I've been riding a road bike since 2003. The only time I've ever fallen was in the very beginning, when learning how to use clipless pedals. Those falls happened embarrassingly at stop lights, invariably with lots of people watching. After 3 or times of falling, I learned how to use clipless pedals with nothing but a bruised ego. I kept pedaling.
I'm not a super fast or strong cyclist. I admit--I got into cycling for triathlon. But I enjoy exploring the countryside, and I love the workout. Whether it's a tri, road, or mountain bike, I love spinning my legs on days they need to rest from the run. Lately, I've felt ready to start challenging myself with some more hills. I'd heard about the hills in the area and decided to tackle Old La Honda Rd.
I took off after school on Pandora, my quick road bike. I headed up Sand Hill Road, which became Portola Valley Road. I spun my legs as the road gradually began rising upwards. Eventually, I turned right on Old La Honda Road. 4 miles up with switchbacks. I loved the cool trees and tall, dark redwoods. The temperature dropped and my ears popped. In some places, the pavement was so steep, I had to rise out of the saddle, throw my weight forward, and pedal rhythmically (mountain-bike style) to make it over the steepest part of the switchbacks. The challenge was real, but my fitness was there. I felt great. Then, the 4-miles was over.
I turned left on Skyline Blvd towards Page Mill Road. I passed Windy Hill, Coal Creek, Russian Ridge, and many other trails that need to be explored. Although cars zipped by on Skyline, the road was wide, and there was plenty of room. To the right, I could see the clouds hugging the horizon above the blue ocean. To the left, in the distance, I could see a glimpse of the Bay. A spectacular view.
I turned left at Page Mill Road. For the first 2 miles, I was still going uphill. It wasn't steep, but I had thought I would be enjoying a descent by now. Was this some sort of cruel joke. In my experience (and knowledge of physics), what goes up, must come down, especially when riding a loop, right?
Then, the descent began. My tired legs and butt enjoyed the break. I rose up out of the saddle and leaned into the drops, letting the bike hug the turns. I focused on moving the inside pedal up so as not to scrape the pavement. Scenic views of fields, trails, and oak groves lined the road. Hawks lazily swooped to the tops of trees. I felt relaxed and happy. I hadn't zipped down hills like this in a long time.
The descents became steeper and windier. I shifted my weight back and used the rear break more, slowing down before the turn. The slope eased, and I dropped forward and let the bike speed up again. A right-hand turn. I'm much more confident in right turns, being right-handed. I leaned into the turn to increase speed. The pavement was slick. It had just been repaved. I squeezed the back break as I leaned in the steepest part of the curve. It felt like the road had suddenly dropped out from under me. As if in a bad dream, Pandora fell away from me. I collided with the pavement beginning with my right thigh, hip, elbow, shoulder and right hand. My computer had read 24 mph just before I'd gone down. It happened so fast that I didn't have time to react. All I could think as the bike fell away from under me was, "Uh oh. This is going to be bad."
After I had slid to a stop, the first thing I could think of was, "Get out of the road." I pulled Pandora and myself off to the side of the road to catch my breath. Then, I realized I was on the narrowest part of the curve, and therefore, the most hidden. I looked around me and scrambled to the opposite side of the road on the shoulder. I sat in the dust. The bike seemed okay. I didn't seem to have hit my head or broken anything. My right hip was on fire, and I was dazed but miraculously okay. I was still 10 miles from the car on a remote road with little traffic. If I wanted help, I would have to wait at least 30 minutes. I knew I would get cold and potentially go into shock. Without thinking too much about it, I decided to see how it felt to ride the bike slowly, especially since most of the 10 miles was downhill (I had done all the hard, uphill work already).
I didn't have to pedal much at first. The road wound downhill like a spiral roller coaster. I breaker and shifted my weight back. I went very slowly. I started to feel shaky and I could't stop my feet from quivering violently against the bike frame. I focused on taking deep breaths and pedaled slowly. My hip screamed and my elbow hurt. The handlebars felt slick with sweat. I looked down. The right side was dripping with blood from my right hand. My knuckles had also kissed the road.
The slow pedaling helped move the warmth of my blood back into my extremities. I relaxed and stopped shaking. I became thirsty and drank lots of water. Somehow, the more I pedaled, the better I felt. I was exhausted but exhilarated when I made it back to the car. I was so relieved. I was alive. I hadn't broken anything. It could have been so much worse.
|Right elbow, immediately after the fall.|
|48 hours later.|