Road Rash to the face

I suffered my first real wipe-out of the season on Saturday. My buddy Don and I were approaching a stop sign and coming to a stop when a truck stopped on the other side of the road waived us through. I stood up on my crank and leaned over a little bit to hustle through the intersection – something I have done thousands of times. There was some sand in my path – again something I have dealt with literally every time I ride – but this time I was right on a downstroke delivering a solid bit of power to my back wheel and the torque plus the sand caused my wheel to spin and me to slide out. For my troubles I earned some road rash, some of it to the face.


When it was over I was staring at the sky a little disoriented, the guy in the truck popped out and a couple of cyclists stopped to attend to me. The worst of it was my knee, it hurt like a mother – and still hurts today. The rest was cosmetic, and looked worse than it was. Thankfully my bike was still in ride-able condition (the handlebars were knocked left a little bit which is annoying but fixable) and even though I looked like a bloody mess, I was still fit to train.

Wipeouts happen, normally at slow speeds (which is good) because we either forget to unclip or loose balance for one reason or another. I do it maybe once or twice a year. Don’t believe a cyclist who says he “never dropped the bike” if you are buying a used one, if he/she spent any time on it they probably did.

In order for this to be less traumatic if it happens to you, I have some tips/checklists for making sure you can continue on if you wipe.

1. Ride with a buddy or in proximity to other cyclists, they will stop and help you or you may have to stop and help someone. Always stop if you see something.

2. Stop traffic if you need too (motorists are usually good about this) and if you or your friend is in the active lane, do not move them until you are sure they can move without hurting themselves, the cars will wait.

3. Starting from the head do a check-over of yourself or your buddy. If there is an impact on the helmet, judge whether it is cosmetic or serious. Helmets are designed to take one large impact and break – if it is scratched you are OK, if it is broken, their riding day is over.

4. Check all major joints, most people can take an impact and keep going with a bruised elbow/knee/wrist etc.

5. At this point if they check out, get them and their bike out of the lane of traffic and off to the side. If they check out, they are probably physically OK to keep going. If they seem dazed do a quick neuro test (how many fingers am I holding up, who is the President, etc), if they are way off sit them down and wait two minutes and do it again. If they fail again call an ambulance.

If they are physically OK and after a few minutes they are ready to go, check the bike for damage. No maker advertises their bikes as being able to take a fall but most of them a pretty resilient.

1. Check the wheel trueness. This is important, wheels are stiff up and down but not laterally. Spin the wheel to make sure it doesn’t hit the frame.

2. Check the brakes. Make sure they aren’t rubbing the rim when lever isn’t engaged. If they are, the normally have to be centered, which is easy to do on the road. Simply move the whole assembly to the center of the bike, normally only a few millimeters of adjustment is necessary. If they are centered and still rubbing, check the brake cable to make sure it isn’t pinched or pulled causing to engage un-commanded. Make sure that if you command braking braking happens.

3. Handlebars, when you take a fall you might knock these to the side. If you have a road maintenance kit there are normally three bolts you need to loosen. Hold the wheel between your legs and loosen the bolts, adjust as necessary. Bike mechanics have specific torque specs for these bolts – you won’t have a torque wrench with you. Guestimate them and adjust when you have the right tools.

4. Drivetrain. If you fall on the gear side you will probably knock all of this stuff out of alignment. You won’t get it into perfect alignment on the road, check to make sure the rear derailleur is not hitting the spokes on the wheel when it is in the lowest gears (the largest rear sprocket). If you don’t check this and you aren’t on the largest sprocket you might not notice until you are climbing a hill and you need that gear. If it is hitting the spokes simply tug the derailleur outwards until this doesn’t happen anymore. Bring it to a mechanic to have it properly tuned.

5. Check your tires. Always check your tires no matter what, every time you stop you should check them just to make sure. If you slide out you might get a chunk taken out of the tire or a puncture…or both. Have a tire patch kit and a spare tube always.

The workout was actually very good. We did the Boulder 70.3 bike course which is moderately easy with some rolling hills which can be challenging. The ride along US 36 has some false flats and rollers which can make you sweat. Right after that I ran the first lap of the half marathon.

boulder70 3 bike 2014 tbt-page-001


boulder70 3 run 2014 tbt-page-001


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One response to “Road Rash to the face”

  1. lmarieallen says :

    Yikes! Road rash to the face? So sorry:) I hope you’re feeling better soon.

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