashing is pretty much a matter of destiny?

    I crashed March 20, and I can assure you, Al, that no amount of careful on my part could have prevented it. I posted it on fattys Forum:

    As you say, it is destiny to meet the road sometimes.


  2. Comment by Ricky-Davy | 05.4.2007 | 8:38 am

    Loved the story Al. I’ve never actually raced my road ride, thus never really had the chance to eat pavement, yet.

    But my mtn bike is another story. Everybody encourages me to pre-ride a little before the group heads out, so I can just get the crash over with and enjoy the rest of the day’s ride. You’re just not trying hard enough if you don’t exit the saddle via the front door once in a while. Or all the while as it seems in my case……

  3. Comment by UltraRob | 05.4.2007 | 9:02 am

    I always say if you haven’t crashed in a while you’re not riding fast enough or if you’re on a mountain bike you a 2nd option is you aren’t riding hard enough terrain.

  4. Comment by BotchedExperiment | 05.4.2007 | 9:14 am

    Couple years ago I was mt biking up in park city and was waaayy up by shadow lake. There’s a smooth downhill singletrack section where you can really fly. The singletrack kind of blends into a smooth wide section and then narrows back down to a really wide singletrack.

    I was taking it pretty easy and ajusting my sunglasses as I entered this section; there was a little bump coming up, so I reached back down for the bars, and somehow didn’t grab ahold of them. I just kind of clipped them and my hand slid right off the front. My arm slid right up the bar to about my elbow; I went off track and my front wheel washed out on the embankment that formed the side of the trail.

    I did a kind of side-exit endo (leading with my head) and broke a log that was laying on the ground with my head. My helmet was smashed to bits, and my neck was very sore.

    So, how many times before and since have I, without error, let go with one hand to do something and then grabbed the bars again? That number would have to be tens of thousands.

  5. Comment by dug | 05.4.2007 | 9:30 am

    crashing is never random. it’s like the number of flexes your knees are good for–the number is finite, but unfortunately, that number is a secret.

    last august, rick s and i were climbing the alpine loop, in ut, training for lotoja. after 11 miles of climbing, we were within a half mile of the summit, and when you’re wheel to wheel, and there’s a finish line, well, what are you gonna do?

    we sprinted all out, i had a half wheel advantage, and my chain snapped. i fell on the handlebars, which turned right angles to the my momentum. ended up with broken ribs, lots of nasty rash, a cracked helmet, and sundry other losses.

    even without a chain, and having coasted down the 11 miles to the mouth of the canyon, i desperately wanted to sprint to the usual fee station. if crashes slow you down, you’re not crashing enough.

  6. Comment by cheapie | 05.4.2007 | 10:03 am

    that was great stuff. i can’t say that i really crash that often. i’ve only crashed once on a road bike. it was caused by a rider two places in front of me not paying attn then locking up his brakes when he ran up on someone. like you said, it happens in a millisecond. one second i’m concentrating on my breathing and staying with the group. the next second i’m bouncing on the road looking at my bike skipping merrily along the tarmac free of its burden. then comes the pain and your annoying friends asking if you’re alright. somehow during that first 60 seconds their questions make the agony more intense. just…go…away. i’ll…be…okay…in…a…couple….minutes.

    i think that crash happened because i managed to escape a major crash on the porcupine rim earlier that spring.

    i was flying down the trail. the part….well, i don’t think i can describe it very well. just a very fast descent through the babyheads. i was bombing down through them, bobbing and weaving like walter peyton when my front wheel hit a rock and stopped instead of continuing onward.

    somehow i managed to free my feet and escape over the handlebars like only a panic-stricken cyclist can do. i ended up teetering on the edge of a fairly steep dropoff standing like carrie strug landing her vault in the olympics. my brain was telling me “you’re going to die” as i flew through the air. when i landed and realized i had narrowly everted disaster, i started shaking and laughing hysterically. it was amazing. i wouldn’t have died. but i would have had a nasty descent through the brush and boulders.

    i had a buddy following about 10 feet behind me and he said it the the coolest thing he had ever seen. lol.

    anyhow…that’s why i figure i was due for the road crash.

  7. Comment by Boz | 05.4.2007 | 10:05 am

    No more crits for me, too many scars and scabs in my past. Call me chicken, but endo’s in a bunch sprint are for the younger crowd. Desgrange will still find other ways to do me in, I’m sure. When you hit 50, a guy just doesn’t heal as fast as in his youth, so you have to change your priorities. Sky diving looks pretty cool.

  8. Comment by Lurch | 05.4.2007 | 10:33 am

    My worst crash (for no good reason) was on my mountain bike. Riding down a smooth trail in Cheyene Canyon (Colorado Springs) without a care in the world. Granted it was night and we were flying, but there was no reason for the crash. I can’t remember the accident, but my buddy said that he’s went back over the trail the next day in the daylight and there were no skids or anything, just a long section of trail that my body had scraped all the dirt up into a pile. As Al said, the trail “decided it didn’t want to sit there under me any longer, so it dropped me.”
    I ended up screaming like a school girl (my buddy thought a Mountain Lion was eating me and waited until I stopped yelling to come back – can’t decide if I blame him or not).
    Ended up having to hike out ~ 3 miles with a broken shoulder blade. Not the most fun thing to do. I’d avoid that section of trail. It’s not nice to cyclists….

  9. Comment by Softie | 05.4.2007 | 10:50 am

    Uphill cobbles with trolley tracks.

    I won’t describe in detail the exact sequence of events that resulted in the crash, but I’m fairly certain that fate was not the cause.

  10. Comment by bikemike | 05.4.2007 | 11:35 am

    great story Al. yeah and the noise is one of the scariest things about a crash.

    i remember stories about the great Sean Kelly pulling out of his pedal and stomping on old beer cans and dragging his feet on the tarmac, scaring the pee out of the other riders. everyone thought someone was going down. good stuff, no?

    you guys are great stepping up for Fatty, we all appreciate it. many thanks.

    we love ya fatty!

  11. Comment by Rick S | 05.4.2007 | 11:38 am

    The best part about crashing (or watching people crash) is the sound people make when going down. More often than not, its the sound people make when they think they are about to die. I love it.

  12. Comment by MAJ Mike | 05.4.2007 | 11:54 am

    You left out the two other popular crashes:

    1) The “I know that red light will go green any second” crash that injures nothing more than your pride. You know, you slow, slow, creep, and coast…to a crawl…to a snail’s pace…to a balanced halt…ans suddenly you tip violently to the left as you inexplicably attempt to unclip with your right foot. The group point and laughs as the light turnse green while you try to unpile yourself and cars honk.

    2) The dangerous “crash caused by a non-cyclist.” I was witness to an awful one two years ago. I was dropped off the back of one of those infamous group ride “accelerations.” I didn’t drop far and the group had slowed to re-collect everyone. There were roughly 26 riders and three were drifting behind me, leaving about 22 ahead of me ina tight cluster all the way to the right on a curbless road with grass to the right. As they approached a car parked off to the right, said car decided to move. It went from a stopped position oriented in the direction of the ride to an instant u-turn across the group’s path. Brakes locked up, people flipped over the bars, and road rash was liberally distributed. It was so shocking (and I am an Infantryman, so I know shocking) that nobody had the presence of mind to get the licens number of the car.

    End result? One ambulance, one dislocated shoulder, many broken fingers, and enough hamburger for the 4th of July. Lots of busted up bikes, including an all carbon frame belonging to a Cat 2 guy. Of the 26 that started, only 6 continued the ride.

    As an odd addition, one of the EMT’s was a frightening looking young lady who had a crush on me (long story). She saw me there in my cycling getup and literally stepped over actively bleeding people lying on the ground with legs elevated as part of shock treatment to come check on me. I had to point out the people she might like to assist rather than ogle my riding shorts. Not a good morning.

  13. Comment by TidusBlue | 05.4.2007 | 12:04 pm

    I remember endo’ing in the middle of an intersection. I was trying to catch up to a buddy and stood up to get some good momentum when my chain decided it didn’t feel like staing on. the cars that were at the stoplight all just had that look on their face like “did I really just see that… wonder if he’s ok” my friend of course didn’t see it, or realize it until he was half a mile up the road and realized I wasn’t behind him anymore.

  14. Comment by barry1021 | 05.4.2007 | 12:08 pm

    yeah well I think Al has embellished a bit on his storytelling here. I have learned from a direct source that on the corner where “the road decided it didn’t want to sit there under me any longer, so it dropped me”, that things unfolded a bit differently. Here’s what really happened.

    200 yards from turn: Al gets wicked bad itch on bottom of left foot. Unclips and bangs foot on frame of cyclist next to him, causing him to veer off road down a 200 ft enbankment.
    150 yards from turn:Still itching, Al puts leg up on handlebar, while pedaling with right foot only.
    100 yards from turn: Al removes shoe. Remarkably, he maintains pace, partially due to incredible fitness level, but also due to it is his weekly ride with senior staff of Church of the Gnostic Irredentist, average age-74.
    50 yards from turn. Al scratches, makes sound similar to an alpaca in a two speed blender, pace line slows by half as riders stick fingers in ears.
    Entering turn: Mary Mothmouse, wife of Ed “Winky” Mothmouse, age 83, the unfortunate soul who was the recepient of Al’s attempt to relieve his epithelial distress, having witnessed the incident that she assumes (quite rightly) made her a widow, has been pedaling furiously to catch up. The unexpected speed reduction caused by Al’s vocal outburst propels her onto his wheel. Just as she is about to lecture Al, she notices that his unusual position has created what is euphemistically known as a “plumber’s crack” in the back of Al’s chartreuse Assos riding shorts. She instantly loses consciousness, falling forward, hitting her head on Al’s wheel, which caused him to crash.
    So while he calls it destiny, the Mothman kids have a different word for it, (but their lawyers won’t let them say what it is).


  15. Comment by Al Maviva | 05.4.2007 | 12:16 pm

    Botched: “I did a kind of side-exit endo (leading with my head) and broke a log that was laying on the ground with my head.” That pretty much says everything I was trying to say, in one sentence. “I. . . broke a log with my head.” That’s beautiful. Poetic. Powerful. Remind me not to get in a head butting contest with you.

    Dug – I feel the same way, that crashes occur at fixed intervals, but I’m afraid to ask what the denomination is. The number of insults I lay on guys on the weekly shop ride? The number of times I re-adjust my package every morning on the commute, when I just can’t get the marbles to find the right spot? Achieving critical mass in gloves, such that one pair has to be destroyed (along with my fingertips) so that others might live with more elbow room in the roomy confines of my glove box?

    Maj Mike – the stuff I’ve seen in crits resembles what I saw in a mech division I served in. I haven’t seen a rider cut in half after being pinched between two bikes – I’m guessing you know what kind of accident I’m referring to because it’s not uncommon, hence the groundguide rules – but I have seen a half dozen guys lying in a pile, all with greenstick fractures. Oh, the humanity…

    BikeMike – the best I heard about Kelly was toward the end of a race in Italy where everybody was riding ‘piano’ and they passed the last feed zone and prepared to actually race the last 30 ks. Everybody took the customary can of flat Coke. Kelly drank his, then rode at the back of the pack leaning over the side of the bike, dragging it on the ground. The noise caused other riders to crash as they looked around to see who the poor bugger was, who was skidding along the rode.

    *Bonus Factoid: It is possible to suffer a sympathetic crash. Often in a race, guys will go down at the back. At the front, for no apparent reason, without turning round or doing anything, riders will suddenly drop as well. Or it can be right/left. Or break/peloton. I don’t know why this is but suspect it’s telekineses.

  16. Comment by clydesdale | 05.4.2007 | 12:36 pm

    Oh Al, ever so poignant and timely. After our group ride this morning and we were heading to the coffee shop a straggling member, who had been dropped and thus riding alone, was cut off by a car, you know the ones, see a bike so speed up to make the right turn RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU, anyway, he was on his maiden voyage with his new Team Edition, full Dura Ace, Ksyrium wheeled Giant, tried to dodge the car only to hit the turning median, metal hazard sign and the car! He made it with road rash on his knee and hands and a few stitches in his hand. The bike? another story…

  17. Comment by kenny | 05.4.2007 | 1:09 pm

    My most memorable crash was two years ago. I was flying down some narrow single track on my new rigid single. I was still getting used to not having front suspension, but I was familiar with the trail so I let it roll. I turned sharp to the right and came up on big rock followed by a bigger root. I tried to bunny hop over both obstructions thinking that my momentum would get me clear. I remember everything went into slow mo as I could tell that my front wheel was not going to clear the very large coniferous root. My wheel turned hard launching me into superman flight. I flew for about ten feet into a perfect tuck and roll and was able to run it out perfectly unscathed. It was actually really cool. I felt like I had super powers. I’ve had many others, before and since where my super powers failed miserably.

  18. Comment by deepersouth | 05.4.2007 | 1:14 pm

    Al, sometimes it is M. Desgrange in his sublime indifference who hurls us to earth, and members of team Zarathustra that we are, we take it like Tantalus. Other times I am afraid, we bring it upon ourselves.
    For instance, there was the ocassion not so very long ago when I was drafting a small truck along a moderately busy high street. My bike was new, and bling bedecked, and this truck had a refrigeration compartment maybe 3 meters high by 2.5 wide on the back, so it provided a tidy draft indeed: it was pulling me home at 50 kph after a long ride. My hands were on the brake hoods, my mind was moving on smug waters, and my heart rate was barely moving the needle. Of course i was watching his brake lights just in case.
    Until I hit the small, sharp edged pothole that had passed between the wheels of the truck.
    Or there was the time I didn’t check the pressure in the tires I had converted to tubeless a few weeks before, that may have had something to do with the broken rib I got when the front one blew of the rim at the bottom of a drop off.
    Oh yes, most of the time there is someone all too human to blame and if its not me, its the other bugger.

  19. Comment by mark | 05.4.2007 | 1:16 pm

    Is it possible to have a favorite crash? Obviously they’re the kind that don’t happen to you. Mine was on the Wasatch Crest trail last year. Early on the descent, one of our group stopped for a mechanical. We pulled over as far as we could, but some dude felt it was still his duty to not slow down and to demonstrate his disgust as he raced off the trail and through the weeds to get around us without slowing down. No big deal, but wasn’t exactly courteous.

    We apparently didn’t take the same route down at the bottom and managed to get ahead of him. Right before the trailhead, where the trail is a good four feet wide, we stopped again to allow the stragglers to catch up. We were pulled well off to the side, and there was plenty of room to slow down and pass, but this was apparently not good enough for our fearless friend, who once again went off into the weeds, full-speed, to get around us.

    What he didn’t realize was that Monsieur Desgrange had placed a smallish fallen pine tree pointing straight at him just off the trail. He hit it full tilt and it just skewered his wheels. His bike flipped up, he flew off of it, all the way across the trail and a good 20 feet through the air before he piled up at the base of a pine tree. His bike followed his path in the air and lay in a heap nearby. As he got up, his shoulder was visibly out of alignment.

    A more magnanimous person than I probably would have verified that he was OK and perhaps even offered assistance. Unfortunately, all I could manage was not to laugh audibly and to keep my mouth shut as he struggled back onto his bike and to the trailhead.

  20. Comment by LMouse | 05.4.2007 | 1:32 pm

    Nothing is ever my fault.

  21. Comment by tigermouth | 05.4.2007 | 1:58 pm

    Favorite crash (to someone else): I was trading the lead with a kid in an mtb race. I passed him on the uphills, then he flew by me on the downhills. Last time I saw him, he tried to pass on a narrow section and didn’t see the tree limb hanging over the trail. It took him off his bike just like you see in the westerns when a guy on horseback doesn’t duck. The bike continued down the trail a bit without its rider.

    Funny crashes (because I didn’t get hurt):
    1) Riding to play tennis, I leaned into a corner too aggressively and my tennis racket handle hit a telephone pole placed too close to the corner. I got ripped off my bike which continued down the street several feet before tipping over. Luckily no traffic ran me over.
    2) I was riding close to the vegetation lining the road and a vine hanging from a tree snared my handlebars at the brake hood. I stayed clipped on my bike which went airborne on its side (I think the bmx guys call it a table top) and did a 180. So I landed on my side facing the opposite direction. Luckily no traffic ran me over.

    Lots of other crashes with only minor injuries (knock on wood). All but two of them attributable to things I should do differently. E.g., doored when riding too close to parked cars; crashed commuting in snow and ice; endo’ed going too slow down singletrack; hit a car when I ran a red light resulting in slight damage to the car and none to me or my bike.

    Two totally not my fault crashed:
    1) A car passed me on the left and immediately turned right, taking out my front wheel. Fortunately, it was raining and the road was slippery, so I just slid and didn’t lose any skin. Just broke my taillight. The driver apologized.
    2) In a crit, a guy a couple of racers in front of me crashed. The guy behind him crashed, then I crashed. Fortunately, I saw it coming and avoided getting hurt.

  22. Comment by Debamundo | 05.4.2007 | 3:09 pm

    This was great. I laughed out loud.

    Fatty, I read your sad news the day you posted it and have been struggling ever since with how to respond. Everything I thought of seemed so INADEQUATE. I realized now, though, that there is strength, or at least comfort, in numbers. So I just wanted to add my name to the list of people who have been and will continue to think about and pray for you and your wife and family.

  23. Comment by Big Mike In Oz | 05.4.2007 | 4:05 pm

    I’m very nervous about this topic. I was a “regular interval crasher” when I raced through the ’80s and early ’90s. I’ve written about several of the “big ones” in my blog but there were many little ones as well. Probably dozens. I don’t know what the magic number was back then but now after a sabbatical of nearly 2 decades I’ve started riding again in earnest.

    I’m scared to express these statistics publicly but not due to what they reveal about me, the athlete. I’m worried about breaking the run of luck. I’ve been riding for 16 months and have travelled a bit over 5500 miles on the road and velodrom. It includes lots of big bunch rides, club races and some open races. In that time I haven’t even toppled over from failling to unclip a pedal.

    Now I wonder when the hammer will drop. Maybe it’ll be at the open criterium this afternoon that starts in less than 4 hours. Maybe I’m blessed. Maybe Al does all my falling off for me.

  24. Comment by Lins - Australia | 05.4.2007 | 4:30 pm

    I have nearly identical scars on my elbows and forearms leading from elbows to wrists plus on my knees. Reason? Mountain biking.
    Left side: scooting down a rocky trail in a another state and a BIG lizard was lying across the trail. I was yelling “Move! Move! Move!” (I swear it looked in every direction but mine. “Duh did I hear something?”) so I hopped it, the wheels landed on loose rocks and the bike flipped. After the initial impact on some rocks it was the length of the slide along the ground which did the secondary damage. If anyone knows Canberra it was down Mt Ainslie. Okay, okay I didn’t know it was a downhill track. I rode about 3km back to the car and took myself off for medical assistance.

    Right side: How I tapered for 3 weeks before a MTB race. Although not major bone breaking injuries compared to some it was the “will I make this race or not” situation which bugged me. Three weeks before my favourite race of the year (who am I kidding, I had only been riding bikes for 1 year and 7 months at that point thus had only riden this race once) I was cruising along an isolated gravelly track (slightly downhill with some wide bends) and suddenly, I say suddenly, my rear wheel washed out and I was sliding on the ground yelling NOoooooooooo! (at the thought of more wounds). I got up, took a quick glance at the damage and rifled in my backpack for my never before worn arm warmers. I wrapped them around knee and elbow and immediately got back on bike and pedalled (yes it hurt alot and I tried not to think about the amount of exposed bone in my knee) 5km to a road where there was a ute (that’s a pickup truck but smaller than your American ones) with 2 electricity company workers. I smiled broadly “Hi guys. Can you give me a lift?” They were all action but I still supervised the loading of my bike into the back of the ute and made sure they stopped other things from rubbing on my bike’s paint work. They dropped me off at my car (25km) where I rang my doctor and drove 20km to be cleaned up and stitched up then drove the same distance home. Within an hour of being home I couldn’t walk which was mildly inconvenient as my husband was away until the following night.
    As for the race? One week of barely hobbling, one and a half weeks of walking then a couple of light rides the days before it. Still bandaged up I actually had a good race (except for the painful 3 hike-a-bike sections), finished with energy to spare, faster average speed than the previous year and placed.
    Someone said that all it takes is a stone which is a different size to the others to cause a wash out. A month later I went back to the spot and couldn’t find it. It must have skipped the country.

  25. Comment by Token Skinny Guy | 05.4.2007 | 5:00 pm

    Thanks. No really, thanks a bunch. I hate you all. I’ve just bought beautiful new shoes, and you’ve all reminded me of the time I crashed and damaged a previous pair (racing along in an escape, guy leading signals it’s my turn to roll through, and just as I do, he decides to pull off into me! Ripped my shoes up something nasty, and gave me a nice broken wrist to boot). Anyway, now I’m too scared to go riding in my new shoes without booties, which I don’t currently own. Wow. What a way to ruin a guys day…

  26. Comment by Jose | 05.4.2007 | 5:22 pm

    Kenny, for what I’ve read in this blog, you “do” have superpowers….

  27. Comment by MAJ Mike | 05.4.2007 | 5:50 pm

    Al, HOOAH! I cut my teeth on Bradley Fighting Vehicles in the 1st Cav. 32 tons of steel will do more than any bike, but I still maintain that the u-turning car shocked the hell out of me more than seeing hatches drop on guys and near misses with lurching tracks. Frankly, I think it was the misty looking dust cloud, as odd as that sounds.

    In closing, “follow me!” (maybe only Al gets that one)

  28. Comment by DOM | 05.4.2007 | 6:18 pm

    Can someone explain the time warp that happens in these instances? Time never travels at the normal rate, it’s either a) I was riding along and flash I’m on the ground wondering what happened, or b) everything happened in slow motion, I had time to inspect each pebble that would become lodged in my skin as I slowly approached the pavement. Personally, I prefer option a, much less time to consider how much this is going to hurt.

  29. Comment by Al Maviva | 05.4.2007 | 6:21 pm

    Big Mike, rest assured, I do no falling off on your behalf. When I crash, I ride the sonofagun right into the ground, as if I were an auger and there was gold beneath them thar chipseal.

    MAJ Mike – it wasn’t the crushing injuries, which you’d expect around 10 to 70 tons of metal rolling at up to 65 MPH. It was the sudden stop injuries that blew me away. You can brag about your M3 or your Porsche, but if you really want braking power you need to drive a tracked ve-hicle. It adds a whole new dimension to the term “panic stop.” Still, I agree, and think bikes are potentially more dangerous since the dangers are almost completely random.

  30. Comment by Jsun | 05.4.2007 | 7:43 pm

    this post sux, but I hate watching those crash medley videos too, its almost almost as bad a crashing in real life, is cringing in sympathetic pain that much fun, if so let me tell you about (add horror story here)
    I still read it all Al and I still rubberneck at road accidents

  31. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 05.4.2007 | 8:04 pm

    Ouch what a topic.
    Our group was outriding two weeks ago on our flat ride. It has a number of designated sprint points for those inclined to give it a go. These are invariably dominated by the sprinters within our group (obviously!!) and a few of us who join in to make up the numbers. Anyhow this particular week the sprinters en masse were not present which encouraged a few others to have a crack. Jockying for position one of our riders went off the front. A couple of others went around the pack to give chase he saw them coming lifted slightly out of the seat to speed up and pulled his (left or right depending on who is telling the story amongst the eyewitnesses) cleat straight out the pedal.
    With his weight going forward over the bars and one leg swinging in the wind the inevitable was going to happen. I think his free foot found the front wheel which resulted in some zig zagging at speed followed by the crash/dismount and then a long slide with his shoulder in the water table and his head banging, slapping, grinding, gouging along the KERB. Again the most fantastic advert for helmets as the whole left rear quarter was missing but not a mark on his head. 10 broken ribs, a collarbone, shoulder and knee damage but apart from bruising to the brain he still has his good looks and undamaged head.
    Truly his first legible words after regaining consciousness (out for 5 minutes) and before the ambulance arrived was “How’s my bike?”. For those that are interested it needed new bar tape, one new pedal and a biddon otherwise not a mark on it. I managed to fix his sunnies, he will need a compete new team outfit as his looks like it was hacksawed off by the ambulance crew and the helmet has been retired.

  32. Comment by Born 4 Lycra | 05.4.2007 | 8:05 pm

    OOps sorry Good Article Al.

  33. Comment by Rokrider | 05.4.2007 | 8:18 pm

    This is some great stuff! Maybe there should be a special forum topic: “Epic Crashes”

    My favorite crash happened several years ago. I was still pretty new to mtn biking, just starting to get good enough to start getting cocky. I was cruising down a nice singletrack at a fairly good clip when the trail crossed a dry creek bed. I shot down the first bank but was leaning way too far forward as I approached the opposite bank, when my front wheel hit the bank I was launched over the handle bar. As I was sailing through the air, I remember thinking “Gee, this must be what a jet feels like when it leaves the deck of a carrier.” I cleared the top of the creek bank and landed in a perfect belly slide, my chin gouging a nice little V shaped groove in the dirt. After skidding to a halt, I started to push myself up when suddenly I felt something hit me from behind and push me back down. I raised my head up just in time to see my bike, still upright, roll right over the top of me, as if being expertly piloted by some mysterious “Ghost Rider” and continue down the trail. I got up, dusted myself off, applied pressure to my bleeding chin, and started walking down the trail, hopeful that my bike would have the courtesy of stopping and waiting for me down at the trailhead.

  34. Comment by Gomez38 | 05.4.2007 | 8:24 pm

    My best crash:
    Back in high school, before clipless pedals (hence leather straps and Christophe toeclips), riding an ancient Reynolds 531 touring frame converted to a fixie. I went around a corner to the left pretty fast. I had the right-of-way, because the street I was turning onto had a stop sign. Of course, that didn’t keep the car that should have remained stopped from pulling out into the intersection as I was about 45 degrees into the 90 degree turn. I had to swerve to the right to avoid being hit, which pushed my line toward the sidewalk curb at the corner. This was an old intersection, where the paving of road and curbs didn’t match up; the road descended, but the sidewalk stayed level, so at the corner–where I was now aimed–the curb was about 24 inches high. Realizing that I couldn’t turn without dumping it, and having no bunny-hop skilz, I somehow–without thought, of course–came unclipped, kicked both feet up and forward, and pushed down on the handlebars just as the tire hit. I hurdled clear, came down running, and caught the bike after it had completed a vertical 360 and landed rolling.

    Most memorable crash:
    I was out for a training ride, and wanted to climb a steep, switchbacked half-mile road that came up through Normandy Park from the water to the top of the bluff. I think the kids called it Goat Hill or something like that. So, I had to go down first. Goat Hill has a hairpin curve on it, but I figured I’d slow down for the curve. As I approached I moved right and lightly feathered the brakes just as I leaned left into the corner. It was raining. I remembered seeing a bank thermometer calling out 39 degrees. Maybe there was sand, maybe I braked too hard, I don’t know, but the front wheel came out from under me and I was sliding fast, still clipped in (toe clips and cleats ya know). My most memorable visual is being sideways and looking up, seeing the big white lane divider bumps whizzing past, getting closer to my head as I slid on a line tangent to the center line curve, then seeing them back up and away from me. I slid over the far edge of the lane and curb, over the verge and under a guard rail. Not hurt too badly, just erased some flesh. The weirdest was finding little balls of skin on the inside of my wool shorts. Ewwwwww….

    My latest and dumbest crash:
    Fast forward almost 30 years. As a 40+, truly fat cyclist, I was riding on the Sammamish trail (also used by skaters, kids on their big wheels, power walking women, dogs) up toward Woodinville on a beautiful, dry, sunny day. Apparently I had a slow leak in my front tire. I decided to pull off at the restrooms at a park, so I slowed down and started my turn. At speed that probably didn’t quite approach 8 mph, taking a gentle turn, I heard a skidding sound. Instantly I knew that it wasn’t me, and for a few milliseconds I wondered if I had cut in front of another cyclist unawares. As the concrete tilted up toward me I realized that it *was* me. Now down to a speed of, oh, 2 mph I threw up both hands too late to help (remember a quarter of a second ago? I could have just unclipped and PUT MY FOOT DOWN) and instead tore both rotator cuffs. I’ve considered starting a blog called ‘Fatter Cyclist’, but maybe ‘Pathetic Old Cyclist’ would be more accurate.

  35. Comment by OFD20 | 05.4.2007 | 11:18 pm

    My first thought – get up and get goin, the peloton’s gonna get away…wait, I haven’t raced in 17 years…

    “No, don’t call 911, I’ll be ok”. Nope, you need an ambulance! I’m callin. “No really I’ll just walk to the hospital” Nope, that’s a lot of blood. I’m callin. “LOOK…I’m a firefighter in this town! If you call 911, all my friends are gonna show up, cut all my clothes off, tie me to a board, and take pictures of me…DON’T CALL 911!!”

    As I’m walking to the emergency room (two hours after getting off shift) with my fixed gear commuter in 3 pieces, blood soaked jersey from a head/face wound, and pedestrians crossing to the other side of the street to avoid me, I realize why. Pure karmic payback. 2 shifts in a row at the firehouse with the crash dvd on continuous loop, for the non cycling firemen who make fun of my tight clothes everyday.

  36. Comment by Miles Archer | 05.5.2007 | 9:11 am

    Great. Now I won’t be riding today for fear of crashing.

  37. Comment by delirium | 05.6.2007 | 6:50 pm

    my favorite crash occured at the 2005 cat 4/5 mga proving grounds rr during superweek in wisconsin. The course is an 8 mile loop with a start/finish area in a praking lot outside the circiut. It was raining pretty good and 4 miles into the race i had given up. It was a course of rolling hills and every descent people were yelling because nobody’s breaks were doing anything. I gave up and started drifting to the back. Sure enough after a long straight descent, on a longer flat section bikes up at the front of the field just startted popping up in the air like popcorn. I ended of moving all the way to the left shoulder and then into the ditch, riding thru knee high grass, praying to God for no unseed holes. I made it around the carnage and found myself eventually in a group of about 15, but that’s not the crash i’m writing about.

    The rest of the race was our group of 15 and when we got to the final, i got a little gap on a small little rise about 200m before the finish line in the parking lot. About 100 meters before the line there were some barriers set up to funnel us into the finish. About 10m after the line the barriers on the left side squeezed in even more because of debris on the pavement. You might see where i’m going with this.

    I’m sprinting for all i’m worth and there’s a guy coming up on my left. We hit the line and i’m sure he’s nipped me for the win. After the bike throw i look up and think to myself, this guy is going to hit the barrier. My next memory is seeing said rider and his bike inverted and i’m thinking, “poor guy, that’s gotta hurt,” assmuming i’m clear. Then the pavement starts jumping up at me and I go down.

    15 minutes and a seperated shoulder later while i’m being put back together i’m told i won the race. No, the rider did nip me at the line we were sprinting for but not at the real finish line. The one 10m earlier. The one that wasn’t there when we started. The one that was moved after our race started without telling us.

  38. Comment by Bici Beeyatch | 05.7.2007 | 6:49 am

    Al- great post! Laughed so hard i cried, par for the course on Fatty’s blog. I’m almost, i say ALMOST, jealous cause i have no epic crash story of my own. Not riding long or hard enough you’d tell me. Incredible luck and bike handling skills i’d counter. okay, entirely the former. Any crashes i’ve had on the road were at lower speeds and easy to blame on my husband. Duh! Off road i’ve crashed humiliatingly often, but damn the luck, nothing spectacular requiring emergency room visits. So no bragging rights, and obviously no street cred on or off road owing to my pathetic lack of scars. Maybe on today’s ride i’ll let that dog catch me, or maybe corner at high speeds into deep gravel, or i know, rear-end a farm vehicle! Wish me luck…

  39. Comment by Highwaymunky | 05.8.2007 | 12:59 am

    Great post. If i don’t crash / fall off / injure myself in some way and added to my growing collection of grazes and scratches once a week I just know I’m being a pussy on my bike! Injury, falling off crashing are all part of the course and should be embraced as much as the punctures and saddle sores. That’s why we are all considered crazy! I love it though!

  40. Comment by CLBlood | 05.9.2007 | 9:07 am

    In 2006 my road bike & I had 5,720 miles & one crash. It was 7:30 a.m. The raccoon came out of the weeds so quickly that I t-boned it and hit the asphalt still pedaling. Split my helmet, broke my glasses, dropped a little skin. The bike was totally undamaged. Raccoon did not even stop running to exchange insurance information. We cut that ride short, but rode 40 miles the next day.

    My partner & I had driven to that ride & had discovered, when we got the bikes out of the truck, that my helmets was not with me. I cnosidered ridding bare-headed, which is what I did the only other time I forgot my helmet, but decided against it & drove all the way home. Which is why I can still read, write & understand the English language.

  41. Comment by Skip Zalneraitis | 05.10.2007 | 6:48 am

    I have been a runner my whole life – 84k miles. My wife wanted to ride and for four years she teased me. Finall, last June, we started. I LOVE it. I have been averaging more than 200 miles per week. Last Wednesday, it was raining so put my bike in the trainer to spin 30 miles before I went to teach. At three miles, my sadle bolt snapped and before I could stop myself, I was down on the seat post!!!! I changed bikes after the nausea passed, and pedaled another seventeen miles. My wife, a nurse, saw some swelling, but we showered and I was off for school. By fourth preriod, the swelling was SERIOUS. I went to the emergency room and was in surgery that afternoon. The doc took a unit of blood out of my scrotum and I have drained a little bit more than a half a unit again. I am writing this for therapy – this is my longest stop without exercise in thirty-five years!!!
    Why? Because I got on the bike I guess.

  42. Comment by Seatech1 | 05.10.2007 | 9:43 am

    A few years ago, I was working on a ship and carried my Cannondale mountain bike on the upper deck so that I had transpo wherever we landed. It was on one of those occasions that I tempted fate and took my ride to the local pub on Labor Day. I didn’t know my way around, so I ended up at a place much farther from the ship than I would ordinarily go. Needless to say, I completed my mission at the pub (got a good buzz on) and hopped on the bike for the ride back to the pier.
    On any normal ride, navigating city streets in a strange town can be a challenge; especially if two wheeled and four wheeled vehicles mingle in a morass of traffic as they did in this European city. But when you’ve got the added handicap of the output of a small brewery clouding your brain, it’s more than certain that you’ll introduce yourself to some cobbles before the day is over.
    After completing one particular turn, I happened to see the top of our ship’s mast peeking above some buildings to the left of me. My excitement at this discovery brought me to make the unfortunate decision to wheel my craft around and take the shortcut in a straight line to my destination. Failing to navigate the curb as I attempted to ride up onto the short distance of sidewalk, I suddenly felt an odd sensation. It was something like zero-gravity. Before I could truly appreciate this wonderful experience, my chin met the concrete.
    I never made it to the ship that evening. It took a day longer, after spending a night in the local hospital. My broken rib and nose were a testament to the improved decision making abilities one has after swilling way too much European Ale.
    So I guess the desiny in my story was in the combination of alcohol and operating even a motorless vehicle. At least I still carry the scar on my nose to remind me.

  43. Comment by JoeMarty | 05.10.2007 | 8:21 pm

    I fail the “it was destined” test. I pass the stupid test. April 14, 2006, I was riding along through the smoothly paved campground of the local state park, doing a modest up hill. I’ve only been riding for 20+ years; never a crash. And I’d only been riding this same route for about 12 or 14 years. And I had always come out of the saddle at the same point on that little 1/4 mile uphill, just for training purposes.

    So, of course, that is what I did on April 14, 2006. About half way up the grade, campers to the left were waving at me—probably amused by this 60 year old in spandex riding a bike—and my eye caught their attention. I don’t know whether I decided to give a friendly wave or lost my grip, but my left hand came off the bar ever so briefly, but of course, that was all that was required. I was out of the saddle, left peddle on the down stroke. with power, and the next thing I know, I am on the pavement.

    Two major fractures in my left collar bone, and a hematoma on my left hip that required surgery to drain four days later, left me off the bike for four weeks (should have waited six like the doctor instructed) and not at full strength for the rest of the year, perhaps even to this date.

    But I don’t think it was destined; rather I think it was operator error. Bicycle operators frequently make serious mistakes, but most of the time, we manage to correct them before doing a helmet dive. Some times we don’t, as I experienced April 14, 2006.

  44. Comment by MJS | 05.10.2007 | 9:29 pm

    Saturday May 05 2007 mile 32.5 for the day and mile 168 total for my less than two week old trek 7.3. I look over my shoulder to make sure that traffic which is merging from my right is yielding and just as I turn back towards the road I hit a section of uneven pavement and come crashing down hard. Fracturing the ulna and radius bones in my left forearm. Surgery was yesterday and was a success. We’ll see what happens between now and when I’m able to get back on my bike to decide if it was destiny or not. I’ve already learned one thing though ,that by wearing spandex to the emergency room it skips everyone’s first question and leads right to their second. “how fast ?”

  45. Comment by mcsurf | 05.11.2007 | 4:33 am

    last year I was minding my own business, head down and cranking on my now departed fixie when some MILF pulled out right in front of me real fast and then froze. it happened so fast I was still pedaling when I t-boned her. I alleyooped the front hood, paused briefly to take out the antenna, put my back through her windshield, and landed it hands still on the grips and feet still in the straps. of course on the landing both wheels collapsed and I did bounce a couple times. a concussion, some abrasions, a broken toe or two, but all in all not bad. the funny part was that she was so hot that the cops and ambulance guys were all checking her out instead of me. I was kind of out of it so she told her story and I got a ticket. she did to me what I’d have loved doing to her.

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