Getting hurt sucks. Weather you did it on your bike, just walking down the steps or while canoeing it sucks. Best case scenario, you were having fun when it happened or you’ve got a good story to go along with it. For me it’s not the accident that was the bad part, it is the recovery: the days, weeks, or even months of ice, Ibuprofen and watchin everyone ride off without you because you are still takin it easy.
So I have had more than my fair share of crashes: all types of them. From a seemingly minor pedal bite to the shin that turned into a huge hematoma leaving my leg black and painful for a month, to diving into the dirt and waking up in the hospital after being back-boarded out of the woods and getting a cat scan, to seeing my femoral artery thanks to a shiv of a broken brake lever. I have broken my ankle 3 times, broken countless fingers and toes, fractured my hip, lost some teeth, broken 6 ribs (thankfully not all at once) partially torn a few muscles and gotten more concussions than a pro linemen. OK I’m definitely not bragging. Just establishing credibility because I’ve recovered from all of these as well (except the concussions). OK, here are my tips for avoiding too many vacations on the couch:
1 Prevention: Yeh right that sounds like riding slow and cautious, they say don’t ride above your skill level, but then how will you ever land that trick or hit that corner just right or catch the break away. The fact is you have to push yourself to get better. You’re not just born with the ability: it is developed by means of practicing and crashing and doing it again. The trick is mastering all the basics so you have a solid base of skill which makes the next step up a lot safer to go for. If it’s road riding, good skills are knowing how to pedal (push & pull) and draft. On a mountain bike it’s all about bike handling skills, knowing how to pump through corners, jump over rough sections, how and when to use your brakes. Then Cyclocross is a solid combination of mountain and road mixed with the desire to get muddy and bloody. Now if you really want to have top notch handling start riding skate parks that will force you to make that bike your bitch take control of your bike. Pushing your bike through berms and bowls, over jumps and off ledges, all while dodging skate boarders really makes you control your bike or die, and if that’s not challenging enough for you then dirt jumps will not only test your ability to be smooth but will also make you commit.
2 Learn to crash: You are going to crash, so learn to do it right. Just get away from your bike — it’s got lots of sharp points and shit to get tangled up in so ditch it! Haha and that’s all I’ve got for you on this topic there’s nothing I can tell you that you will actually think about and act on in the half second you’ll have before you hit the ground. I think it is a muscle memory kind of thing which means you have to do it a lot before you’re good at it. So have fun practicing.
3 Get up: Assuming you can do this on your own, remember what your little league coach said: “Quit crying and walk it off.” I like to try again; go back to the start, take a deep breath and do it better this time.
4 Recovery: Ughh…..I fucking hate this part but it is the most important part so here are the two Matt-approved ways of getting through it.
Method 1: Keep in mind I don’t see doctors unless I wake up in the ER so this advice is mostly for the like minded. The key to a speedy recovery is rest, ice and Ibuprofen, these three things are essential. By rest I don’t mean sleep I mean stay off of it. With bone and muscle injuries the less you use it the better. Lots of ice; ice is great for swelling. When the swelling is down, you get proper blood flow and that speeds healing. I tend to ice 4 times a day if I can. Ice feels pretty good, and 800mg of Ibuprofen in a prescription dose 3 times a day helps too (I applied for an honorary medical license; it’s pending).
So, I used method number 2 a lot in college and it has no advantage except that you get to keep riding and partying. Get drunk and stay a little drunk pretty much all the time. If you’re drunk you just don’t feel the pain, so “if it don’t hurt thenya aint hurt”… old Chinese proverb. In the off chance that this method works you will be a stronger person and only your liver will show evidence of lasting damage. The problem with this technique is that your actual healing time is at least doubled since the booze is robbing your body of valuable nutrients and you’re not getting the rest you need… and since you’re riding drunk all the time there’s a good chance you’re going to hurt yourself even worse and end up using the first method of recovery regardless.
So in summary: either don’t crash, or get better fast. I’m going to go ice my knee, take some vitamin IB and find my leg warmers before the ride to work… it looks chilly out there. Oh and a friendly word of caution: your tyres don’t stick as well when the roads are cold, so watch those fast corners.