I fell while riding my bike last week and got hurt, so I thought it might be worthwhile to write about the accident, how/why it happened, and, most importantly, what you can do to prevent having it happen to you.
As I have said previously, my pleasure in riding my bicycle is, literally, the act of riding itself. I don’t ride to sightsee. I don’t ride to get any place. I may do those things incidentally, but they aren’t the reason I ride my bike every day I can in a four season city like Chicago.
For me riding a bicycle is a combination of swimming and flying through the air. My legs doing the pedaling feel like I am swimming while my body rushing through the air is distinctly flying. So, I usually feel like I am swimming at a high speed through the air.
I rode hundreds of miles last year in a huge parking lot that has a circumference of about a half mile. When it was empty I simply rode around it over and over … and loved every minute of it.
Last Saturday, I was riding in one of my favorite places in the park. The surface is the smoothest asphalt I have ever seen. Worn smooth by millions of tourists over the years walking on their way to and from Chicago’s famous Buckingham Fountain. It is a joy to ride over. Each of the circles of asphalt walk has four spokes projecting out. I usually ride around the circles and then down one of the spokes to connect to another circle.
My wipeout occurred as I was coming out of one of the spokes and banking into a turn. The reason I wiped out is that I had ridden through a very shallow puddle about 15 yards back. My turn was on a perfectly dry section of smooth asphalt, BUT because I had ridden through the puddle, my tires were still wet. I banked into the turn and the wet tires lost traction and the bike slid out from under me. I fell, bounced and skidded over the asphalt, tore up my knee and elbow and almost broke my collar bone. The unhappy irony in this fall is twofold. I was really enjoying the ride so the wipeout completely caught me off-guard. Secondly, because I was having so much fun, I was riding slightly faster than I should have been. It was my fault that I went down.
I wanted to write this to warn fellow cyclists about the dangers of getting tires wet. Once you do that you must wait till the water is off the tires before rushing into a turn, or riding on the paint they use to create lanes on the street. Everyone knows how slick those lane lines can be and avoids them in wet weather, but if the lanes are dry and you ride over them with wet tires, you are vulnerable to going down.
I have included a couple of pictures to illustrate this. The first shows a sidewalk with runoff from rain or recent watering. In this case, if you can’t reroute, you have no choice but to ride over it. Just realize that when you finish, you will have wet tires and you need to be more careful till the water wears off. The second is simply a couple of puddles in the park. I suggest riding around them rather than through the middle and getting your tires wet in the process. Bottom line: remember to look at your front tire as you ride. You can see if it is shiny, wet and dangerous or dry, dull and safe.
Finally, I want to include the fact that I was wearing my helmet when I fell. This was a good thing as I could hear as well as feel my helmet bounce off the asphalt when the bike went out from under me. The helmet may have saved me from a concussion. The first thing the Emergency Room doctor asked me was if I had lost consciousness at any time. I think the helmet prevented that.
The accident happened last Saturday. I am writing this on Thursday afternoon. I have just come in from my second ride since then. I have slowed down on turns and really pay attention to my tires and puddles. I hope you will do the same.
Ride safely and enjoy.