When I finally got around to reviewing the video of my recent crash some three weeks after the fact, it became obvious that there are a number of prudent steps to take if you (or a riding buddy) are ever involved in a crash that results in an injury – and are dealing with the immediate aftermath.
Most of this is common-sense stuff, but in the adrenaline-fueled haze of a post-crash period, we sometimes are not at our best or can easily forget something that may be important. I’ll write this from the perspective of the crash victim, but the lessons work whether it’s you who crashed, or someone else. Also, these are not in any certain order, chronological or otherwise.
This is certainly going to be an incomplete list, so I urge fellow roadies to add to it by commenting below this article in the RBR Newsletter version or sending your thoughts to us using the Contact Us form.
One final note before jumping in: Jim Langley recently wrote an excellent 2-part column on how best to check your bike and equipment after a crash – Crash Course, Part 1 and Crash Course, Part 2. This article dovetails nicely with those.
Check the Evidence
I have had so much going on in the three weeks since the crash that I almost forget about checking the video of the crash. For a couple of years, I’ve used a Fly6 taillight camera, which captures rear-view footage of your rides for safety purposes. This video can be especially useful if you get hit from behind, or buzzed, etc. Depending on the type of camera you might have, the video evidence could be used in number of different ways – for police or legal matters, insurance claims, etc.
Or, in my case, to sleuth the cause of my crash.
I remembered taking the fast, sharp curve on a bit more inside line than I usually do, and when I stopped the video exactly at the moment I started to go down, I clearly saw a wide white stripe underneath my rear tire. Aha. My buddies and I had suspected sand, or a white line. We all know that painted or other stripes or lines on the road can be especially dangerous and slippery when wet. Now I’m here to tell you they don’t have the same grip as the road even on dry days.
Let Others Help You
I was quite thankful that my buddy Bill was right behind me when I went down, and immediately there to help. If you’re riding alone, don’t shy away from accepting the help of strangers. Sprawled in the street after a crash is not a place to be proud. The same can be said about seeking help if you’re all alone; dial 911 if you think you need medical assistance, call a significant other or friend for help and a SAG – whatever you need to do to best address your situation, do it. People are glad to help each other; it’s part of the Roadie code to help others in need.
I gladly let Bill – and then another buddy, Kirk, who wasn’t far behind – give me an immediate assessment re: how I was doing and, when it was clear I had no head or other trauma that would dictate not moving me out of the street, help me stand up and walk out of the street into a grassy area, and bring my bike over. I immediately self-diagnosed a fractured collarbone and knew I needed to go to the ER. But having paid hundreds of dollars for an ambulance ride a few years ago after another crash, I also knew I could handle the pain long enough to get a private trip after first getting home and getting cleaned up a bit. (Of course, if there’s ever any doubt, immediately call 911 and don’t try to move the crash victim.)
When reviewing the video (the audio portion, actually) of my crash, it’s crystal clear that my buddies did a great job managing the crash aftermath – including managing me.
Listen to Those Helping You
My first instinct was to suggest that we get to a bathroom about a half mile up the road so I could wash off my bloody left hand, which got chewed up pretty good and was dripping blood onto my RBR kit. I even suggested trying to ride the 10 miles home from Stone Mountain Park. Thank goodness my buddies put the kibosh on that very quickly; it would have been a miserable, painful – and very dangerous one-armed – slog.
Instead, Bill quickly called his wife, who had just left the Park in her SUV, having driven there to ride, with bike rack on board. So Tina gladly came back and drove me and my bike home. I figured I needed to get cleaned up and out of my kit before heading to the ER. (Tip: if you have a shoulder or collarbone issue that prevents you from raising your arm and thus wearing T-shirts and such, full-zip cyling jerseys make great sleep shirts and everydayattire after such an injury. The same can be said for post-surgery. I’ve been sleeping in one every night for nearly a month now.)
Here’s probably the single best piece of advice Bill gave me that day: He noticed how mangled my left hand was and suggested I take off my wedding ring before the hand started to swell. The advice was positively spot-on; my hand was indeed grotesquely swollen and bruised right up to the surgery 10 days later, then ballooned up again even worse after the surgery. Nearly a month since the crash and I still cannot get the ring on my finger.
Take It If You’ve Got It
When you’re injured, adrenaline courses through your body for the first few minutes, often masking the severity of the injury and future pain. Rest assured, that pain will come soon enough. If you or a friend happens to have something on board that might help with it, consider taking some. I always carry a few Ibuprofen stuffed into the corner of a baggie, which I then cut away, twist and tie so that it takes up almost no space. I likewise carry some antihistamine in case I’m stung on the road (which has happened twice in recent years).
I gobbled down 4 Ibuprofen – and was damned glad I did. Because the ER gave me nothing at all for the pain except a prescription that it took my wife 4 more hours to fill on a Saturday night.
Pick Up All the Pieces
Once you’ve got your wits about you and are able to assess the situation, make sure you or your helpers pick up any gear or valuables that might have fallen out of your pockets or off your bike in the crash. This could include anything from computers to lights to frame pumps to spare tubes, your mobile phone, cycling wallet, etc. In my case, my RX sunglasses had fallen off (thankfully, they were unscathed), and my JerseyBin waterproof pouch containing my iPhone, copy of my ID, and some cash had ejected from my middle jersey pocket. The guys managed to snag them quickly before car traffic re-commenced.
Your Bike is the Least of Your Worries
Yes, it’s almost always the first thing we roadies ask about after a crash: How’s my bike? And, yes, I did it after this crash. But, really, if you’re injured in a crash, your bike should be the least of your concerns. In many, if not most, cases, you won’t be riding it home anyway. So save the worry for later when you have a bit more liesure time on your hands. (Again, Jim Langley’s two-part series on how best to check your bike and equipment after a crash is an excellent resource – Crash Course, Part 1 and Crash Course, Part 2.
In my case, my bike suffered only very minor cosmetic damange – gouged rear QR lever, a bit of a scrape on the pedal, and scrapes to the outsides of both shifters and hood covers (the bike slid along the left side, but at some point the front tire caught and turned over so that the right shifter also got scraped up). All of it cost me about $70 to return to nearly new condition. Your local bike shop can order small parts from the manufacturer to help you out in these situations.
File a Police Report if Warranted
My crash was a battle between only me and the road. So there was no need for me to involve the police. But certainly if your crash involves a car or a situation that warrants it, involve the police.
I have to admit that I was somewhat bemused at the utter lack of response to my crash by the Stone Mountain Park (and other police – keep reading – that day). From where the crash happened, we walked down a hill to wait for my SAG, standing right next to the street on which the Stone Mountain Park Police HQ is located. Two St. Mt. Park police cars sat opposite us, and a convoy of police vehicles from other local jurisdictions rolled past us as we waited – wailing their sirens and otherwise “showing off” as they approached some sort of gathering.
All the while, the three of us stood there, me dripping blood with blood stains on my shorts – and not a single officer took notice! I just laughed at the utter irony of the situation. To serve and protect, or to show off and blare your siren? (When I’m back on the road next month, I’m planning to pay a visit to the St. Mt. Park PD and give them some feedback.)
John Marsh is the former editor and publisher of RBR Newsletter and RoadBikeRider.com. A rider of "less than podium" talent, he brought our readers consistently useful, informative, entertaining info that helps make them better road cyclists. That's what we're all about here—always have been, always will be. Click to read John's full bio.