Monthly Archives: November 2011

Anatomy of a rainy crash

Branch segment that took me down on my commute into work.

Well, I almost made it through the rest of the year without crashing after my spill at the end of the Sandy Springs crit in May. Today, though, I hit the branch that is shown in the picture above. I never saw it because it was mixed in with a bunch of leaves on the ground. When I hit the branch, my wheels slid out immediately left and me and the bike went sliding on our right sides. It was not “slide friendly” pavement. Look at the damage to the handlebar tape and handlebar. Now imagine that same damage on my arm, hip, and hands. Or at least that’s what I thought I was going to find … instead I have some bad road rash in just a few isolated spots on my arm, hip, and hands. But enough to make it a challenge to type and to be dripping blood from those spots. I may have done something to my hip, though. Right now I am just hoping that I only damaged the muscles and tendons on the outside and inside of my hip.

As soon as I hit the branch and went flying along the ground with my bike, I had enough time to think as I was sliding along the ground for 8 SECONDS. My thoughts went something like this:

  • What did I hit?
  • I’m ok, that didn’t hurt too bad, I can still make it into school
  • Oh no, this is a really long slide
  • Oh crap, this is not good pavement to be sliding on
  • When am I going to stop?
  • Class is cancelled
  • I can’t ride home

It’s amazing what all had to come together for me to crash. There was a bad storm system moving in, so I left for work early and was planning on going through Bluff Park. But as I got near Lorna Rd, the clouds were getting darker and the rain was starting to get heavier, so I decided to turn around and take the more direct Vestavia route into school. Still, as annotated in the map, I was planning on taking the Vestavia Forest route since I had plenty of time this morning to add on the extra mile. Unfortunately, I missed the Hwy 31 light and I wasn’t going to wait for it so I turned around and was planning on taking my normal route up Badham – Willoughby – Garland – Wickford. But when I got to the Willoughby intersection, I decided that I didn’t want to do the extra steep climb in the middle and opted to stay straight on Badham since it is a more gradual climb. So this put me onto a section of Badham that I normally do on my way home from work. But on that route home, I normally turn at the intersection where today I went straight. It was just past this intersection on a stretch of road that I hardly ever ride where I hit the branch hidden amongst the leaves on the road.

Anatomy of a wet bike crash

Here’s the link to the data on Strava … you click and zoom in on the section of the crash to see the 8 second slide.

I stood up and was feeling some pain in my hip and a lot of pain from the road rash on my hands so I just started yelling “help” because I was hoping somebody would come out from their house and offer me a ride home or at least so I could borrow a phone to call home for Kristine to come pick me up. I stood there yelling for a minute or two and nobody came out. I walked back up the street and found the branch which was the only thing in the road that I could see that would have caused such a sudden jolt and crash. I stuck it in my backpack and tried to figure out what to do. By this point after falling, I had calmed down enough and had assessed the various pains enough to realized that I could probably ride home because I could still move everything and nothing appeared to be broken on my bike. I got on and started riding just as the storm really hit. It was a thunderstorm downpour all the way back to my house.

I was just inspired to see what I had written up about previous crashes … check them out here:

And a couple of accidents back to back in the summer of 2006: (hit and run)

Gatlinburg Climbing

I had a computer conference all day Friday, but I was determined to make the most of my time up here in the mountains of Gatlinburg. Friday morning I was up by 5:15 and out the door by 5:30 exploring the super steep climbs in and around Gatlinburg. I went down one road that was easily a 20+% descent for a quarter mile or more. Also, I did the Cherokee Orchard descent which is really crazy (but fun) in the dark. The one-way scenic road is barely wide enough for a car to fit through and it twists and turns around trees, numerous creek crossings, amazing dropoffs and thankfully no bears.

Today I headed out for a super long ride. I left early at about 6:30 to beat the traffic out of Gatlinburg heading to the Smoky Mountain National Park. I was trying to set the KOM on the Clingman’s Dome climb, but came up a few minutes short. Still it was the first chance this year to do a long threshold effort instead of the shorter efforts on the short climbs around Birmingham. I was able to finally get power data for a good hard climb, never too steep, and I was happy with my effort even if it did end up a few minutes short. The temperature difference between the shaded north side of the pass and the exposed south side was amazing – 23 degF was the coldest I saw. Even with the cold, I had to shed layers all the way up the climb. At the top, it was very, very windy with a steady 30+mph wind howling from the west. By the time I had snapped a few pictures and eaten a powerbar, I was freezing so that motivated me to push it really hard on the descent down towards Cherokee.

The Ocanaluftee visitors center at the entrance to the Smoky Mountains National Park is really cool. There is a GIANT raised-relief map that covers all the way from Knoxville to Asheville and is laid out on a table that is at least ten feet long. There is also a convenient water fountain outside. I left the center and turned onto the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was a really cool climb. Towards the bottom of the climb, you would be riding along and see deep gouges in the road. Looking up, towering above you would be a cliff with either a fresh landslide or an omninous overhang. This stretch of the ride was the most rural. After 18 miles, I had made it to Waterrock Knob and climbed as high as the paved sidewalk went.

After the long descent back to 441, I was faced with one more climb – back up to Newfound Gap before a long descent back into Gatlinburg. This climb start out very gradually but then gets steeper the farther you go up the climb. I hit 100 miles and 15,000 ft of climbing near the top of the climb before the long descent back into Gatlinburg. What I had anticipated was going to be about 110 miles and 6 hours was actually 117 miles and 8 hours, 15 minutes long!

Here is the data from the ride and pictures that I took:

Screen Shot 2011-11-13 at 9.02.55 AM

Gatlinburg 2011, a set on Flickr.

Pics from my 117 mile ride on 441 and the Blue Ridge Parkway.