Crash My Bicycle
This is a story about my bicycle. It was built for me by Danny, the man behind the infamous karaoke show.
Danny bought a pretty sweet bike, an early ’80s Raleigh Grand Prix from the time just after Raleigh was bought by Huffy, before the quality dropped off. It was too small for me, but I fell in love with it. I told him to find me one if he had the chance.
Three weeks later, he called and told me he had it in my size. You’d be surprised what Danny’s capable of.
In the first six rides I took with it, I had three accidents. Danny thus christened it “Trois Clangours”. Jerk.
I’ve had a LOT of trouble with this bike. The accidents, mechanical failures, all manner of trouble, adding up to it spending far more time out of commission than in use. Which is weak sauce, obviously.
Nevertheless, when it’s working, it’s my machine. We get along, it and me. I can feel it doing my bidding reflexively. I don’t worry that it’s going to do anything that I don’t want. It’s going to get me where I’m going, safely, as long as I don’t make a mistake.
Sometimes, though, I get in accidents that just aren’t my fault.
Like that raccoon? I couldn’t have slowed down. Even my slow-motion memory of the event barely gives me enough reaction time; no telling how long I actually had to react, but it wasn’t long.
Yes. That’s right. I hit a raccoon. In New York City.
For what it’s worth, I was riding on the loop in Prospect Park. There is actually something resembling woods in that area. I was riding home from work one night; it was around 7pm or thereabouts. It was October, dark, and chilly. I was wearing my blue-and-brown striped sweater. There was a guy riding ahead of me, about the same speed. He was two bike lengths ahead and to my left. I heard him say, “Whoa!” and saw him dodge something. I caught site of the something, just had time to recognize it as a fast-moving raccoon and yell “Fuuuuuu–” as I tried to jerk my bike around it.
There just wasn’t enough time. I hit it square.
I went airborne. My front wheel was bent, destroyed, and my forward motion ceased instantly. My rear wheel went in the air, and I lost contact with my bike. While I was in the air, I had two thoughts. First was that I didn’t want to land on my head. Curiously, this had nothing to do with my own safety; I didn’t want to crash my helmet and have to buy a new one. That in mind, I judged my trajectory, put my arm out, and used it to absorb the majority of the fall and transition into a roll.
The second thought was “I hope I don’t break my phone.” [Spoiler alert: I didn’t.] It probably says something about me that I thought nothing of my own personal safety, only that of my material goods. What it says is probably not good.
I rolled off my left arm, onto the shoulder, and up the other side. My momentum actually took me momentarily off the ground again. Here, the memory is blank. I know that I ended up crouched on my elbows and knees, hurting with a pain so pervasive and so powerful that I can still feel its phantom when I think about it. But I don’t know how I ended up that way. Did I land like that? Did I roll again and crawl up to it? I could not tell you. I wonder now if I did end up hitting my head at some point, causing me to black out for a fraction of a second.
It’s not important, I guess. I crouched there, first making sure that no part of me was searing white-hot with the pain of, say, a freshly broken bone or an open gash.
I looked at the raccoon, just in time to see him dash off into the trees, apparently uninjured.
I was a little bitter. It’s entirely possible that I remain that way. I mean, couldn’t he have at least been a little bit maimed? COME ON!
Then I looked at my bike.
It didn’t make me happy.
Things that were fucked: front wheel; handlebars; brake levers; stem. Things that were somehow spared: fork; saddle.
Now back to me. The guy who had initially dodged the little bastard was beside me. He asked if he needed to call an ambulance. I ran a piece-by-piece check and decided that I was unbroken, just bruised. He asked if “all parts are working.” A new bystander looked at my bike and said, “No, man, his bike is fucked.”
I said those weren’t the important parts.
I was finally able to drag myself off the asphalt and get to my feet. I was a little woozy from a body full of aches, but I was only a mile or two from my house and didn’t have cash or desire to find a taxi. So I walked.
I called ahead and asked if maybe there could be some hot chocolate waiting for me when I got there.
There was. For that, I am ever grateful.
And now my bike is called “Quatre Clangours”.
Great post. I like your writing style.
I think I met you and your girlfriend at a softball game a while back. I was wearing a cast because I had fallen off a roof and shattered my arm. I’ve also had the misfortune of landing myself in a wheelchair temporarily after a motorcycle accident, and after a drunk guy fell on me and hurt both my legs. I know, I have bad luck. Reading about your encounter with the raccoon made me cringe and reaffirmed my decision not to bike in NYC…at least until my arm heals.
Hope all is well for you and Johanna.