Most cyclists will tell you its not “if you are going to fall” but rather “when will you eventually fall” off your bike. As a new triathlete and cyclist, I remember thinking about how I hoped I would be the anomaly, that I would never crash. Up until seven months ago, I had succeeded. I had a few minor mishaps during my first three years of triathlon. One time I fell over from a complete standstill at a stop sign (yes, really). Another time I came in from a 50-mile ride, misjudged my curb and fell straight over into the grass (seriously who waits until after the 50 miles is done to fall). But, those events were quite minor and I had not had any falls in well over a year.
That all changed this past summer. I was riding with a friend early one morning on a route I knew very well. We were going at a nice clip and I remember thinking what a beautiful morning it was for a ride. I had dropped back from my friend because there was debris on the road and I was just catching back up to her when a stick flew off from her rear wheel. Somehow, that stick managed to fly up underneath my sunglasses. I yelled out as I couldn’t see, so my friend slowed down at the same time. I clipped her rear wheel and I remember thinking “this is going to hurt”.
It did. I went over the left side of my bike (still clipped in) and broke my fall with my head. I remember laying on the ground, feeling dazed. My friend was trying to get me out of the way of traffic as I had fallen in the road. I remember thinking maybe I can just ride home. Then I saw my helmet was cracked in multiple places. Yikes. Thankfully my husband came and got me. I got home and decided that I was feeling bad enough that I needed to make a trip to the ER to get things checked out. Fortunately, it was all minor bumps and bruises. I was really sore for the next few days. Whiplash is not a fun injury. After I was cleared to ride again, I realized I was nervous. I had always been a “safe” rider. So the fact that I had still crashed made me worry that It could happen again.
Maybe you are in the same place I was. Having a fear of crashing can really inhibit you from the joy that bike riding brings. After my first crash, I wondered if I would ever truly love riding again. There were a few steps I followed that truly helped me overcome my fears and “get back on the horse” (or bike).
The first is to take care of yourself first. If you hit your head or are in pain never hesitate to seek medical help. Injuries are not always apparent right after you fall, especially after a surge of adrenaline. If in doubt, get it checked out! You will be sore! Motrin, ice packs, and hot baths were my best friends as I recovered. Do not do too much too soon. Listen to your body, rest as needed to facilitate proper healing. I had to take two full weeks off as I struggled with neck pain and headaches for a while after.
The next is to REPLACE THAT HELMET. Even if a helmet does not look to be damaged, if you think you hit your head it needs to go. Once a helmet absorbs shock, it will be less shock absorbent next time. For me, it was an easy call since it was in pieces. I used the broken helmet to educate parents and children about the importance of always wearing your helmet.
The last step I followed to get back out there was to enlist the help of supportive friends to go with me on my first few rides following my fall. It was comforting to have the encouragement and support to get me through those first few miles where I still felt uneasy. I chose routes that were less heavily traveled by cars because that made me the most nervous. Go easy on yourself, it is natural to feel anxious for the first few rides. Do what feels comfortable, remember this sport and hobby is for fun. Always observe the rules of the road and practice proper safety while on your bike.
It is totally possible to get over that first major crash. Riding is a huge stress release for me and so I am thankful to have gotten over my fears and back on my bike. Good luck, ride hard, have fun!!
by Ashley Rosser, Siren Luminary