- First Aid
Mountain Biking Mishap Stories
Mountain Biking and Accidents
I am a mountain biking and road biking enthusiast. There’s a little problem with that, though. I am quite accident-prone. I may have inherited this from my ancestors – I have no idea. But, I have to wonder if accident-proneness lends itself to faulty DNA. Despite this shortcoming, I still keep on riding. Maybe the fact that I keep riding despite my ability to find the nearest tree and wrap myself around it at high speed is another genetic deficiency. Aside from all my accidents, I’ve learned a thing or two about first aid.
© C. Calhoun 2012. All rights reserved.
Will You Take a First Aid Kit on Your Next Ride
Learning Mountain Biking Skills
The summer when I was 14, I discovered just how much I liked to ride my bike. Donning my helmet, I would venture out for hours. I owned a hybrid bike: one that you could ride on the streets or on the trails.
I hadn't ridden on trails that much when I might try my skill at mountain biking. I headed to a trailhead a few miles from my house in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.
The beginning of the trail was not rider-friendly. It was a steep ascent with quite a few boulders and steps to climb.
When I got to the top, however, I was inspired by the beautiful view of the city to the east and the mountains to the west. I looked out toward the trail. The part I could see was relatively flat, until it turned abruptly in the other direction.
Never having tried narrow single track trails before, I figured it would be an adventure.
I got on my bike. I rode a few hundred feet, feeling the mountain wind on my face.
Then the trail started getting more technical. I immediately noticed how to my left, it seemed to drop off – hundreds of feet. To my right, the trail continued uphill.
I began having trouble staying balanced. I kept putting my left foot down for balance - the one nearest the mountain cliff.
As soon as I thought the words hmm, I shouldn’t keep relying on my left foot; I’m likely to go over that cliff, my thoughts seemed to materialize into actual events.
One moment I was standing on firm ground, terra firma. The next moment I was airborne – no terra, just extra air-a.
At some point in mid-air, I had the notion to grab some sort of shrub. I turned my toes inward to hook my bike onto my body, wedging it between my feet. I have no idea how I had the presence of mind to do that.
A few milliseconds later, I landed on the steep slope. I was effectively hanging from that bush, with the bike still dangling precariously between my feet. I knew that if I let go, it would slide and then tumble down the steep slope.
Before I thought about my predicament, I used one hand to feel my head, helmet, other arm, and legs – everything was still there. Apparently, I was still alive and all body parts were attached.
I told myself not to look down.
Reaching for a small bush, I attempted to pull myself up. That bush gave way and tumbled down the slope with frightening velocity.
I knew that a poor little grassy bush was not going to hold my weight and the weight of my bike. Grabbing my bike with one hand, I pulled it up and pushed it back up onto the trail above my head.
Then, I swung my legs until I got a foothold and hoisted myself back onto the trail.
- Avoid going mountain biking alone – a friend could have lent me a true helping hand. You must read the next tip - it could save your life!
- Take a cell phone – I might have called my mommy. However, I never did tell her what happened. I knew she wouldn't let me ride my bike anymore, so I kept my cliff-capades to myself.
- Take a little first aid kit – I would have loved some tweezers to pick out a few prickly pear spines from the side of my leg, and to clean my scrapes with some antiseptic wipes.
- Don’t put your foot down when there’s a cliff nearby – this one is self-explanatory.
Mountain Biking Takes Practice...Right?
Apparently, I must like the adrenaline kick I get when riding, or I really like the speed of going downhill on trails, because the cliffhanger incident wasn’t enough to stop me from going again.
With this new hobby, I joined the mountain bike club in my high school. I was the only girl.
Imagine the pressure to impress a group of teenage boys. Though, admittedly, I was already an awkward mess by then, so I guess I wasn’t that concerned about it. Still, my goal was not to sink lower on the social ladder with my accident-prone antics.
One sunny Saturday morning, I met the group for a ride near a reservoir in the Rocky Mountains. It was a 14-mile ride, mostly on narrow single track trails.
The ride began well. I didn’t mind lagging behind the boys. I had ridden on plenty of dirt roads, but my last experience with a narrow trail was when I went over the cliff. So, I allowed myself time to get accustomed to better riding on the trail.
We were nearly ¾ of the way around the lake and I was feeling great. I had attempted a few jumps and rode them well. My heavy hybrid bike was rolling along beautifully.
The trail emerged into a “rock garden.” It was a rocky strip of trail that narrowed considerably.
I felt confident I could sail through this obstacle with flying colors.
I sped up to help get enough momentum to pedal up a small hill. I maneuvered my bike up into the rocks and deftly avoided a few different obstacles jutting up in the trail.
I still had the last little bit to go and I was rolling along pretty quickly. Suddenly my bike stopped. I didn’t. I sailed – with the flying colors of my water bottle and backpack – into a rock face. Instinctively I put my arms up in front of my body just before impact.
Moments later, I sat, dizzied by the blood trickling from my arms. I realized my bike pedals had wedged between two rocks.
- I needed to “level” my pedals to get through that narrow rocky part of the trail. The pedal that was lower caught on a rock that had jutted out just enough for it to stop my bike - cold.
- I already knew I couldn’t show any weakness in front of the guys. But, they still get surprised when a girl shows up with bloody arms. I never complained, and my teacher said he'd seen guys that were a lot more wimpy.
- I didn’t have a first aid kit with me. Luckily, my teacher – the sponsor of the trip – did. He took one look at me and immediately began digging for iodine and gauze. He had to scrape the wounds on my arms to get tiny particles out. Then he bandaged me up using large gauze and plenty of tape.
- I don’t remember what the others in the group said or thought about my accident, but I can say that my ego was rather bruised. I think only time heals that.
- I also learned I should never go biking without a first aid kit. I always seem to use up the Band-Aids before anything else.
Always Ride With a Helmet
First Learning to Ride
I must be stubborn like a donkey, though. I continued to ride (and still do - lots!) despite my crashes. I started crashing at a very young age.
When I learned to ride a bike, it was at a time when you didn’t see people really wearing helmets.
I was down in Santa Fe, NM visiting relatives. The adults were out shopping and I was with my cousins playing outside. One of their friends came over who knew how to ride a bike without training wheels.
My four other cousins also knew how to ride – the one older one who was watching us, and my other three cousins who were younger than me. I was 6 at the time.
I decided that I would learn how to ride, too. I couldn’t have my younger cousins out-riding me - or, so I thought.
My cousins’ friend helped me get onto a bike and pushed the back part of the seat while I pedaled into the street. I figured it out immediately. It wasn’t hard at all. I began pedaling and turning and going in big, wide circles.
A couple hours later, my cousins all went in to get something to eat.
I was thrilled about learning how to ride, so I stayed out, riding my bike.
I had seen my cousin and her friend riding without holding on to the handlebars. I figured I was already experienced enough to try that.
I went to the end of the street, turned the bike in the other direction, and began pedaling – fast. About halfway down the street, I let the handlebars go and kept pedaling.
Almost immediately, the bike started wobbling. I tried to put my hands back on the handlebars. Unfortunately, just as a large truck begins to jackknife when it’s out of control, so did the bike’s front wheel and handlebars swivel violently from side to side.
Instantly, I lost control and lost my balance. I hit the pavement at a furious pace: first my shoulder, then my head, then the rest of my body rolled and skidded with the bike.
I blacked out.
I vaguely remember a strange man picking me up and walking door to door trying to figure out which house was mine - I certainly couldn't tell him, and I couldn't tell him it was my aunt's house that he needed to find.
Eventually, he did find the house. I barely recall waking up in a pile of blankets, feeling very ill, and falling back asleep. I have no idea how long I was in that state.
Were You Paying Attention?
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- Always ride with a helmet – I know I had a concussion, but I bet I could have avoided that if I’d only worn a helmet.
- If you do end up with a head injury, you really should get yourself checked out at the hospital. Better yet, with a head injury, if there’s even the slightest suspicion of a neck injury, don't move - wait until help arrives. A Good Samaritan moved me and I wasn’t too broken - just a few brain cells that regretted ever living. Today’s advice is to never move a person with a suspected neck injury unless his or her life is in danger.
- Given my luck, I could have been run over by the next passing car, so I guess the Good Samaritan should have moved me.
- If you suspect a concussion, you should always see a doctor or go to the nearest emergency room. I didn’t, but even just 25 years ago, people didn’t always know this - I never went to the hospital for my injuries that day and now I know that should have.