The red badge of clumsiness

This isn’t what I’d planned to write about today.

I was going write about how nice it is when the kids are back in school and most of the tourists have gone home. And for the first time since Memorial Day, we can actually use the bike path along the beach for its intended purpose.

Granted, I still had to dodge the occasional pedestrian on yesterday’s ride. And twice I was nearly hit head-on by cyclists who allowed their attentions to wander, along with their handlebars.

But compared to a few weeks ago, when it was choked with kids and pedestrians and skaters and Segways and beer-swilling recumbent-renting tourists, it was paradise. And it should stay that way as long as the weather holds out.

That’s what I was thinking about, mentally writing while I rode, when I realized I’d sucked down the entire contents of my twin 24-ounce Polar water bottles.

Fortunately, I was on San Vicente at that point, on my way back home. And I knew there was a drinking fountain on the wide, park-like median, just around a sweeping curve where the hill levels out for a bit.

So I made sure there was no traffic behind me, crossed over two lanes of traffic to the center of the roadway and clipped out of my right pedal to pull my front wheel up onto the grass. But before I could clip out of my left pedal, I heard cars approaching from behind — and I knew they wouldn’t be looking for a bike on the left side of the road with one wheel sticking out into traffic.

No problem. I just pulled my rear wheel up over the curb without unclipping my left foot, a move I’ve pulled off dozens of times.

Make that dozens, minus one.

Instead of climbing the curb, I started a slow motion fall to my left. And with my foot locked into the pedal, there was nothing I could do about it.

Fortunately, I didn’t land hard. I twisted out and jumped up, pulling my bike out of traffic and waving to another rider to say I was okay. Then I calmly filled my bottle and gave my bike a once over.

Everything looked fine, except I’d twisted the saddle. So I dug into my tool kit, pulling out a handful of hex keys — which explained why I can never seem to find one at home — and a few moments later my bike was ready to go.

And that’s when I saw the blood.

Evidently, my front cog had gouged my calf as I fell, and I had rivulets of blood running down into my sock.

I thought about just riding home like that. But aside from matters of health and hygiene, I wasn’t looking forward to the well-meaning drivers who pull up a little too close and ask, “Are you sure you’re okay?”

Been there, done that.

So I pulled a couple of alcohol swabs out of my first aid kit and wiped the cuts off, revealing a couple of deep, long cuts. Unfortunately, my sweaty, hairy legs meant there was no way a bandage was going to stay on until I got home. And yes, that’s one reason many cyclists shave their legs.

I pulled a pen knife out of my tool kit, sterilized the blade with another swab, and gave myself a dry field shave. Which felt about as good as it sounds.

Still, the bandage stuck well enough until I made it back home.

Once I got there, I gave my calf a proper shave, cleaned the cuts out and slapped on a clear bandage that virtually disappeared against my skin. Only this time, it made sense to shave my legs — both of them — rather than live with an odd bald spot until it grows out again.

Again, been there, done that.

So for once, I look like I’m fresh off the peloton. And maybe now those riders on the high-end Ti and carbon bikes will stop giving me that dismissive look after glancing at my formerly hirsute lower extremities.

I just wonder how long it will take my wife to notice.


Will stops at a red light, and notices history at his feet. The Tucson Bike Lawyer notes the online comments following the recent rundown of seven cyclists; apparently, it’s the responsibility of cyclists to stay the hell out of drivers’ way, rather than drivers to operate their vehicle safely. A Des Moines cyclist is struck by a hit-and-run driver; police say it wasn’t an accident. Somehow, I missed this NPR story on biking in NYC, featuring the famous Bike Snob himself. After DC authorities removed a ghost bike without informing the family, cyclists respond with 22 new ghost bikes and promise to replace them if they’re removed. More on the death of Toronto cyclist Darcy Allen Sheppard, murdered by a former Ontario AG. The Guardian asks if ghost bikes are a good idea. Finally, that’s what I get for being the last living human not using Twitter — apparently, Lance is leading cyclists through L.A.’s Griffith Park as I type this, and I’m not there.


  1. It doesn’t surprise me that you ride prepared, but it’s good to hear you pack a first aid kit. Since bandages always lose in the battle to protect sweaty cuts, I now carry a small roll of gauze to wrap around any riding wounds.

    PS. I heard about Lance’s ride late yesterday. I’m not there either, dammit.

    • bikinginla says:

      Good idea. I’ll add some to my kit today. And I’ve got some of that stretching cling tape nurses use to hold bandages in place; a little of that wouldn’t hurt, either.

  2. tracywilkins says:

    Been there and done that! The last time I did it I was stopping to pick up a bungee cord along the highway. Pretty embarrasing, but all you can do is grin at those who saw you go down.

    I’ve never gotten around to carrying a first-aid kit with me on the bike. We had one in the bag on the tandem for a while, but it kept coming open and spilling the contents. It doesn’t do me much good sitting on workbench in the garage, does it?

    • bikinginla says:

      I solved the spillage problem by buying a 99-cent first aid kit that came in a hard plastic case, throwing out the contents and refilling it with my own. Then I stuffed it in a heavy duty ziplock to help keep it closed and maintain sterility in my admittedly less than sterile seat bag.

  3. Brent says:

    Glad to hear the injuries were small.

    My own Labor Day “rite of passage” was to be hit by a car, tires screeching, etc., on Los Feliz Boulevard. Fortunately, after all that, it turned out to be a low speed accident. I’m left with some road rash — although I’m going in for a checkup today — and about $250 damage to the bike.

    The crash certainly did nothing to help my relatives understand why I ride L.A. streets.

    • bikinginla says:

      Man, that sucks. Hope you and your bike come out of it okay. If you drive, check with your car insurance carrier; you may be covered on your bike, as well. And homeowners/renters insurance may cover damage to your bike, though your deductible is probably over $250.

      Road rash sucks…

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