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. â€œHey did you hear about Joe going down at the Church of the Gnostic Irredentist Parking Lot Crit Training Series? Iâ€™m surprised. He rarely crashes.â€
But we all know thatâ€™s a lie. Joe is either crashing, or always on his way to crash, if heâ€™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 heâ€™s about to crash, whether he knows it or not. Itâ€™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 donâ€™t crash once in a while, you just arenâ€™t riding much, and you darn sure arenâ€™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 â€“ but like Nietzsche, cycling is beyond right and wrong. Right and wrong is irrelevant. Henri Desgrangeâ€™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 itâ€¦ but nobody could find any flaws in the road surface, and the guy behind me said I was riding fine, hadnâ€™t done anything wrong. But I know what happenedâ€¦ The road decided it didnâ€™t want to sit there under me any longer, so it dropped me.
And racingâ€¦ donâ€™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 coolâ€¦ and all of a sudden the guy next to me goes over his front wheel. I believe he may have inadvertently ridden over Henry Desgrangeâ€™s disembodied handlebar moustache. I was a little in front Tarmac Chewing Boyâ„¢ and doing almost 35, and thought I was clear, but he actually passed me on the way down. I guess he didnâ€™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.
Sure, you can briefly duck the Reaperâ€™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, itâ€™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 guyâ€™s back wheel overlapped the next guyâ€™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?