"Don’t be the person that fell... be the person who got back up again"
~ Jenette Stanley
It was just a bit over five years ago when I found myself in the trauma center of a local hospital after a bicycle crash that left me with a shattered clavicle, three broken ribs, and a punctured lung. I ended up spending a week at the hospital with a chest tube in my side and a growing phobia of sneezing... knowing that a sneeze would cause me great pain due to the condition of my ribs.
Now fast forward five years to last Saturday.
I was on my typical Saturday ride preparing myself for an upcoming multi-day tour to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation. I had already completed 70 miles and was on my way to a local taco shop for some lunch before I headed home.
As I was looking to my left to observe the traffic, my bike hit a sharp bump in the road, jarring my hands away from the handlebars, and sending me crashing to the pavement in the blink of an eye.
The next thing I knew... I was lying on my back looking into the noonday sun...
After a brief moment, the sunlight was suddenly blocked by a crowd of three riders standing over me.
The strangers began to ask me questions...
"Are you okay?"
"Do you know your name?"
"Can you move your feet?"
To which I answered them all in the affirmative.
I rolled to my side and then sat up... sitting on the curb while I took stock of the situation and my wounds.
My right knee, elbow, shoulder, fingers, and hips were all badly scraped. I pressed against my ribs and my collar bone but felt no pain at all... so I was already in a better condition than the last time I fell, I thought to myself.
There didn’t seem to be any broken bones this time... so probably no trip to the hospital for me...
My new friends collected my bike and other items that had broken free... such as my water bottle and bike GPS... and placed them on the side of the road.
I took out my smartphone from a pocket on the back of my torn jersey and was pleasantly surprised that the screen wasn’t cracked due to the impact. I tried calling my wife and several other friends I knew... but only connected to their collective voice mails.
Two of the riders who stopped, offered to take me home... explaining that their van was only a few miles away... and that I should remain there until they returned.
I agreed and waited along the side of the road...
As I sat there waiting I had several thoughts that I wanted to share with you today...
As the riders rode back toward their van, I removed my cycling helmet. My helmet was easily the most expensive piece of apparel that I regularly wore... with a retail price of about $250.
Cycling helmets today are typically made from lightweight Styrofoam with a coated enameled outer shell and nylon chin strap.
When I crashed, I was going downhill at a rate of speed approaching 30 miles per hour.
I looked down at my helmet and could see that my head had actually slammed against the pavement... I know this because the helmet was destroyed... the Styrofoam broken and the outer shell cracked and scratched.
My Shattered Helmet
This is now the second time where wearing a good helmet saved my life. There is no doubt of this in my mind.
As I sat there on the side of the road... several people on bikes came riding by... I counted four people who rode by me without wearing any protective head wear at all... all going downhill at a rapid rate of speed.
In the sport of bicycling we have a special name for riders who refuse to wear a helmet... they are called "organ donors".
If you, a friend, or a loved one are planning to ride a bike (no matter how far) ... please... please... please... always wear a helmet!!
I don’t know what it is about cyclists but I’ve rarely met one who isn’t ready to help a fellow rider when they see someone stranded on the side of the road.
To begin with... there were my "first responders"... Ben and James (as I would later learn their names)... those riders that I didn’t previously know, but who were willing to abandon their own ride to help me. They sped off to their van to rescue me from the side of the road and take me home.
In addition to Ben and James, no fewer than 10 other riders stopped after seeing me on the side of the road to offer some kind of assistance while I was waiting... offering to lend me their phone... some water... or some nourishment...
Now I’m quite sure that there are plenty of good Samaritans who have stopped to help others in need... be it in a car, boat or bike... but on that particular day it was cyclists helping cyclists... a fraternity that I am proud to belong to.
As I sat there waiting... I thought about the goodness of humanity and all the kindness that people offer to strangers who have nothing but a perceived need...
Soon Ben and James were back with the van. They loaded up my bike and took me home (about 15 miles away).
After returning home, I offered to buy them some gas... to which they wholeheartedly refused... telling me that I now had an obligation to help someone else who might find themselves in a similar circumstance.
They reached out their hands toward mine and replied, "Just pay it forward".
Down... But Not Out
In the end... all I ended up with was a few scrapes and bruises... a mere pittance of punishment for such a crash...
As I related my crash story to several friends, associates, clients, and family members... the question often came up as to why I continue to take undue risks by cycling.
My crashes reminded me about the old joke... "what do you say to a man with two black eyes?... nothing... you’ve already told him twice"...
Maybe God is trying to tell me something... and I have two black eyes to prove it...
The thing is... bad things can happen to us whether we are out riding our bicycle... walking on the golf course... or sitting at home watching TV (an acquaintance of mine recently had a heart attack while watching TV and nearly died).
Life has a way of knocking us down every so often... regardless of how careful we are or how many times we’ve traveled the same stretch of highway... it’s just a small bump in the road that jars our hands away from the handlebars and sends us to the pavement... looking up at the sun while seeing stars...
It’s at this point where we need to muster the strength and courage to get back on the bike and start peddling again... with the knowledge that tomorrow is another day... with new challenges and new unforeseen obstacles...
We continue to ride because there is still life in us and mostly because we can...
Thank you very much for your support of OptiFuse. We know that there are always bumps in the road... and we want to be there to help you back up.
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