On Rule #81: Crash Test Dummies

We don’t like to talk about crashing. Talking about crashing before you crash feels a lot like tempting fate and talking about it after you crashed feels a lot like a fisherman bragging about his catch. But crashing is the worst part of our sport apart from getting hit by a car, which has all the worst part of crashing give or take a few tons of metal and possible disembodiment or death.

Waking up the morning after a crash is a feeling that can only be understood by someone who has woken up the morning after a crash. The wounds will have kept you up much of the night, not being able to sleep on one side (or both), which is somehow always your favorite side to sleep on. The lack of movement overnight will mean that the wounds themselves are tight and sore, and the force of the impact will have the result that you know the precise location of every organ within your torso.

Men don’t like to act like they’ve been hurt, unless they’re in a long-term relationship, in which case they will pretend anything hurts so long as no one aside from their partner is around. Under these same circumstances, they are highly susceptible to debilitating cases of Man Flu which require loads of coddling, soup, and beer in order to cure. Outside these two extenuating circumstances, we jump up from any accident and pretend nothing happened, like Inspector Clouseau. Pro Cyclists epitomize that spirit to the maximum, frequently coming off at speed, removing loads of skin, and hopping back onto their bicycles as if nothing happened.

Geraint Thomas, possibly the most Rule Compliant rider in the modern Peloton, epitomized that today with his crash:

Barguil just wiped me out. It was a tight right and he just came around on the inside and knocked me straight off the road. I got back up and started chasing.

Which is also the same thing he did when he got blown off the road in Gent-Wevelgem. Except this time he head-butted a telephone pole and highsided into a ravine first. The race doctor apparently asked him his name to test him for a concussion and he answered with, “Chris Froome.”

JC Peraud came off alone a few days back, for no reason that anyone can articulate other than, “a touch of wheels”, which is what we say whenever we crash for no reason, even when riding alone. He came off at speed, on some of the roughest tarmac imaginable. He was skinned alive, effectively. And, as with Geraint, he got up and not only finished the stage, but rejoined the field. Double stud with a side of Steak Tartare.

And those examples are just from the last three days of racing. The last three days.

Crashing is part of life as a Cyclist. We risk life, limb, and skin. We fall off, we climb back on. Crashing is learned; we know how to fall to minimize “important” damage. “He didn’t crash right,” we say, as if there were a mysterious way to crash right.

We don’t talk about crashing because as a Cyclist, if follows us everywhere we go. It is always there behind us, like the shadow we feel on the backs of our necks when we come up the basement stairs.

Talking about it only makes it real, and crashing is already as real as it needs to be.

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63 Replies to “On Rule #81: Crash Test Dummies”

  1. We parry with the man with the hammer regularly climbing switchback after switchback, so much so we lose sight of the battle that lurks with the lady of fate come the descent.

    Her kiss still lingers with me as I stare at the fragmented carbon of my beloved 3t bars. The fractured and crumpled body of my right brake lever.

    I recently recovered from a 40mph fight with a guard rail. I am happy to be alive and kicking…

    For fear of being shunned I’ll spare you the pictures of me.

  2. GT: I just watched the post race interview. What a cool cat. Very. What did he say? I head butted that wooden pole thing… no biggie…  or something like that? The Sky Train with the Welsh, Brits and Australian, I like these guys. I see Kennaugh had to withdraw. That sucks.

    Jean-Cristophe: Ya gotta love the racers that start off on the mtn bike. Granted he’s a little tiny kinda guy so not the kinda of racer I kinda associate with but certainly one tough sob that’s for sure. You’d think they coulda slipped the guy in to some new bib shorts to finish but god forbid he’d jump in a car to accomplish that I guess. He was damn near demonstrating the dangle. Ouch.

  3. My son (10yrs) races BMX. What shits me to tears is that they teach them to act like bloody soccer players when they come off! They have a little spill and the PA starts screaming at them “stay on the ground. Don’t move”. The first aider comes out and checks for trauma and usually they are walked off between two helpers.

    What sort of bollocks is that? Get up I say, get on your bike and finish dam it! We’ll sort any injuries at the finish line

    OK, they are worried about agrivating spinal injuries but the severity of the crash is obvious that’s not an issue. At that age they doing all of 10 or 15km per hour! The adults, the “pros” as they call them absolutely fly but not the little ones. I tell my son if he feels ok, get up!

  4. This is very timely, not just because of Geraint’s horror crash, which apparently didn’t really bother him too much… but I had a crash last week, and am struggling to ensure Rule #5 compliance.

    So I am riding along on my way to work, no cars, beautiful scenery, 30kmh+ pace. ….. and all of the sudden a bee or a wasp gets stuck in my helmet and makes a huge terrible noise like he is going to sting me directly in my brain. I panic, hit the brakes way too hard and flip over the handlebars.

    I skid to a stop on the asphalt and once I get the helmet off… the wasp is gone, but my ribs are bruised, elbows have no skin left, and worst of all one of my brake levers is slightly scratched on the bike. At work, I go over to the Doctors and they clean it up, call over 3 or 4 other doctors and nurses too look at the guy with asphalt instead of skin on his elbows…

    Perhaps not 100% rule nr 5 compliant, I asked my wife to pick me up from work in the evening ;). Looking at the pro riders and how they manage to keep on riding the TdF is amazing.

  5. I like that G’s only complaint about the incident was losing his (now discontinued) favourite Oakleys.

  6. I think Mr. Cancellara deserves a mention here too, fracturing two of his vertebrae and then finishing another 50km of racing.

  7. We’ll impressed with G, and I think he’ll have won a few hearts and minds in France with his comment about a nice Frenchman helped him out. I hope someone hands over his glasses.

  8. I managed to get a text about crashing on the live text updates on BBC Sport yesterday. Fame at last.

    *touch wood* I haven’t had a crash in a while. Last one was losing the front wheel of my commuter on wet greasy concrete and sliding along for a little while. The impact was hard enough to bend one of my bar ends to 45 degrees (where it has stayed) but I didn’t hurt myself.

    One of the reasons for this was that I’ve learned to keep tight hold of the bars once the bike gets close to horizontal – during a similarly innocuous crash a few years ago I put my hand out, took the force of the crash on my shoulder and tore my labrum. And I don’t like operations so I don’t really want to do that again.

    GT is fucking nails. We are not worthy.

  9. Full respect to G after what I thought would be a hospital visit for sure.

    I have been amazed at the resilience of the tdf pros this year and have felt their pain each and every time one falls.

    I had an off in April on some wet diesel and ended up on my head and right shoulder at 20kph and it felt like I’d been hit by a train. After 15 minutes of recovery I walked up the diesel strewn hill and carefully got back on before gently riding home for the last 15km. I ended up in A&E that evening with concussion and a very stiff shoulder. My cycling gear was intact except for my helmet which was split in two, my skin in one piece but my confidence was way down. It took me two weeks to get back on and another couple of rides to get my mojo back.

    So as I said above, respect is due to G and all the other pros who crash, brush it off, grimace through the pain and do their job.

  10. Not only did Peraud finish the stage after crashing, while rejoining the peleton he stopped off at the team car and picked up some bidons for the rest of the team!

  11. @chris

    @blackpooltower

    I like that G’s only complaint about the incident was losing his (now discontinued) favourite Oakleys.

    The panic is over, his other half has found another pair.

    Ah that’s a shame I was hoping he’d move to a pair of LeMond’s skiing goggle Oakleys

  12. It is amazing how hard they are.  I had a crash about 3 weeks ago – doing 80kph coming down a steep descent, hit a rock, got a speed wobble, managed to only crash at 38kph (according to Garmin), fortunately onto a verge not tarmac.  Broken helmet, bashed up shoulder, etc.   I cycled home (half an hour or so) and didn’t feel too bad. I think shock, adrenalin, etc helps a lot.  But 3am the next morning – agonising.   Has got better with physio, etc etc and its still not 100%.  I cant imagine how the pros come out for some riding the next day after the big offs that they have.

  13. @Puffy

    The only time you shouldn’t get up is when you can’t get up, none of that footy crap.  No point hanging around on the floor getting wet, or waiting for something else to hit you.  Once the air is in your lungs get moving.

  14. @Simon

    @Puffy

    The only time you shouldn’t get up is when you can’t get up, none of that footy crap.  No point hanging around on the floor getting wet, or waiting for something else to hit you.  Once the air is in your lungs get moving.

    This.

    My 5 point post crash check list –

    1) Get up

    2) Check bike is okay

    3) Check no one saw me crash

    4) Ensure no bleeding / gaping lycra ripping.

    5) Ride on, nothing to see here!

  15. peraud not only rejoined but immediately took on water bottles for his teammates. studly.

  16. @haddaway

    I think Mr. Cancellara deserves a mention here too, fracturing two of his vertebrae and then finishing another 50km of racing.

    Cancellara didn’t just finish, he climbed (albeit slowly) the Mur de Huy with a broken back! I can’t think of many that could do the same.

  17. @VeloJello

    @Simon

    @Puffy

    The only time you shouldn’t get up is when you can’t get up, none of that footy crap.  No point hanging around on the floor getting wet, or waiting for something else to hit you.  Once the air is in your lungs get moving.

    This.

    My 5 point post crash check list –

    1) Get up

    1a ) If 1 fails then proceed 2, 2a

    2) Check bike is okay

    2a) Get help if 1a invoked

    3) Check no one saw me crash

    4) Ensure no bleeding / gaping lycra ripping.

    5) Ride on, nothing to see here!

    I’ve merged thee two in the sequence above – which is what I go by…….

  18. It is of course, acceptable to stay down if your dead. In answer to anyone who asks you your name, stare them down indignantly and say slowly through thin lips “I Am SPARTAAAA!  Etc.

  19. Trying to make small talk with the cyclist my butcher asked me if we crash a lot

    we don’t talk about crashing was all I could think of saying

    small talk ended

  20. Broke my thumb on Saturday and cracked my helmet.  Could have been way worse I’m determined as ever to get back on the bike.

  21. G’s interview afterwards was indeed priceless. Silly reporter asks him what he did after he crashed, even though anyone who’s watching saw him cross the line. He just says, “I got back on and started chasing him.”

    Bloody brilliant.

  22. That picture of JCP reminds me of an article Hunter S. Thompson wrote called “Song of the Sausage Creature”. Cycling World was crazy enough to send the man a Ducati 900 SS to review. JCP epitomizes the Sausage Creature in that picture.

  23. JCP’s crash and GT crash recovery both prove how willing cyclists are willing to suffer. Evoked memories of Beloki’s career ending hip shattering crash on the same descent. Hockey players are pretty bad ass also when it comes to competing while injured.

  24. My wife is the “crasher” in the family. Including a pretty serious one in the 90s that required being medivac’ed via helicopter. But she always gets back on the bike. Three words: tough as nails. Three more: love my wife.

  25. The race doctor apparently asked him his name to test him for a concussion and he answered with, “Chris Froome.”

    Not entirely true. This was in an ITV interview with the ever-brilliant Ned Boulting:

    G said, “I’ll probably have the doctor checking me in a moment to make sure my name and stuff”.

    Ned replied, “And what will you say?”

    G immediately replied, “Chris Froome.”

    Other nuggets of hilarity from the interview were “A Frenchman—a nice Frenchman, some of them are nice—helped me out of the ditch…” and, right at the end of the interview (and this was the only thing he seemed remotely pissed off about), “Oh, and I lost my glasses! THEY DON’T EVEN MAKE THEM ANY MORE!”

    I’ve said before, but I will repeat, that he has the character/humour of Cav and Wiggo (without the outbursts of dickishness) and the gentlemanliness and good nature of Froome (without being a bit boring).

  26. @haddaway

    I think Mr. Cancellara deserves a mention here too, fracturing two of his vertebrae and then finishing another 50km of racing.

    Including a trip up the Mur de Huy in the yellow jersey, no less.

  27. @edster99

    I cant imagine how the pros come out for some riding the next day after the big offs that they have.

    I have an idea. Half the pelteon has a TUE for athsma.

  28. To be fair they are much harder men than I. But they get special rocket fuel in addition to being hardmen.

  29. “On. On. On.” – Tom Simpson, July 13, 1967 (often misquoted as “Put me back on my bike!”)

    A cyclist lives the spirit of “Never quit, never give up”. Martin and Cancellara knew that so long as they were in the saddle and there was breath in their lungs the Maillot Jaune would finish the stage. Peraud continued to do his work, as did GT.

    Each of us on the rides where we suffer, where we enter the cave and lose our flashlight, where the tenuous balance of gravity, friction, and momentum fail to align know in our very bones that so long as the bike works and the legs can turn… we will finish the ride.

    VLVV

  30. @Julez

    The race doctor apparently asked him his name to test him for a concussion and he answered with, “Chris Froome.”

    Not entirely true. This was in an ITV interview with the ever-brilliant Ned Boulting:

    G said, “I’ll probably have the doctor checking me in a moment to make sure my name and stuff”.

    Ned replied, “And what will you say?”

    G immediately replied, “Chris Froome.”

    Other nuggets of hilarity from the interview were “A Frenchman—a nice Frenchman, some of them are nice—helped me out of the ditch…” and, right at the end of the interview (and this was the only thing he seemed remotely pissed off about), “Oh, and I lost my glasses! THEY DON’T EVEN MAKE THEM ANY MORE!”

    I’ve said before, but I will repeat, that he has the character/humour of Cav and Wiggo (without the outbursts of dickishness) and the gentlemanliness and good nature of Froome (without being a bit boring).

    G is a proper wise ass. Such a cool guy for all the right reasons, except for the dodgy ‘mo maybe. And that Welsh skull must be thick as that pole should have knocked him cold.

    Try that without a fucking helmet! End of argument.

  31. G was also interviewed shortly after coming across the finish line by an American reporter.

    Interviewer: G, what happened?

    G: He (Barguil) took me out.  I head butted the pole and was caught up in the bushes down the ditch.

    Interviewer: What happened next?

    G: I got on the bike and started racing.

  32. My nickname in college was “crash” due in part to the proportional frequency with which I did it (compared to others) and the full-on cheap-bastard college logic of “I can heal but the bike takes money” which typically had me contorting myself mid-flight/skid/fall/tumble to save my stead much to my skin/skull/body’s chagrin.

    The flip-side of this is that I now have a six-sense race-wise when things get dicey (from all that prior practice) and a newly adopted “F all y’all” attitude about staying upright. I’ll not comment on the frequency of my recent crashes as I have a highly disproportionate amount of superstition for my level of education. (I find this to be without contradiction).

  33. I went down recently going 55+kph, in a gravel corner. I slid twenty feet and got up and found that my bike, with all the force of the speed and crash, had catapulted over a six foot barbed wire fence. Was too embarrassed to call any one. So ended up riding the 35km back to my house real easy. Spent the next three days nursing full body road rash and medicating with imperial beers, thc, and norco. Won a single speed mtn race the next weekend.

  34. Re: G. Pretty amazing he came in with behind his group only 40 seconds behind? Well, add to that he started off on the crash bike, but had to change it. I reckon he could have caught them with out have to stop, change, and accelerate off.

  35. I’m on the mend from a 51km/h crash. Cut up by a van who then slammed brakes on. I braked and went over handlebars. Metal plate to repair broken collatbone, 3 fractured ribs, road rash on back and shoulder, bust eyebrow and concussion. I may have bounced but wasn’t back up!

  36. I haven’t had any serious crashes yet but did myself a back injury avoiding my mate who crashed. My wife is the crasher of the family; being taken out by a car in front of me, crashing into her mate when communication failed, and crashing into me when I paced her back to the group. That was a ride Iin the ambulance and concussion.

  37. @Kevin Hoy

    That’s it? That’s all ya got?  Doesn’t even belong on the same page with JCP and G-man.  Call us when you get HURT.

  38. I have had some serious crashes over the recent years and I’ve found that besides in the initial days after the crash while I try to process what happened where I’m happy to talk about it with my wife and riding mates, I very quickly would prefer not to talk about it anymore nor about the healing of my injuries especially with those who don’t ride. However I find myself still filling them in because I do appreciate the concern, I just know they really don’t understand.

  39. JC last year in Quebec. He is even smaller in person than he looks on TV on a bike. A friend called him an elf. Amazing when you consider the punishment these riders take and keep riding. American pro football players? Pffffttt!

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