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Article #4
A Modest Proposal for Improved Club Safety

- SlingShot

A dozen dazzling bikes at varying intervals stretched out before me like glinting, multi-colored pearls strung on an invisible weaving thread out past the dappled morning haze and into the bright sunlight. I began targeting and picking off at a time.

It was the Country Roads Tour. Since my job was to sweep the 62 mile course making sure there were no problems, I saluted each rider as I passed with a quick, "How's it going. How's your ride?" Each was returning an enthusiastic, "Great, thanks!"

The hot, lung bursting and seemingly endless iterations of rise making up the Eagle's Nest climb were a distant memory as I converged on the shorter rides. I had just blown by another rest stop and was in full recovery mode.

I probably should have taken a closer look at the riders being passed. Although I was catching them after I had gone out two hours later than the official start of the 62, these were no Pokers but strong riders on the 40 mile course. Maybe knowing that would have prompted me to check my trip computer for my speed.  As it was I had no way to anticipate what horror the next few moments held. I was just passing one, then another.

Reaching the final rider I glanced over my shoulder as the sparkling spokes of their front wheel receded behind me...plenty of room to move over. I drifted to the right and spun the pedals hard while looking up the road for more riders. Reaching down into the drops...SIZZLE...CHUNK...POW!

It felt like my back wheel had fallen off its spokes. For a clattering, shuffling instant I thought, "Not another flat?" Immediately the same shudder and commotion shouted from my front tire and I thought, "Two flats at once!?!" I was now skating sideways on two worthless wheels, chattering towards the road's shoulder with brakes full on and not a hint of slowing. Best choice was to straighten into the grass and continue braking.

What was wrong with my bike?

I stood on the pedals and descended into the waist high grass to a long series of soul pounding jolts. The noise was incredible. I couldn't see what was beneath the grass but took a desperate inventory of what I remembered of the roadside, "Were rocks below? Did I see culverts, holes, grates? Didn't I see trees somewhere? I'm sure there were far to the trees? I've got to come down somewhere and soon!"

Peering down into the grass, I saw branches reaching up.

The pounding clatter evaporated like a burst bubble. I was weightless. Both hands in the drops, I watched as my pristine yellow bike turned a graceful cartwheel slowly beneath me. Then the handlebars turned my hands to the right and dipped into the grass...THUD. Like a hardball slammed into a catcher's mitt, something had grabbed my shoulder and held tight.

I thought, "I've stopped...well, Ohhh,K! Stopped is a GOOD thing." All was quiet.

Some riders ran up behind me. "That was perfect! You handled that just right! That's just what you should have done!" Maybe they were right. 

Later my trip computer's printout showed that I was going 36.6 mph and accelerating. The computer samples every 5 seconds, so it otherwise only showed that 5 seconds later I was at 0 mph.

A return to the crash site revealed that I had hit a turn with significantly less radius than most T's while going more than twice the speed suggested. There were a half dozen warnings along the downhill to the turn. The official road sign indicated 15 mph, while the ride committee had posted extra warning signs plus some road graffiti. I hadn't seen any of it, had no idea how fast I was going and no idea I was on a curve?endorphin madness.

I don't know if my jump to 0 was early or late in the 5 second sampling interval, so I can't say if the other riders were correct and my handling of the situation was "perfect." I only know my clavicle was well broken and a couple of ligaments were blown as well...a quasi-dislocated shoulder. I was brought to ground within three feet of the trees and barely avoided becoming a bug on the windshield of the forest.

Bike and helmet had not a scratch. A slight truing of my front wheel was required.

I recount all this for two reasons. The first is because I always listen very closely to wreck descriptions hoping to find something in them that will assure me that I can avoid taking the same route with similar results. I assume other riders will be very pleased to note the level of stupidity exhibited here places them at very little risk of repeating my performance.

The second reason I relate this is to preface a modest proposal for improving the posted warnings for next year's Country Roads ride. This year's ample signage should be retained but with the following additions:

On the apron of that turn, we could have Randy (R&), Flash Dick and Jimmy dressed in Bozo the Clown suits, sounding Clara-Belle type air horns and singing in full voice "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain"...all the while alternating between dancing the polka and doing the moon walk. It might help to place a large highway construction sign behind them flashing the words, "HEY?A...HOLE...SLOW DOWN!"

Of course it's pretty clear that these few additional warnings would not have had a twit of impact on me, but they might help someone who is paying the slightest attention.

This should also help other OCBC riders remain confident they never have to take the same hayride as me.

I hope that next year's committee will take my humble suggestion into consideration.

It might also be a good idea for the Club to institute a membership screening process to make sure a chuckle headed poser like me never gets close to owning a club jersey.

As for me, I'll just dwell on my wife's comment: "I don't know why you didn't just stay on the road. That's what I would have done on my horse!"

Why didn't I think of that?

Next time I get myself in a similar situation, I'll merely suspend the laws of physics until I get through the turn.

Other notable comments came from Jimmy, "How's your helmet? Did you hit your head? Do you remember the fifty dollars I lent you? How about when you told me I could have your bike?"

And from Don Stark, "Well, sooner or later everybody takes a hayride."


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this page last updated:
02/01/2015 10:38:45 PM

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