March 19, 2002
The Big Spill

miles to go: 1,839.6

"Shouldn't we clean it off first or something?" I ask David worriedly, as we survey the extent of the damage. The wound, not yet an hour old, is still fresh and wet.

David nods. "We'll have to be careful though," he says. "We don't want to abrade it any further." And he goes off to the kitchen to dampen a couple of paper towels. I remain on the sofa with my leg elevated.

I KNEW toe clips were going to be trouble.

I knew it when we were at the groovy Berkeley bike store last Saturday, measuring me for the new bike. "Do I have to have those things?" I whined, pointing at the weird configuration of straps and buckles sprouting from the pedals. David and the Groovy Bike Store Salesgrrl both assured me that toe clips were exactly what the advanced cyclist needs. Toe clips give you more power. Toe clips give you bunches more control. Plus toe clips make you look cooler. (Basically, toe clips are the greatest invention since Chocolate Reddi-Whip.) 

"You'll be amazed how quickly you get the hang of them," said the Groovy Bike Store Salesgrrl. "Then you'll wonder how you ever got along without them."

But I wasn't convinced. Somehow, locking my feet into place while I'm riding seemed like a really, REALLY bad idea. I was going to have enough to get used to on the new bike as it was, including twenty-seven new gear combinations, an entirely different braking system and the dreaded "hurty bar" (as opposed to the crotch-friendly top tube on "Addie," my trustworthy Schwinn). Toe clips just seemed like one more annoying -- and dangeous -- distraction.

"Careful," I wince, as David applies the damp paper towels to the wound.

The inaugural ride on the new bike was an abbreviated one: a quick couple of laps around the abandoned Navy Base after work. I'd been waiting impatiently, ever since we brought it home from the shop on Saturday night, to take my new bike out on its maiden voyage. Rotten weather kept us indoors all day Sunday. Monday, of course, we both had to work. So even though it was already growing dark by the time we finally got home last night, I was determined to test-drive my new toy.

And for the first fifteen or twenty minutes of the ride ... it was glorious.

Yes, it felt weird -- and weirdly disloyal, somehow -- to be riding something other than my little red Schwinn. Yes, the frame geometry was unfamiliar: I'm not used to leaning forward so far, nor to having my butt so high in the air. And yes, the toe clips were a major distraction, just as I knew they would be. It was a struggle to get my feet into them without losing my balance. 

"How you doing with the toe clips?" David shouted as we headed toward the base. 

"I'm not a convert yet," I sourly replied.

But it was still the finest bike ride of my life. I couldn't believe the difference that a lighter, more streamlined bicycle makes. I felt fast and fleet and lighter than air. Even riding into wind  --  the worst part of bike-riding for me ordinarily, next to hills and sunburn and the fudking Good Morning People  --  was about a bazillion times easier with my new Trek 7700. I was in heaven.

Until the accident.

About fifteen minutes into the ride, David cautioned me to slow down. "We'd better brake to a stop here," he said, as we approached a four-way stop in the middle of the base. Ordinarily we might blow right through a stop sign like this one -- it's an abandoned Navy Base, after all, and traffic at that time of night is virtually nonexistent -- but David's eagle eyes had spotted something I hadn't: a City of Alameda patrol car, approaching us from the right. I squeezed the handbrakes gently ... brought the bike to a slow, smooth stop ... and attempted to anchor myself to the ground with my left foot, as usual.

Except that my foot was LOCKED IN PLACE by the goddamn TOE CLIPS.

Over I went, like a farmer's prize cow on Hallowe'en night ... my new bazillion-dollar bike landing on top of me.


This was my first major spill. I've taken a couple of minor headers in the last year -- a scraped knuckle here, a bruised elbow there -- but this was the first Big Kerplunk. I landed solidly on the concrete, absorbing the brunt of the fall with my hands and knees. Fortunately I was wearing heavy denim leggings -- the groovy Spandex riding pants were at home in the dirty clothes basket -- and I had my bike gloves on, as always. That probably helped to minimize some of the damage to my knees and hands. 

"I'm OK!" I shouted to the police officer, who had slowed down to see if I was alright. As I scrambled to my feet, the officer smiled and waved (OK, so she's just clumsy, not drunk) and eventually drove off to continue his twilight patrol.

I picked my bike off the ground -- it's so light, I can literally lift it with two fingers -- and I dusted myself off. "Do you want to head back home?" asked David worriedly. 

I felt bruised and bloodied, but nothing appeared to be broken. (Except my dignity, maybe.)  We rode around for another few minutes, over to where the U.S.S. Hornet is docked and back, just long enough to watch the sun go down behind the San Francisco skyline, and then we limped back towards home and our leftover corned beef and cabbage.

Now I am laying on the sofa with my leg propped up on a pillow, watching David attend to the worst of the damage.

"Well," he says, as he finishes wiping the mud and concrete dust from the framework of the bike. "That's about as good as it's going to get." There is a deep gouge in the paint on the top tube of my bike, and another, lesser scrape on one of the forks. Plus it looks like a couple of the spokes might be dented.

I've had my bike for exactly three days, and already it's got almost as many scars as *I* do.

Tossing the dirty wet paper towels into the trash, David turns and looks at me. 

"There," he says flatly. "That takes care of your bike. Now let's take a look at your KNEE."

next        previous        home        archives        throw a rock    

© secraterri 1998-2002
all rights reversed reserved!
comments/questions/spelling corrections HERE
~ nil bastardum carborundum ~

yo, bev. bought those bike gloves yet?