For the last few months I'd found my passion for mountain bike riding waning. I think it had a lot to do with a long business trip I took to a city that had riding so much nicer than any of the trails in my native city; that I grew unsatisfied with what I had. I also don't have a large amount of trail riding near me, and the dissatisfaction I felt when on the trails was compounded by boredom/frustration of driving 20-45 minutes to ride the same trail for the hundredth time.
Road bike riding is really big in my city though, and you can't go for a drive during anytime of the day without seeing a bunch of people on their road bikes. I figured that I liked all sorts of bikes, even the lycra clad road ones, so I got an inexpensive 14 year old road bike off of ebay.
I found that I really enjoyed road bike riding. I could get a quick ride in without loading up the car, I seemed to be getting a better work out during the time I was riding, and I found that it was much easier to observe nature on the road bike- since I didn't have to focus on steering the bike.
After two months I still considered myself a "mountain biker" but I'd only put 30 miles on my dream mountain bike and almost a thousand miles on my $600 ebay special. When ever I did ride my mountain bike I was absolutely astounded by how great my fitness was, but all of a sudden a few weeks had passed and I realized my mountain bike was collecting dust. I saw the Strava Festive 500km (300 miles in a week, 40 miles a day) challenge started Xmas Eve and I decided that I could push myself to do it.
Woke up early Christmas Eve and planned a 50 mile ride to get a bit ahead of the curve. Went all the way out to my parents house 20 miles away, chatted with them a bit, and then decided to take a longer way back. While I was chatting with my dad (who originally got me into mountain biking) he said that he would never want to ride on the road because it was so dangerous. I assured him that it wasn't and even though I'd only been riding for a few months, I never felt in danger.
Around mile 42 I began to close the loop I was on and head back to home. I was heading northbound on a pretty busy street. It was about 11:45 am and traffic was rather brisk since it was Xmas eve. The intersection up ahead was a bit of a cluster. The bike lane ended into a right turn lane, there were two through lanes, and two left turn lanes on the road I was on. I needed to make a left onto the perpendicular road and it had the same amount of lanes on it. I thought about riding between the right turn lane and the #1 though lane, then stopping on the other side of the intersection to do the same thing, but the 2 through lanes got red lights, and the two left turn lanes had a red light with a string of cars waiting. I figured I could save myself a few minutes buy moving over to the left lanes and taking the light left.
I'm sure you can guess what happened.
I looked over my shoulder and saw one car about 700 yards back, way back it seemed, in the #2 lane. I signaled with my left arm and moved into the number 1 lane, then looked again, saw that the single car was a ways off, signaled, and moved into the #2 lane. At this point I was probably 100 yards from the stop lights that were both red.
I was probably in the lane for 5 seconds before the car honked, then it honked again, then a bunch more times, I didn't really feel the impact, my bike just laid down and I found myself on the ground, I'd come out of my clips and jumped to my feet so another car wouldn't hit me. I didn't feel anything broken but her front right wheel had rolled over my rear wheel and was pinching the chain stay. She backed up and I pulled the wreckage of my bike from under her wheel.
She didn't ask if I was okay. She just said that she hadn't seen me. I asked for her insurance information and she said she wasn't going to give it to me since it was my fault that she hit me. I told her that she rear ended me and she said I shouldn't have been in the traffic lanes. At one point I thought she was going to try to drive away, she was still in the #2 lane and I was standing next to her. So I just took a picture of her license plate and said that if she wanted to drive away I would just call the police and file a hit and run. Then she seemed to wise up and pulled over to the side of the road and gave me her insurance.
She didn't have her license on her though, so I thought about calling the police again. Maybe I should have, but I also didn't really want to wait for them to show up. My one knee that I fell on was bleeding pretty bad, my wrist was really sore, and my tail bone was throbbing. I'd had much harder bails on my mountain bike for sure, but I just wanted to get home and be done with this.
When I was waiting for a pick up I started to realize how lucky I had been. My bike could have fallen left instead of right, or it could have gotten sucked under the left wheel and I could have fallen to the right. You can see in the pic that the chainstay was competently crushed. It could have easily been my body. I've got a wife, 2 year old daughter, and another baby girl coming in May. I've got a really nice life insurance policy, but the thought of dying doing something I loved and leaving my loved ones started to gnaw at me.
I also started feeling some self doubt about the situation, maybe I hadn't signaled enough, maybe there wasn't as much space between the car as I thought there was, maybe the light had turned green? I should have just gone though the intersection and then done it the "safe way" without changing lanes. The hit happened so fast and I jumped back onto my feet so quickly that I might not know exactly where I was in the lane.
So I've been pretty depressed about it. I was thinking I might not ever ride a road bike again, and I was so bored with mountain biking, why even bother with that? It was a bad place to be and while I normally rode every day- 3 days passed.
I woke up this morning intending to ride the mountain bike but I just couldn't get going. I just worried that my fears would be true, I wouldn't be excited after the ride, I wouldn't find joy in it, and I would feel horrible for even taking up this hobby and spending some savings on my mountain bike. I'm normally on the trails by 7am but it was 9am and my wife advised that I just go for a "really quick ride."
So I did. It was just a five mile loop that I used to do early mornings before work and before I had my road bike. I hadn't ridden it in 2 months and while I like some parts of the loop, it drops into a valley and the hill back out is really mean on my single speed. It is rare that I make it up and when I do I'm always close to vomiting a lung.
The ride was awesome.
Every turn felt good, every hill I crushed, every time I braked I felt the sweet modulation of disc, tire, and loose dirt. I had a smile on my face the whole ride and the final hill out of the valley I got my best segment time out of and I wasn't breathing heavy when I finished. So even though my trails might have felt worn out, I've still got a lot of riding left in them and I can focus on the joy of being out there alive. I could be dead now, I could be paralyzed, I could have never been born. But I'm here and life is pretty damn good.
I'm pretty sure I'll road bike again. How soon depends on what the woman's insurance company says. The idea of riding on the roads doesn't really appeal to me now. But I really love bikes and while it isn't as fun as mountain bike riding, road riding has a place in my life.
The pic I took today at the bottom of the valley. Thanks for reading. Be safe out there.
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