Thursday, September 6, 2012

2012: In the blink of an eye

Bike Tuesday - Year Round
It’s our Bike Tuesday evening ride with the gang. We are an email group, riding together for over 5 years, every Tuesday, year round, on the rural roads north of Indy between Cicero and Sheridan. Sometimes just a handful, sometimes a dozen or more. Pat and Margaret, the couple who put the ride together, have over 30 years of riding together, and like Linda and I, rode before kids, with kids, and now are moving into empty-nester riding. I am not a weekly regular, but it is a ride I make when I can, once or twice a month.

Some of the group have similar experience, but most have only been riding at this level for only a few years, and many of them have been nurtured along in the riding through this ride, and the other rides we make as a group.

It is a social sport ride, with the focus on social, rather than anaerobic. But it is not slouch riding, almost every rider is on a fast road bike, and capable of riding 18 to 20 mph with the group for 40-50 miles. A few of the stronger riders, including me, who could ride faster if they wanted, will set a pace that all can ride, and everyone is used to watching out for each other.

Tonight we have 12 riders setting out. As we start, a few of us get separated by a string of cars while leaving the parking lot, so I am in a group of four a couple of hundred yards behind the first 6 riders. But this is not a problem on this ride, no frantic chase is needed, we will be a group again soon enough.

After work rides are always good for stress relief. An easy 25 or 30 miles (yes, a short ride) followed by a pizza and socializing. In one form or another, I have had a weekly ride like this for over 35 years, since the first time I joined a bike club and lived in a city or town.

Tonight I am on my touring bike, complete with rack, rack trunk and fenders. While loading the car for the drive to the start, I found a bad tire on my sport bike, so rather than rush a tire change, I changed bikes.  In the parking lot, I get a look, and one guy asks about my commuter. No, this is touring bike, with the same weight wheels as my sport bike, and not a commuter. He is much more worried about my keeping up with group than I am. Whatever, it is a bike I have 40,000 miles on, and still a joy to ride.

We are just a couple of miles from the start, and now one group. We are two abreast, no-one overly tight on anyone else, just relaxed and chatting. I am 5th in line on the outside (near centerline), the second bike a tandem, and just about to say hi to the rider beside me. I am a full wheel behind the next rider,  the last pair of riders are just about 3-4 yards behind us.

A yell from ahead draws my eyes go forward.

A flash of purple to the left ahead of me.

A full bike length ahead of me a red bike is still upright, but it is WRONG, falling.

Flashes of color and sound to my right.

The bike in front of me is down, a sprawled rider in the lane.

Yells behind me.

“I AM NOT GOING TO HIT HIM” screams a voice in my head, and a memory of another fall and PAIN years ago goes through my mind.



I come to a stop upright on the left side of the road, at a right angle to travel, front wheel in the grass, rear wheel on pavement. I have not even pulled even to the first down rider. A few yards ahead of him, on the right side, a pile of bikes and two riders are down, feet-to-feet along the side of road in the soft grassy ditch.

My bike has a flat tire. I am all right, No one else is down.

The wife of one the downed riders, riding ahead of the crash, throws down her bike and yells her husband’s names and comes running back.

Everyone is conscious.

Phones come out.

What intersections are we between? We have ridden this a 100 times, but no one is sure. A couple of us finally map it on our iPhones.

I stand in the center of the road and direct the light car traffic while other tend to riders, and we move all the bikes off the road.

Thank God there are no head injuries. Everyone is awake and talking.

It seems to take forever but soon we hear a siren, and a first responder arrives and starts talking to the 3 down riders. Thank God there are no head injuries. We have two ambulances on the way.

We sort out logistics of who can ride back to the parking lot, and Pat heads back for his van.

I need to look at my bike before the ride back, and start to change the tire. A 2” patch of tread and sidewall is gone down and through the cord; my rear tire is totaled, that was the bang.

In turning 90 degrees at speed and stopping, I have to have been sliding at a 45 degree angle, and then come back to upright, with out putting a foot down. Something I used to do as a kid on a 20” bike on gravel road into our drive way. That and drills from teaching cycling skills classes, and maybe just knowing the bike I was on.  And some luck.
90 Degree Turn and Stop

The tandem team hands me a spare tire, and I finish changing the tire as the ambulance begins to load up. Pat arrives with his van to begin picking up the 3 down bikes and the rider who tumbled but didn’t need an ambulance. With that done, the rest of us begin mounting up for the ride back to our cars at the start. Some are done for the night, some still want to unwind with a few miles, the intent of the ride to begin with. I call home, and then load up for the drive home.

Latter that night, Linda and I check in on one rider and his wife, a couple we know well, at the hospital ER near our home. He is very sore but will be home that night, with some painful rehab ahead, but is otherwise ok.

The next morning we learn that the other rider will need 24 stitches in his thigh.  The first rider that fell is okay, with some scraps and scratches, but we all know he is very rattled.

All in the blink of an eye.

1 comment:

  1. Very well written, Jay. Being in the front I almost continued on to the intersection to verify our exact location. I am so spoiled by group rides and well acquainted with the area that I never look at street signs.