After the Fall: What to Do When You Come Off Your Bicycle

Crash, wreck, accident – these words all conjure up unpleasant images. That’s because falling off your bike can really, Really, REALLY hurt. A saying in bicycling goes “It’s not a matter of if you’re going to fall, it’s when.” I’ve had one fairly serious incident, and a few minor mishaps. I’m thinking about this topic because I experienced one of the latter the other night. It was a relatively minor scrape (yes, a pun) with a weird, free-standing curb the other night. Here’s what happened and what I did that might be entertaining, educational or both. Yes, definitely both.

Curb Your Enthusiasm, Dude!

Night. Austin, Texas. En route from downtown to a movie theater. Conditions cold with a little wind, but a little rain had dried up. I’m traveling in the opposite direction I would normally go. I take the sidewalk by the highway, but am fooled by low light and the different colored pavement. There’s a free standing curb — just a curb — to prevent people crashing through barriers and into a cul-de-sac, which would lead to the service road going the wrong direction. I think I’m jumping off the sidewalk but instead slam right into the curb, and seconds later, I’m on the ground.

I barely had time for one thought as I was falling, which was this: “I notice I’m putting my hands out to break my fall, but you’re not supposed to do that.” As soon as I realized what happened, I jumped back up. I’ve done this before myself on a couple of occasions that were low or no speed spills. But I’ve also seen racers do this in the Tour de France, and I’ve also seen the more serious injuries stay down. I could have stayed down and assessed the damage without risk, because there was no traffic. I think it’s just a reflex to right oneself and also see what happened.

The curb appeared as the freestanding structure it is, not attached to a sidewalk — unlike every other single one of the trillion sidewalks on Planet Earth. But I quickly saw my error: The sidewalk had ended, and instead of jumping off of the sidewalk, I slammed into the curb. My enthusiasm was definitely curbed, but not eradicated. You see, I was on my way to a movie. And not just any movie, but one that we’ve been waiting for for literally 40 years: the sequel to The Shining. And not only that, I was going to see DOCTOR SLEEP on discount night. So it was with a mixture of adrenaline, frustration and anticipation that I wanted to get back on the road as soon as possible.

What to Do, How to Deal

  1. DON’T PANIC: After a fall, you naturally will want to see how badly your hurt. But it’s very important to follow the golden rule from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Panic won’t help, and you need to collect your wits before doing anything else stupid, like kick the offending curb, throw your bike at something, or scream bloody murder. Unless of course you are seriously injured, then by all means, yell your bloody head off for help. But if possible, for non-life threatening injuries, it’s best to calm yourself, sit down and at least imagine making yourself a nice pot of tea.
  2. First Aid: Automatically you will probably visually and by feeling scan your body for any breaks, contusions, or impalements. (Definitely try to avoid the latter especially.) But unless you have a piece of metal poking into you, and you have your HHGTTG traveler’s towel with you, you can use that to sop up any blood that may be exiting your corporeal structure. If you can’t “check yo’ self before you wreck yo’ self,” do so ideally before your bike.
  3. Check Your Bike: Many hard-core cyclists will tell you to do this step first before checking yourself. The truth is that I was pulling my chain out of being stuck between the cassette and frame, bending the derailleur back from the spokes, collecting my broken bike lock bracket, and turning the front wheel back around before I had fully scanned myself. If you can ride, and the bike is rideable, do that and get the hell away from this negative vortex of doom. If not, you may need to…
  4. Phone a Friend: Just like on game shows, you can call someone to help you. (Again, assuming there’s no metal through the leg.) There’s no shame in calling for a SAG wagon in your time of need. We won’t tell, because we won’t know. But maybe keep it on the down-low anyway, in case word gets out and people mercilessly ridicule and bully you. That’s not good or healthy for the healing process. I digress. You may need the ambulance, but if not, no need to ride home.
  5. Blame the Curb (Trump/Global Warning/Aliens): Mistakes are made. People stupidly build curbs that aren’t attached to anything, and other people ride right into them and fall off their bikes. But don’t beat yourself up; place the responsibility where it belongs: on someone, or something else. The sun, a deer, a fly, a cute person walking by distracting you, whatever. Seriously, shit happens, pick yourself up and deal, but do not feel bad for one second. (This is easier to do if there are no witness videos posted to social media.)
  6. Take a Hot Bath: I didn’t do this yet, but they’re extremely yummy and take the sting out of most muscle aches. Epsom salts are cheap and have magnesium which helps your muscles relax, so use them, too. If you can tolerate it and don’t have any deep flesh wounds, this can really promote healing. Plus if you’re a shower person it feels like a real luxury thing you’d do at spa.
  7. R.I.C.E.: Rest, Ice Compression, Elevation is the standard acronym for what to do in case of an incident. Additionally you may wish to use balms, creams, rubs, painkillers, I like Lasting Touch pain gel and Magnesium Oil for relaxing. Maybe something stronger if legal in your state. Or actual brown rice; it’s very tasty, worth eating and still legal in all 50 states and US territories, at least the last time I checked (never).
  8. Massage: If you can afford it, or like A Dude who had a gift card, go to your local student massage school and get a discounted body rub-down. I had one from Avenue Five Institute, and man, did it feel juicy! The masseuse didn’t even have time for the front side, and I am already feeling pretty recharged.
  9. Take ‘Er Easy: Be like THE Dude, and “take ‘er easy for the rest of us”too, while you’re recovering. Seriously, this is no time to be overdoing it. Depending on the level of your trauma, you may not have a choice. Perhaps take some time off the bike to sleep. Also, meditate, contemplate or genuflect on what the fall means to you. Too cocky on the bike? Slow down. Running late? Leave early next time. Remember, “Gravity, it’s the law!”
  10. Get Back on the Horse: This is key, again if you aren’t dead or in a coma or full body cast. But start riding your bike as soon as possible after the alteration. The sooner you do it, even going back to the scene of the crime, the better. Don’t overdo it, but don’t underdo it either. Soreness will go away, flushing out the lactic acid can take a bit. But psychologically, you may find yourself riding more tentatively for a bit. That”s ok, it’ll wear off. Remain cautious and extra vigilant for similar situations so they don’t happen again.
  11. Turn It Up to Eleven: Move along, nothing to see here. There is no advice, just a way to make a reference to the hilarious rockumentary This Is Spinal Tap.

Well, that’s it! The A Dude Abikes handy 11-step guide to surviving a fall off your bike. (Falls from grace are an entirely other matter outside this author’s wheelhouse; good luck with that.) Anyway, happy healing and riding!

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2 thoughts on “After the Fall: What to Do When You Come Off Your Bicycle

  1. With #2 remember: if you have a piece of metal poking into you, leave it there and let the doctors take it out. That which impaled you may be that which is preventing you from bleeding to death. One’s first thought is usually to yank it out. Not a good idea.
    For #7, I’ve never tried rubbing rice on my wounds – how’s that work for you? Or did you mean I should eat it?

    Liked by 1 person

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