History Repeats

I haven’t been riding my bike much this summer. There hasn’t been a great deal of need or inspiration, plus it’s so hot, you guys!

Still, it’s bike time, and I recently found this unfinished post from way back. I’m honestly not sure when I started it; the troubles to which it refers happened as far back as 2006, and the crash that inspired me to write it can’t have been later than spring 2008.

It’s also worth mentioning nearly all of these accidents happened on the bike I had before Clangours. In hindsight I don’t know why my second bike got named for the accidents since it’s a longer-standing issue than that. I even recently said, in all seriousness, “Getting hit by a car isn’t so bad after the first three or four times.”

Maybe the issue is me?

Anyway, the problem that inspired this post: I was riding out to Long Island. I didn’t get far, though, before my rear tire blew out. Turns out that when my brakes were installed, the pads on the rear wheel were rubbing against the tire. So, good stopping power, no more tire.

I’ve got that fixed.

So, here is a list of accidents, as comprehensive as memory will allow, detailing the various and sundry spills I took on my first city bike, which was oddly unnamed.

In July 2006, in my second week of NYC bicycle ownership, I was riding home down 2nd Avenue in Manhattan when I was doored for the first time. This offense was perpetrated by the driver of a delivery truck. While I was picking myself up and getting out of the street, he drove away. I was not amused.

Perhaps I ought to have learned my lesson to stay away from doors. At least the more recent time, I was in the bike lane. Where else was I supposed to go?

A few weeks later, I was riding at night along the East River. I went down a slope. On the way, I hit the brake… the front brake.

Gravity and the laws of physics were feeling playful that night. I went ass-over-teakettle over the handlebars, landing squarely on my ass while the bike went airborne. It flipped in the air, and the top tube landed directly on my head before clattering to the ground beside me.  There is still a dent in that tube from my skull. Additionally, I somehow procured a pretty serious bruise consisting of more or less the entirety of my right calf muscle. That was pleasant to walk with, I promise.

From what I hear, it was pretty funny to watch.

Later on, in the autumn, I was again riding home down 2nd Avenue. I was further downtown, riding along peacefully, when a taxi ran a red light and made a right turn directly into my rear wheel. I managed to stay upright, but not on the seat and pedals, and it was a small miracle that the cabbie stopped and didn’t run me down. He drove beside me for a minute, asked if I was okay, then sped off. I called the cops and reported it. Nothing came of it.

Once spring came around, I managed my first collision with a moving car. They turned in front of me with no signal. I slammed my brakes and, by skill or luck, managed to turn into a skid that put me more or less parallel to the car, so the impact didn’t send me flying, just pissed me off. I shouted.

(I used to be a contender for the national team in the Commuter Biathlon, which consists of simultaneously dodging cars and shouting creative insults at them. My favorite probably has to be “Yourself, go fuck it!”)

Later that same week, I managed almost exactly the same trick with a bus, only it wasn’t turning in front of me, but racing me to pull over to a bus stop, which was weird since I was even with the front of the bus. Somehow, I didn’t get hurt.

The very worst on the original ride, though, was hilarrible. That’s a mix of hilarious and terrible, right? I was riding over the Manhattan Bridge; at the time they were doing construction on the bike lane, so I was on the south side of the bridge. It was a glorious late spring day. I was doing what I often did on that bike (and have very infrequently done since, for reasons you are about to learn) and riding upright with no hands on the bars. I went over a bump on the downhill side of the bridge and popped off the seat a little, which would have been fine if the bolt holding the seat to the seat post hadn’t completely sheered when I sat back down.

So, there I was: the seat has just dropped out from under me, I’m at speed, and I am nowhere near the handlebars. To say I ate shit would be an insult to both coprophages and metaphors. I went down the hardest I’d gone down to that point, hitting the concrete and tumbling along behind my bike. Needless to say, it also took a mighty fall.

I was on my way to work that day, so I called my boss to let him know I was going to be late. I collected my seat and what pieces I could find of its hardware to study the failure a little more and put them in my bag. Then I got my bike. It was a little worse for the wear, but there’s a reason I have a love for old steel frames. It survived admirably all things considered.

I, on the other hand, was in a rather enormous amount of pain. My butt obviously hurt, and I wasn’t sure if I was concussed, but the worst was figuring out which hand should steer my bike and which should hold my phone while I called Johanna and asked if she had any idea whether I would still be able to make a fist if I had a major sprain in my wrist. She didn’t know, and me being me, I toughed it out.

It wasn’t long after that Clangours came into my possession. The original ride is still in my basement. I’ve thought about reviving it. Maybe it’s time.