How to Behave When Another Cyclist is Hurt

04.15.2010 | 11:18 am

Last Monday, I showed a video, shot from my helmetcam, of a group ride at Little Creek. The centerpiece (i.e., the moment I showed four times 24 seconds into the piece) of the video was when The Runner crashed, whacking her buttbone (a technical term) good and hard into a sharp protruding rock.

To add injury to another injury, I also showed The Runner’s second fall, as the after-blackout-easteregg at the very end of the video. I don’t show that fall four times, because, frankly, I didn’t get a very good shot of it.

What I don’t show at all in the video is what happened after The Runner fell. Either time. That’s because after the first fall, The Runner hops around, runs in place, and swears a lot.

If it had been a guy — Rick Sunderlage (not his real name), for example — it would have been kind of comical (especially to the tune of the Mary Tyler Moore Show) — and I would have run the post-injury footage for sure. Since it was my wife, I decided against it.

A double standard? You bet.

After the second fall, I didn’t run the footage because The Runner was just laying there — face down — for a few minutes, coping with the the massive amount of pain she was experiencing.

201004151022.jpg(Photo by Brad M)

She had hit her hands so hard she thought they were broken, and one of her knees took a very deep cut.

The thing is, we had a surprising amount of medical expertise on-hand after these crashes. Heather’s a doctor; The Runner is a nurse. Unfortunately, however, it was the nurse who was hurt, and the doctor’s expertise is in cancer research.

And as for me, well, the video reveals that apart from untangling The Runner from her bike, I’m quite useless. Mostly, I just ask her, over and over, whether she’s OK and if there’s anything I can do. Which, I think it should be pointed out, actually does serve a purpose: after I asked these questions often enough it became so irritating that it distracted The Runner from the pain of her injuries.

How to Behave

Since then, I have had time to ponder: what, exactly, should I have done while I waited for The Runner’s pain to subside?

As a cyclist who sometimes rides with a female cyclist, I realize that how one acts may depend on who one is with, and have therefore helpfully segregated my findings into appropriate gender combinations.

If you are a male cyclist with an injured female cyclist

  • Refrain from telling her how hot she looks in lycra. Now is not the time. Trust me.
  • Tell her how tough and awesome she is. By the way, she is very tough, and very awesome. Just in case you weren’t clear on that.
  • Tell her anyone else would be crying harder / acting more pathetic than she is, including you. But don’t use the words “acting more pathetic,” because that implies she’s being pathetic at all, which she is not.
  • Get her bike ready to ride again. The woman is going to want you to shut up at some point. This is a good time for you to fiddle with her bike and make sure it’s good to go.
  • Volunteer to make a tourniquet / bandage out of your jersey. But not until she’s on her feet and seems like she might appreciate your sense of humor again.
  • Describe the events leading up to the injury. Be expansive and generous with the difficulty of the triggering obstacle and / or event. She didn’t endo when she hit a rock. It was a big ol’ honkin’ ledge, and she darn near cleared it anyway. I’m not exactly sure why we all start telling the story as soon as the event happened, but it seems to help, and it seems to help more if you get started with the exaggeration right away.

If you are a male cyclist with an injured male cyclist

  • Ask if he’s alright. Depending on how old you are and where you live, you should either end the sentence with “dude,” “man,” or “bro.” It makes the question affectionate and concerned-sounding without being too affectionate and concerned-sounding.
  • Lean his bike against a tree. He won’t trust any tweaks, fixes, or adjustments you make anyway.
  • Wait for 30 seconds before asking if he’s ready to ride. If he says he needs another minute, wait another thirty seconds and ask again. Repeat as necessary.
  • Describe the event, but feel free to trivialize certain aspects (such as the prime cause of the event) and enhance other aspects (such as the high-pitched scream the victim made upon suffering a compound fracture).

If you are a female cyclist with an injured male cyclist

  • Tell him how hot he looks in lycra. For guys, there’s no bad time to hear this, and even when we’re injured there’s a small part of us that’s wondering if our guts are sufficiently sucked in.
  • Otherwise let us suffer quietly. We’re trying to be manly and stoic. If you begin to describe the event, we’re going to think it sounds silly, because you’re not exaggerating our manliness sufficiently. If you call the injury on our leg a “nasty little scrape,” you’re making it that much harder to refer to it as a five-inch-long gushing gash when we recount it later.
  • Don’t touch our bikes. Unless we beg you to help us unclip.

If you are a female cyclist with an injured female cyclist

  • Honestly I have no idea. Do whatever it is you women do when you’re with each other. Like, talk about how much you miss us men. That’s what you do when we’re not around, right?

Now, I’m sure some of you are thinking, “Well, how about administering a little first aid?” But that would assume I know what I’m doing and would not be making the problem worse. For example, in my panic, I might have been likely to give The Runner rattlesnake poison antidote, which probably wouldn’t have helped very much.


  1. Comment by UpNorth | 04.15.2010 | 11:32 am

    It is never appropriate to laugh before you ask if they are okay. Even if it was a really, really, really good crash.

    Just take that second to spit out an “are you okay” before the laughter kicks in.

    I agree completely. – FC

  2. Comment by josh | 04.15.2010 | 11:39 am

    i find the the “are you ok” is usually part of the laugh. maybe that’s why my wife wont ride with me.

  3. Comment by UpNorth | 04.15.2010 | 11:40 am

    Also – you might want to check that link for the video…

    THANK YOU for that catch — I can’t believe I put in a local link to my tax return! Fitting, considering the day, I guess. Fixed! – FC

  4. Comment by Daness40 | 04.15.2010 | 11:41 am

    You might want to mention to stand clear of a male cyclist for the first 5-7 seconds after the crash. Some times men jump up right after an injury and just want to punch something….you don’t want to be that something! EEK!

  5. Comment by Down South | 04.15.2010 | 11:44 am

    My husband needs to read this. He’s fantastic at annoying the crap out of me asking if I’m ok, but the rest could use some work. Thanks for the laughs!

  6. Comment by T Foster | 04.15.2010 | 11:57 am

    Laughing out loud again. Glad I work from home…only the dog gives me strange glances.

  7. Comment by fult23 | 04.15.2010 | 12:02 pm

    I get my head bitten off just trying to teach her how to switch gears. I imagine I would need a lawyer with me if I started laughing at her crash (and I laugh a lot). Gladd to have you back on the blog, Fatty!

  8. Comment by KanyonKris | 04.15.2010 | 12:24 pm

    That’s why I come here – for useful, practical advice.

    Runner – don’t be embarrassed, crashes mean you’re trying hard. I only think more highly of you after seeing you crash.

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  10. Comment by Weaky6 | 04.15.2010 | 12:40 pm

    So, sleeping on the couch allowed you to come up with this funny little twist and make The Runner feel a little better. Nice work. I know you did not sleep on the couch. That seldom happens on the first year of marriage……….unless you show a video of your wife crashing over and over…Good thing it showed her good side.

  11. Comment by ocary | 04.15.2010 | 12:50 pm

    Note regarding male/male crash scenario. If the crash victim has his bike hanging upside-down in a tree, one foot still clipped in, and the bike is high enough so just his shoulders blades reach the ground, when he asks for help you respectfully decline.

    Once you realize he is hanging in a big patch of poison ivy, you continue to decline and instead you laugh. You. Laugh Hard.

  12. Comment by centurion | 04.15.2010 | 1:37 pm

    Man dude, she does look hot in lycra, bro.

  13. Comment by bikemike | 04.15.2010 | 1:43 pm

    offer to squirt stuff from your water bottle onto the injury. it’s equal to kissing the booboo without uhhh…you know, actually doing it.

  14. Comment by Rick Sunderlage (not my real name) | 04.15.2010 | 1:49 pm

    Thanks Peaches.

  15. Comment by Betsy | 04.15.2010 | 1:59 pm

    Eldon, you crack me up. Just to set the record straight… were exactly right about us women. When you men are not around, we spend All our time talking about how much we miss you……..Yea that’s it! No…….Really.

  16. Comment by Matthew | 04.15.2010 | 2:02 pm

    Great post!

  17. Comment by Scott | 04.15.2010 | 2:05 pm

    Who’s the guy in the Squadra Coppi jersey? (I’m on Squadra Coppi and didn’t know any of us were out there, or riding with you)

  18. Comment by tibiker | 04.15.2010 | 2:32 pm

    2 things:
    1.) If it’s male/male, you IMMEDIATELY reach for a camera/camera phone, after / during the laughter. Come on Elden, you know this one! Perhaps riding with the helmet cam all the time made you forget this one.

    2.) My wife REALLY gets irritated when I try to break down the actual cause of the wreck like the police do after a car crash. While I’m using the tape measure to measure the skid marks, and a protractor to get the angle of the collision with the ground, I continuously ask her “How’d you do that honey?” and “What happened that caused all that blood to start pouring out of your ________?”
    She LOVES that part of the crash.

  19. Comment by Jenn | 04.15.2010 | 2:34 pm

    Oh dear…I would be laughing out loud, if I could. However, I did a substandard impression of The Runner’s move yesterday (which is to say, I don’t actually have to HIT something in order to fall over) and as a result, there will be no laughter (or much other movement) around here for a few days. Excellent post, nonetheless. Glad you’re back!

  20. Comment by Kelly | 04.15.2010 | 2:48 pm

    So wait. You didn’t tell us if it would be appropriate in a male/male situation to comment on how hot they look in that lycra.

    If this is only due to a lack of knowledge on how these statements will be received I think you need to do a little experiment next time one of your buddies is trying to figure out which bones broke.

    You know. For science.

  21. Comment by Ghengy | 04.15.2010 | 2:55 pm

    I hope The Runner is ok. As for the “lesson,” very funny! A friend of mine must have been taking male-cyclist/injured-female etiquette lessons from you. He recently recounted a crash of mine and in his version I had gone off a cliff and was upside down in the bushes. The reality was a small hill and only a slight inversion. I’m letting him tell the story from now on!

  22. Comment by bubba seadog | 04.15.2010 | 3:01 pm

    it seems to me (just in my experience) you just want to asess yourself after a fall then if you need help holler you dont want to draw a crowd for an embarassing situation…..but we always do dont we?

  23. Comment by roan | 04.15.2010 | 4:23 pm

    Great post…been there done that…once I can breathe, I say “that hurts”. But since I was the last of 6 riders, no one heard. They rode the 5 miles to the trail head.
    If you crash on a ride and no one is around to see or hear you…did you really crash ? Depends on what is broken. Having to be put on a horse for the ride out…tells it all. I could have made it out on my own given enough time…

  24. Comment by Kari | 04.15.2010 | 4:31 pm

    Tip one: for teens riding with parents: if the rider witnessing the crash calls for help and that call is responded to by a cop, be sure to talk the cop into giving you a boost to the next SAG stop, taking a route that will bring you along side your parental figure. Once you spot them, get the cop to slow down so you can tell them not to worry, you will meet them at the next SAG stop. Once he agrees open the window, lean out and shout out something horribly obvious like “Mom, I crashed!” and watch them keel over at the shock of seeing their oldest child in the back of a cop car.

    Tip two: Be sure to include in your later exxagaration of the incident how smashed everything in your pockets is, this will also demonstrate how hard you landed. If need be, ride at the back of the group and smash them a bit more on the way back.

    Tip three: (unrelated to the other two) if in fact the injuries are quite small, While you know it was absolutely miraculous how you were able to walk away “essentially unharmed” from that bad of a crash, others might not neccessarily believe it as well, so to support your story, Allow any cuts and scrapes to bleed freely for a few minutes before taking first aid measures. This serves two purposes: Evidence of exatctly how bad your crash must have been, and two, it can healp loosen any embedded dirt or gravel. If need be, feel free to smear any blood around when nobodies looking.

  25. Comment by Lisa B in Seattle | 04.15.2010 | 4:34 pm

    Ah, girl after my own heart – in the Easter Egg I can hear her (or someone else, perhaps?) say “oh f***” – that’s what I say every time I hit the ground. Often. And loudly. It’s medicinal. And I hit the ground while mountain biking regularly. You know, that whole wet leaves and roots thing we have going here in the PNW. My husband just kinda hovers looking worried. Uselessly similar to you, I imagine. :)

  26. Comment by Philly Jen | 04.15.2010 | 5:37 pm

    What females say to each other:

    “OMG, what’s Clive Owen doing here?!?! Look, he’s peeling off his shirt to make a tourniquet for you!”

  27. Comment by Wheels | 04.15.2010 | 5:52 pm

    You’re spot on with this one. We’re lucky you have the Runner to teach you these important lessons that you can then share with us!

  28. Comment by duane | 04.15.2010 | 10:00 pm

    My wife crashed the first time we rode the intermediate trail – she took the right side of the trail on a down hill section after I said loudly: “Stay left”.

    She was OK – but the bike came to a stop about 30 feet away from her. I asked if she was OK – she was. I took a picture to commemorate the event – then told her all about the crash. She wasn’t mad – kind of excited to have her first crash be spectacular.

    When she fell over because she forgot to unclip – happens to all of us and we all feel stupid… nothing to say.

  29. Comment by Richard | 04.15.2010 | 11:28 pm

    you should either end the sentence with “dude,” “man,” or “bro.” – in Australia “mate” will suffice unless you think it needs a “maaaaaate”.

  30. Comment by Richard | 04.15.2010 | 11:33 pm

    Danessa40 is spot on – both times I have been taken out by a car I wanted to come up swinging but unfortunately couldn’t stand up.

  31. Comment by Alyson | 04.15.2010 | 11:43 pm

    Philly Jen ~ on target as usual. :-)

    Elden ~ this was asked before but not answered,{ or I didn’t spot it…and please note, this time I did look:-)}. Who is the dude in the photo leaning over the Runner?
    And if it is you….where the [beep, beep] is your Fat Cyclist gear??????????????????????????????

  32. Comment by Mike E | 04.16.2010 | 4:04 am

    Fatty is over the runner, Got FC leggings and a helmate cam cord running up his back.

    Plus those quads… Man those Quads!!!

    PS Good crash Runner, gets a 5 on the epic rating!

  33. Comment by Lizzylou | 04.16.2010 | 5:05 am

    Ouch! It looks like the Runner has her face nicely cushioned on a prickly bush. Hope that is just the camera angle.

  34. Comment by Shiny Flu | 04.16.2010 | 5:11 am

    hehehehe! great post eldon, just put a smile on my dial.

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  36. Comment by Drdave | 04.16.2010 | 8:17 am

    So, how do you handle the reactions when you are the only one riding. Self talk, self pity, self loathing…

    I just swear a lot. It seems to help with me.

  37. Comment by Jo | 04.16.2010 | 8:59 am

    My worst crashes have not had witnesses so I get to tell the story however I want. Is it weird that my ego hurts more when I crash while riding with my husband than when I’m with my gal pals?

  38. Comment by Marilla | 04.16.2010 | 9:43 am

    didn’t see the second fall

  39. Comment by Nick | 04.16.2010 | 9:55 am

    Crash stories are the best medicine. I want people to come up to me laughing hard and telling me how huge my fall was. Then at least I think I looked tough and all the pain has a purpose. If I just tipped over tell me about the crazy squirrel that run out of the bushes and kicked me over. Stupid squirrels.

  40. Comment by MrsTeamPhillips | 04.16.2010 | 10:39 am

    My husband did a great job the last time I crashed. Hovered over me until I was able to get up, moved my bike off the trail, even went to get the car so I wouldn’t have to ride out (there happened to be a road crossing nearby). Everything was good, until I said “Maybe I should go to the ER”, and he said “Okay, but can we go home first? I’m really hungry.” Men!

  41. Comment by Heidi | 04.16.2010 | 11:33 am

    You posted a video of your wife crashing (and crashing) and you’re still married? You ARE a lucky man.

  42. Comment by MattC | 04.16.2010 | 12:18 pm

    I typically ride alone, so my crashes (however rarely I do crash) get no laughing or sordid review thankfully. Crashing is humiliating enough…having witnesses just adds to the pain. When you ride alone a lot you quickly learn to ride withing your envelope of whats ‘doable’. Having a bad crash (or unrepairable mechanical) MANY miles from help are always in the back of my mind. I’m thinking of getting one of the SPOT GPS units (what Jill Homer uses in her big races so we can track her). Not that expenisve…lots of peace of mind. Crashes are WAY overrated IMO. Just say no.

  43. Comment by NHcycler | 04.16.2010 | 1:11 pm

    @Weaky6 Are you implying that she has a less than good side?

  44. Comment by TrapperDan | 04.16.2010 | 1:34 pm

    I feel your pain Eldon. My daughter (16 at the time) clipped my rear wheel and went head over the bars and did a faceplant on the road. When I looked back and saw her laying in the road and not moving I thought I was going to die. After about 5 minutes of assessement she decided she was good to go, stood up, swooned, puked and went back down. Ride over. We called the truck. Keeping your cool (being the Dad or husband)and trying not to make things worse is hard. She got off with a mild concussion, several scrapes, glue to the chin (she did not want stitches)and a trashed jersey. She got a new helmet in the deal.

  45. Comment by Weaky6 | 04.16.2010 | 1:45 pm

    @NHcycler ummmm….ok, let me rephrase. All her sides are good, and if I was not married with 4 kids, I would not think twice about asking her out if she was not married to FC, to whom I respect very much and do not even know really, but kind of.

  46. Comment by Philly Jen | 04.16.2010 | 1:56 pm

    @ Weaky6: Excellent save! Because we would all hate to see the results of a face plant after catching 25+ hours of virtual air. (Bonus points for artful osculation of posterior extremities.)

  47. Comment by judi | 04.16.2010 | 1:58 pm

    i am loving reading about your new life with your new wife fatty.

  48. Comment by Dr. Lammler | 04.16.2010 | 5:25 pm

    I have a cheap computer and it looks like the Runner is face up.

    If so, that must have been a terrible crash.

  49. Comment by Jen | 04.16.2010 | 9:42 pm

    Heeeeyy! What makes you think us females like guys fiddling with our bikes any more than another guy does? Huh?!

  50. Comment by Golgi | 04.17.2010 | 6:27 am

    Last Saturday, I found out first-hand what it’s like to be an injured female with other female riders. I rounded a turn on a descent and, BAM, there was a stop sign I was not at all expecting. THough I’d already started to slow down and the others had made it to the stop sign safely, I knew my momentum was still too much. Locked out the back tire (oops) and skidded 15-20 ft before losing verticality and sliding another 3-5 ft on my lower back and arm. When I finally came to a stop, I sat up and started laughing (not really sure why), and the three others came running over to help. One stood my bike up, fixed the chain (which had dropped sometime during the fray), and straightened out the hood that I had moved a good inch or so to the inside. And the other two set about washing my wounds with the water they had left. Arm warms as tourniquets and such. They helped me up and we rode another ten miles to the nearest bike shop, where they procured medical supplies and helped bandage me and ice my sprained wrist.

    And then they called my coach to tell her about my clutzy move.

    Had I been alone, this crash would have sucked a lot more. Moral of the female-with-injured-female story: YOU WANT FEMALES AROUND WHEN YOU CRASH, whether you’re male or female, so they can bandage you up and then embarrass you by calling your coach to tell her about the spectacular skid mark you made on the road before you crashed.

  51. Comment by Deac | 04.17.2010 | 6:37 am

    Im laughing out loud, Im in the office this is not good.

  52. Comment by Sprocketboy | 04.18.2010 | 4:43 pm

    You can always rely on a Squadra Coppi cyclist for professional sympathy. Fast and good-looking, just what a woman in distress needs. Smart move, Fatty!

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  54. Comment by Geo | 04.19.2010 | 9:52 am

    You left out some phrasing for when the crasher is male.

    Even before asking if they are ok or before laughing it is always cool to yell: “Dude, that was totally awesome. Your bike was, like, 15 feet in the air. You slid 30 feet — on your face!” Depending on who it is feel free to throw in a few expletives to add emphasis to the description.

  55. Comment by Greg @ Greg Rides Trails | 04.19.2010 | 11:32 am

    Haha yes, the conclusion is fantastic! Rattlesnake antidote….

  56. Comment by Tim | 04.19.2010 | 12:21 pm

    I just noticed in the first picture that the guy attending to the fallen rider is wearing a Squadra Coppi jersey–whats the story there?

  57. Comment by TriAndrew | 04.19.2010 | 2:19 pm

    Long time reader…first time commenter. I read this when you posted and of course on our group ride Saturday the lone female that joined us crashed and went down hard. I just thought back to this post and almost peed myself. All of your proposed solutions are dead on. We had the guy in the group asking if she was ok over and over. The guy that played nurse and the rest of us just shut up until she decided when she was ok. I sent the group a link and we all got another chuckle…thanks!

  58. Comment by rjb | 04.19.2010 | 4:10 pm

    I had a good crash a couple of years ago that reveals another rule in the male/male crash category. If you ask if someone is OK, and they make no sound whatsoever, wait. The longer the wait before an audible noise is made, the more severe the pain. Once I, er, the vitim, makes noise, then the razzing can begin. In my case, it was a crash where I semi-endo’ed and landed square on the bar end on my pubic bone… 2 inches lower would have been very very bad. I think it was a good minute before I was capable of conscious thought. As it was, the bruising that developed from that was rather unnerving.

  59. Comment by Eber | 04.20.2010 | 4:08 am

    I am a laugher. It’s a character flaw. To this day, everytime I cross the red bridge on Oak Hollow I think of Dug’s crash there. It was like he was parachuting out of a plane – arms and legs splayed out like a flying squirrel.

    I am a sub-standard human. I know.

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  61. Comment by Blair | 04.20.2010 | 6:27 am

    Absolutely brilliant!!

    I’m pretty sure these tips work with dirtbikes too. I’m going to use them if…oops… I mean “when”…. your cousin Jamie crashes the next time we’re in West Virginia together.

    Ride on!!

  62. Comment by Constantin | 04.20.2010 | 9:40 am

    I witnessed a bike crash + injury and I guess I behaved exemplary!
    It was a lady that crashed – she’s fine now and I like to believe I was the perfect “assistant” doing the talking and helping her continue the ride. Also took her to the hospital and got her a neat bandage!

  63. Comment by jim werner | 04.20.2010 | 6:10 pm

    well at least the tires are ok.

  64. Comment by Carrie Kerr | 04.21.2010 | 5:11 am

    This was really fantastic. Great writing. Surprisingly accurate and very funny points.

  65. Comment by Road Divit | 04.22.2010 | 9:41 am

    Helper – Are you okay
    Victim – No response
    Helper – dial 911

    Helper – are you okay
    Victim – “Is that supposed to be sticking out”
    Helper – dial 911

    Helper – Are you okay
    Victim – “Ouch, ewww, owey”
    Helper – “Here’s you cell, see ya”

  66. Comment by Brian | 04.27.2010 | 12:57 pm

    If you are alone when you crash, as I have been twice, hope a nice person will stop to give your bloody messy self a ride home (roady tip). As soon as the fog lifts, begin to work on your story. Many hours of laughter have ensued from the story of flipping over my handlebars into a parked car twenty two years ago.

  67. Comment by Shevonne | 04.28.2010 | 1:01 pm

    Hmmm…I wonder now if I’ve ever dismissed a male cyclist when he has fallen compared to a female. I think female-to-female, you ask if she is alright two times, and then head out ;)

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