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Some I am not a frightful type guy, and this is still kind of new but last week I took a bad spill and am unsure what to do about it in the future. For the record I am 51 years old and was training for a triathlon.

I was just on my way back from a ride, having dealt with heavy winds on the way out. I was traveling about 20-22 mph when I went off the road into the grass. I attempted to get back onto the road by lifting my front wheel kind of a front wheel bunny hop. Instead I caught the edge of the road and rotated down. I was clipped in, so I landed hard on my shoulder and subsequently head.

The resultant injury was broken ribs, clavicle and a punctured lung. I will be out at least three months. I was wearing a helmet that prevented any head injury thankfully.

Frankly I am a bit scared. What should I do to avoid injury in the future? I have taken similar spills as a kid, and not really been injured. It really sucks as I am just 5 weeks from my tri, and I was going to crush my time goals. Now I will have to go back to the drawing board for training three months from now.

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Frankly I am a bit scared. What should I do to avoid injury in the future? I have taken similar spills as a kid, and not really been injured. It really sucks as I am just 5 weeks from my tri, and I was going to crush my time goals. Now I will have to go back to the drawing board for training three months from now.

As a first step I think you should let go of these races. If you want to regain confidence, you have to remove internal/external pressures, such as being race ready in five weeks, and just focus on the basic task of riding and getting confidence back on the bike. Having too many goals (i.e., 1) get back on bike, 2) get confident on bike again, 3) crush training) will get you have you splitting your attention and likely doing all 3 poorly.

You may have been in a great form, but unfortunately you had an accident with some substantial injuries (broken clavicle and a punctured lung), and in the time off you probably lost the fitness. It sucks, but its the reality. Luckily, once you had fitness it is much easier to get it back that it was to first develop it, so all is not lost. That said, recover from injuries and be race ready in a window of only 5 weeks is a serious stretch goal. That is a lot of pressure for anyone, including pros that have come back from previous injuries (once you have done a task it gets easier to repeat). As this sounds like your first time recovering from an injury, I think you need to reset your goals, and give your self some compassion for recovering. Focus on each step in the recovery process, avoiding looming deadlines as these will often detract from the process.

I attempted to get back onto the road by lifting my front wheel kind of a front wheel bunny hop. Instead I caught the edge of the road and rotated down. I was clipped in, so I landed hard on my shoulder and subsequently head.[...] have taken similar spills as a kid, and not really been injured.

Maybe it was bad luck, maybe you are older and don't bounce as well. Maybe its both. Its hard to know exactly what happened in an accident. Often we unknowingly fill in missing information. I wouldn't dwell on all the details too much, you may never get a complete answer.

The only thing I would take away, is that if you get blown off the road to try and stop off road, get off and walk back on to the road. You have already had one serious crash trying to jump back on over the lip. Unless this handling skill is something you explicitly start to train and develop I would avoid it!

  • As an aside I have survived one of those incidents where my front tire on a road bike caught the edge of the roadway (in this case I was forced wide and of the road right where the road edge had broken away). I honestly have no idea how I survived it, you could see the gouges on the sidewall where I forced the front to climb back up. My only guess was 10+ years of elite to pro level mountain bike racing gave me some of the necessary skills... or it was just blind stupid luck. Either way it is not a situation anyone wants to find themselves in. – Rider_X Feb 27 '18 at 23:43
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That's rough. Rotten luck and you have my sympathy.

When you say "as a kid" am I right to think not fully grown? Because little kids start closer to the ground, don't weigh as much, and don't tend to be going as fast, but crash a lot. Teenagers are a different matter: good reactions but poor judgement and the size and speed of adults, but they're quick to heal and fractures tend to be less severe as their bones are more flexible.

Did you by any chance suffer any kind of hand injury? Apparently breaking the clavicle is common coming off a bike if you put your hand down, but that's instinctive (I was lucky recently that I was still holding the flat bars when I hit the ground, and was a lot slower).

You may never know exactly why you came off this time (why you got to the grass in the first place). Maybe you were pushing your speed right to the limit of the grip on a bend and hit a bad bit of road, or instinctively dodged something. Maybe you were very close and the wind shifted. Maybe tiredness contributed. Trying to hop back onto the road was a bold move that I couldn't carry off, but many people could and you know your own skills. Maybe it would have worked but for continuing bad luck.

When you get back on the bike, you'll have to build up gradually. You won't be as fast, as flexible, or as fit (even if the medics allow you to do some trainer work as part of your recovery - you may even be encouraged to at the later stages but). Go out with a group, but a slower one, and people you trust not to push you too hard until you're ready - buddies are great for confidence. Start with decent riding conditions - if you're in the Northern hemisphere that's easy as you'll be out in the summer. Know that you've got to look after yourself. And see a good physio, preferably one who specialises in injured athletes.

Right now you're not in a good place, but as you get back out and ride you'll be able to make a full recovery from the mental as well as the physical trauma.

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    I was 16, sure much lighter but the same height. However, your point is taken. No real hand injuries, just scrapes, I think I landed on my forearm mostly. Judging by my bike shorts I slid a fair distance. – Pete B. Feb 28 '18 at 12:42
  • Probably at 16, apart from bouncing more easily, you were more used to falling over (school sports and the general rough and tumble of youth) and you probably weren't clipped in. Landing hard on your forearm can certainly send the impact straight up – Chris H Feb 28 '18 at 20:26
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I ruptured my achilles, and was out 6 months before I could cycle, 1 year before return to martial arts.

Pay attention to your recovery. Treat it as seriously as you do your training. If you can do any training on the trainer with permission of doc/pt, even if it is minor, do it. Walk, aqua jog, whatever you can do to preserve aerobic capacity and muscle mass.

Pay a lot of attention to diet. You are healing, and don't have a training load anymore, so you need to eat clean and make calories count.

Find a hobby. Even if temporary, you will have a lot of unaccustomed downtime. You will need something to fill those hours or you will go batso.

Gusty winds cause even the best to go down. Hope you heal fast and well.

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Time to learn - strong side winds are horrible for anyone on a bike, and this gets worse if your bike has aero rims. So you have to figure out what went wrong and avoid doing that, or change things to avoid being in that situation again. Perhaps take the lane a little more, and stay away from the edge and thus from parked cars and so on.

Personally in a strong wind I tend to stay well away from the side of the road. If it had happened to me, I might have slowed down in a straight line on the gravel and then manoevered slower back to the tarmac. I would not have unclipped, but I might have done a small two-wheel bunny hop by rotating the wrists and ankles to lift the bike and place it on the sealed tarmac. Its hard to know, easy to be wise after the fact.

You will need to replace your helmet, and give your bike a good check over for damage or misalignment.

As for the triathlon, you're probably withdrawing from this year. If you want to be involved can you volunteer at a feed station or as a marshall? That way you'll still be connected with the event.

Plan your training for next year's event - you have ~13 months. See if there's something similar in 6-10 months from now to act as a test. Stick to this training plan.

Consult with a physio too - ideally one that does sports physio so they are aware of the differences.

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