Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Random Crash Stories. Episode # 2

After a lifetime of playing on two wheels, I have quite a few crash stories imprinted in my brain. I spewed a few out in a previous post titled Random Crash Stories. Episode #1. Break out the Band-Aids and popcorn and sit back for Episode #2. Here’s three more two wheeled mishaps to enjoy and ponder.

Crash # 1.

It’s the mid-seventies, suburban Randolph New Jersey, pal Richard Jones and I around 15 years old. A new apartment complex was being build in the neighborhood. Landscapers conveniently left a huge pile of bark in the middle of a parking lot. Empty parking lot, slight downhill slope, giant pile to jump bikes off. It was the siren call to all local teenage boys, sort of like that flat top mountain in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The pile existed for a few days and was molded into a jump with kids heading there after school. A gaggle of kids circling and taking turns getting air off it. All of us on Sting Ray type bikes, some converted to pseudo BMX bikes – mine included. Richard, very experienced with dirt motorcycles, sported a dumpster dived, department store Sting Ray copy – girls frame. Complete beater piece of crap.

Richard goes for the gold on one jump and grabs about four feet of air – huge for that time. Arcs it nicely into endo position and lands on the front wheel – snapping the fork off at the steerer tube – and allowing him to hit the pavement without any interference – on his hands, knees and head. I can still hear the grip less, chrome, ape hanger handlebars skittering across the parking lot. Front wheel bounces off into the distance, fork swinging around it, like some sort of sick art project.

Richard lay crumpled in a heap, gasping for air – wind knocked out of him. A woman driving by stops and asks if he’s okay. Uh, yeah – he’s fine, and she drives off looking concerned. After a few minutes, he’s up and attempting to walk home. Some kid asks “What about your bike?”. “I don’t want it.” It’s instantly stripped for parts. “I get the seat.” “I get the frame.” Kids claiming what’s left of it for their own clapped out bike projects.

I realize Richard can hardly walk, so I sit him on my bike and push him home. We get to his house, bedroom on the lower level, off the garage. He just leans back without bending his knees and falls on his waterbed (Hey, it was the ‘70s, waterbeds were in). I call for his dad and take off for home myself (Hey, it was dinner time).

Discovered later, he was admitted to the hospital. Broken knee, busted wrist and concussion. Had to spend a few days there, since the knee was too swollen for a cast and required multiple drainage attempts with a large needle. Ouch. This followed by a few weeks in a full leg cast and wrist cast as well. Joy.

After 30+ years, this still remains one of the most spectacular bike crashes I’ve witnessed. Thanks Richard.

Crash #2.

Mid ‘80s, fellow bike shop pals Scott Steward, Martin Rapp and I cruising my usual dirt/street loop in Parsippany, New Jersey on our mountain bikes. Its a muddy early spring ride, complete with occasional patches of wet snow. At one point we stop to yak for a bit. Scott, then a manager for Denville Cycles, mentions he has no health insurance. I don’t remember why this topic came up, but you now know who’s gonna get it. Sort of like when an unknown crew member appears on Star Trek.

We continue our ride, then Scott attempts to pass me while simultaneously bunny hopping a large snow bank, while moving at a nice speed. His back wheel clips the snow bank and he endos nicely into the street. I can see the carnage in my peripheral vision, so technically he didn’t pass me. Ha! Scott, an ex-pro BMX racer, then mountain bike racer, and later road and track guy, has more natural riding ability in a peeling scab – then I’ll ever have. He’s a damn good rider, this endo excluded.

After the crash, sitting on the curb assessing the damage – shoulder is toast and scalp wound bleeding semi-profusely – otherwise, nothing super serious. This was the pre-helmet era. I offer to get my car and pick him up. Nah, he’ll ride back, just skip the woods and stay on the road. Martin, not quite as hardcore (nuts?) as Scott and I, looks slightly horrified. We pace line back to my house, Scott riding one handed, blood running down the side of his face and down his neck. Martin at the back, later admitting he hard time hanging on – amazed Scott could move that fast hurt.

We get to my house and I load up Scott’s bike for him – and he drives off. Calls later with the report. Separated shoulder and a few stitches in the head. Ouch. Oh yeah – the no health insurance deal. His dad had to pick up the hospital tab. Double ouch.

Crash #3.

This occurred just a few months ago. I’m driving home from work, stuck in traffic on Lake City Way, it’s dark and raining. Some guy rides by at about 8 mph in the bus lane, on a department store mountain bike, seat 6 inches too low, all dark clothes, parka hood pulled up. I’m thinking that dude is just asking to get hit. Doesn’t take a crystal ball to see what happens next.

Within 10 seconds of thinking the guy was toast, he cuts across a Starbucks parking lot and gets flattened by an SUV pulling into a parking space. It was sort of a slow motion hit, dude remained upright for a second or so, then collapses to the ground. Driver gets out and calmly talks to the guy, now sitting on the ground. I’m thinking SUV guy is going to climb back in and take off.

He doesn’t run and picks the bike off the wet pavement. The rear wheel is bent into a U shape, so was hit fairly hard. SUV guy talks to hurt bike dude some more, then goes into Starbucks to get help - I hope.

I thought about pulling into the lot myself to check it out, but decided against it, since a Starbucks full of customers witnessed the whole thing – probably armed with cell phones, since every human on earth now has one.

The light changed and my traffic crawl continued. Show was over.

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