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On the Road Again

I'd like to think I do a pretty good job of living below my means.  I drive an 11 year old pickup truck, live in what amounts to a motel room, buy my jeans at Walmart and purchase about 1 pair of shoes per year.  However, I'm certainly not afraid to make the occasional big buy.  To go out and spend some bucks.  Usually I buy things I think I'll use, things that will entertain me or give me some recreational advantage.  I don't buy candles or knick-knacks or decorations.  Nope, I like to buy things I can utilize.

(Note: Please don't think I'm tooting my own horn.  I get as crazy as anyone sometimes and blow money for no reason.)

So it was, not too long ago, that I dropped a few bucks on something I really wanted.  Something I once loved, but had "lost touch" with, if you prefer.  Here is a photo of my big buy:

Ah yes, a road bike, the Specialized Secteur Comp.  She's a beauty, ain't she?  Why a Specialized?  Because my last 3 bikes (all Mt. Bikes) have been Specialized and I'm brand loyal.  Why the Secteur? Because it was in the sweet spot, price wise, and it is supposedly a good all-around, comfortable road bike.  Why "Comp?"  I have no idea, perhaps just to get me to spend a few more dollars.  Regardless, I've now had my new bike for about a month, and have put almost 200 miles on it.  Hopefully I will keep riding.

Riding in the country is a joy; I can't imagine having to ride in the city.  So far I've seen deer, spectacular fall foliage, sunsets over the mountains, beautiful crimson skies, a huge full moon.  I have NOT seen a single sidewalk, sat in a line of traffic at a stop light, dodged big trucks, or had anyone flip me off.  I'm getting spoiled, I think, by my idyllic country rides!

So far I've settled on a 14 mile out and back route that takes me just over an hour.  My longest ride thus far has been 26 miles, but my day to day ride is the 14 miler.  It IS Arkansas, so I must contend with hills.  My route features 3 big hills, but they ride different depending on whether I'm coming or going.  One hill in particular is very, very steep on the way out, but more gradual on the other side.  As I crest the steep side on my way out, and begin the longer, more gradual descent, I can really pick up some speed.  According to my little cyclo-computer, my top speed so far is 34 miles per hour.

All that downhill speed never fails to remind me of one moment of glory from many years ago.  Here's the story:

When I was, perhaps, 13 years old, I received my single best Christmas present of all time: a Fuji ten-speed bicycle.  Throughout my teenage years I rode my bike all over town, here tweaking and there refining my sleek Fuji machine.  I was really into it; I bought all sorts of tools and became something of a bike mechanic.  Once in college, however, I sort of ignored my Fuji, left it at home and instead bought a Mt. Bike.  One summer, though, I took some summer school classes in my hometown.  Perhaps out of boredom, I decided to pull the old Fuji out, clean it up and return it to its once former glory.  

I ordered new parts, cleaned it and painted it, slapped new derailleurs and tires and brakes on it...pretty much an entire rebuild.  I tightened everything up, lubed the chain, wrapped the handle bars and took my baby out for a ride.

In my hometown there is only one real hill.  At the top of this hill sits the a small college (where I attended summer school) and a decent view.  For my inaugural ride, then, I headed up towards the college to tool around a bit.  Once done, I began to ride back down the hill.  Here's where things got a bit gnarly.  As I began to pedal furiously down the hill, I made the decision to blast through the four-way stop sign at the crest.  No problem so far.  As I cranked through the intersection and picked up speed, I assumed the classic bikers tuck: standing up a bit on the pedals, head down, butt up, nose practically on the handlebars.  As I picked up more and more speed - I must of been going darn near 35 mph - I entered that zone of intense, high focus us extreme athletes sometimes achieve.


Except for the fact that I heard an odd noise, a sort of metallic, single "ping" noise.  Still moving very fast, I glanced down towards my front tire, moving my eyes ever so slightly.  In the brief millisecond before my world exploded, I caught just a glimpse of my right-side brake lever, still attached to the brake cable, somehow free from its mooring on the handle bar.  The brake lever wasn't just sitting there, though.  No, no, it was swinging, swinging in towards the rapidly spinning front wheel.  And there was nothing I could do about it.

The last thing I remember seeing was a single movie frame of black road top, then it was just pain.  Black, hot crazy pain.  In the span of about 1/2 second, the brake lever wrapped itself into the front wheel, the front wheel came to a stop, the bike rotated up and around the front wheel, and the rider was thrown - face first - into the pavement.  I tumbled, a slid, I rolled, I slid some more, and I crashed.  I think, I THINK, I just had time to tuck my head to the side, absorbing most of the impact with my left shoulder.  Thus the broken collarbone.  I also was not wearing shirt.  Thus the unbelievable case of road rash I suffered all along my back and side.  Finally, I also was not wearing a helmet.  Thus, God once again reached down and saved me from my own foolish self.

After I stopped tumbling and sliding, and after my now destroyed Fuji came to rest, I rose to my feet (a bit unsteadily), my left arm hanging from its busted collar bone, blood running down my back and legs, and I pondered what to do next.  Obviously I needed help, so I began to walk from house to house, knocking on doors.  Not surprisingly, people weren't all too eager to assist a crazy looking guy, covered in scrapes and blood, wearing no shirt, staggering around from house to house.  Finally though, a very nice man saw me and gave me a lift to the local hospital.  The nurses spent a couple of hours picking the debris and rocks and gravel out of my back, treated my raw scraped back and busted collar bone, and called my parents.  I spent the next few weeks of summer school wearing a shirt draped over my back, gauze and padding covering my flayed back, my arm in a sling.  I was quite a sight, I'm sure.

That was the last time I pedaled a road bike, until recently, and this unforgettable moment of glory always comes to mind when I zip down any hill.  And believe me, I always wear a helmet and I check my brake levers before every ride.

Reader Comments (4)

Dave! Nice story about the childhood wipeout! It brought me back to some of my idiotic wipeouts on a bmx course.

November 4, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBrent Reese

Nice! My husband practically came out of the womb riding a mountain bike. He bought me a used Specialized bike a few months ago. Love it. At first, not so much because of the brand...but because it had pink on it. Now I like it for all the other reasons! ;)

November 6, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterBeth

Love the new wheels. Let's go for a ride sometime. I've got nothing but sidewalks, skyscrapers, and traffic here.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterPFUNK

Hi Dave!

I don't know if you remember me. I was with you enjoying early Christmas with orphans in Kenya last December (2008). I also like to ride bike, but don't have a specialized one. I do like my Trek bike, though. I can sympathize with you and your fall. I fell on my bike in June in MI. I fell because I looked back at my husband. Don't ever look back. My front tire hit my sister's back tire. I slid on my knees on the edge of black top and sharp white stones. Spent a few hours in the hospital getting both knees stitched up. Then got infection and was in the hospital. Then needed PT due to one of my legs being in an immobilizer for 5 weeks. So, I can feel your pain. I am on my bike again. Went with my granddaughter last week. Keep riding! Dawn T.

November 10, 2009 | Unregistered CommenterDawn
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