Falling butterfly

Bike crashes have one sound: Awful. You’ll be pedaling along, things are going great, and someone crosses a wheel, hooks a handlebar, or hits a pothole behind you and you hear a horrible grinding sound followed by a big smash followed by lots of Grade-A, USAC-Certified cursing, perhaps followed by or simultaneous with groans and cries of pain.

When all that 100% carbon which is full carbon and made of nothing but carbon twists and shouts, it makes your hair stand on end, your stomach churn, and it hits the panic button on every nerve you own.

Safety first!

On Thursday night I was having dinner at Destroyer’s, and after one craft water too many we got to talking about bike safety, specifically about how to teach safety to a complete newbie. I of course had Mrs. WM in mind.

“Relaxation is key,” Destroyer said. “You have to stay relaxed.”

“Pffft,” I said. “You gotta learn CC&E, per my blog post on this subject.”

“Hmmm …” he said. “Well, maybe.”

“CC&E works. Mrs. WM has a 100% safety rate following these Wanky-approved guidelines. Guaranteed.”

“I seem to remember once when you were following those rules and somehow fell off your bike onto your head at the Great Oct. 2013 NPR Group Bicycle Falling Off Incident,” he said.

“An aberration.”

“And the Matter Of The Broken Nutsack on Via del Monte,” he added.

“One off.”

“And that time you slid out in 2012 on the Wheatgrass turning right onto the Reservoir while demonstrating your newly acquired ‘cross skilz.”

“Accidents happen,” I replied.

“And didn’t you crash out your new Specialized Venge and get a concussion that time coming home from NPR when you hopped a curb on Beryl and slid out on an oil slick on the other side of the curb?”

“Who knew there was oil there?” I inquired. “Who?”

“Didn’t you even tell me about your crash at DPGP in 2008 when you fell on the straightaway and Matt Hahn broke his femur?”

“My femur was fine!” I said. “Anyway, aside from all that, my safety practices work.”

Cobley Corner

My wife and I left very early Friday for a coffee ride to Venice. It was wet and cloudy. We joined Michelle at the Pier and continued along the bike path.

After a bit we approached Cobley Corner, the treacherous patch of asphalt that connects the bike path with the parking lot that takes you to the frontage road by Dockweiler RV Park. Cobley Corner is the infamous sandy spot where Surfer Dan slid out during an off-road ride headed to the Santa Monica Mountains with Daniel Holloway, bending Surfer’s rear derailleur a little and bending his tender ego a lot. Sensitive to how he prides himself on his off-road skills, I made sure to name this pancake flat, completely harmless spot “Cobley Corner.” It is now a legend.

Michelle made the turn fine, as did I, though Cobley Corner was covered in wet sand. A few pedal strokes through the corner and I heard the quiet, almost imperceptible scratch of a pedal, then the equally quiet “thump” of carbon and meat on asphalt.

No scraping, no screaming, no grinding, no slamming. Just scratch and bump. “Fuck,” I thought, braking and getting off.

There lay Mrs. WM, splayed out in Cobley Corner like Surfer Dan himself. I hurried over and helped her up. “You okay, honey?” I asked.

“I think so,” she said.

We dusted her off and continued to the coffee shop. She had a few scrapes and bruises, but otherwise got through her baptism by carbon fine.

“I heard nothing!” Michelle later said. “She’s so tiny … falls as quietly as a butterfly!”

Flat pedals rocked

I have no doubt that Yasuko’s injuries were limited to a few scrapes due to the fact that she was wearing sneakers instead of cleats. Otherwise she would have slammed, due to her slow speed, straight down on her hip, which could have been catastrophic.

The night before at Destroyer’s we had talked about that very thing, and about how the impulsive/compulsive requirement that ALL SERIOUS CYCLISTS MUST AT ALL TIMES  WEAR CLEATS AND CLIP-IN PEDALS was stupid and dangerous for most, especially for beginners. As she fell, her foot came off the pedal and cushioned her fall significantly.

Flat pedals are something worth thinking about when someone you care about is getting into cycling, because even butterflies, if they land hard enough, get hurt.

Perhaps more importantly, we quickly treated her scraped elbow with a pack of ice and the most crucial medicament of all, a freshly baked chocolate croissant served with cafe au lait.



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5 thoughts on “Falling butterfly”

  1. Congratulations on the first crash and the soft landing. The first of very few, we hope.

  2. I hope Yasuko heals quickly!

    Good thing: She didn’t slap you and say “You idiot, why did you talk me into this in the first place!”.

    Now the important question: Is her bike OK?

  3. Whenever someone asks me about becoming a cycling newbie the first thing I say is “Think safety”. I want the first thing they hear from me is about safety so it makes an impression.

  4. Good point about flat pedals regarding safety and comfort for newbies …

    (However I am keeping my Speedplays as I am not swayed by evidence in this case ….. ’cause I like ’em and they feel good when pedaling)

    The use of toe clips and clip ins for better pedaling is a bit over rated (except for sprinting …. where clip ins are markedly better)






    +1 Faster

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