Crashes used to have 4 stages:
Stage 1. The “Ahhhhh crap” stage.
This is that moment when you realize you will be hitting the ground very hard, very soon. Thankfully, time slows down under these circumstances so you can enjoy these little epochs like a scone with coffee. Sometimes, they feel so long that, heck, you could go back for a refill, wait for a barista to go on break, return, and then fill your cup. Case in point: when I crashed yesterday- from clipping my pedal and getting thrown sideways as if I was riding side saddle on the top tube- I literally had time to think, This is taking a while… there’s grass swooshing under my butt right now. This isn’t so bad. I might come in for a soft landing.
My train of thought was interrupted, however, by stage two.
Stage 2. The impact.
The shock of the hit and sometimes, the instantaneous pain of it. Sometimes the pain grows in the latter stages, but regardless where it enters the frame, I hate it (preaching to the choir, I know). Comes in all shapes, sizes, lengths of lacerations, diameters of bruises, and depths of fractures. You would think this would be the stage of the crash that makes me/us think about whether or not riding is really worth it. To me though, it’s not so bad as the eternal second(s) of stage 1.
Stage 3. The dust settling/body assessment phase.
Most crashes fall into the get-up-and-say, “&%#$ that HURT, but any crash you can ride away from is a good one I guess!” Some crashes are get-up-even-faster-because-you’re-about-to-be-run-over-by-your-tailgating-buddies. Still others force you to lay there regardless and figure out if all your limbs are working and in one piece (and whether or not you’ll be able to find your bike, let alone ride it home). Pain- if it’s going to grow- usually does so exponentially in this stage. Thankfully though, civilization is usually a mere ten to fifteen miles away at this juncture so as soon as you groan your way to your feet and wobble over to that poison oak bush that so thoughtfully snatched your bike out of the sky, you can climb aboard and forget all about your little meeting with the earth while pedaling merrily between bluebirds for the remainder of the ride.
Stage 4. The recovery phase.
I don’t remember this being all that significant before I was in my thirties, but you can put that down to memory loss as I’m sure it’s never been fun. Can’t sleep for the first few nights until things scab over, and the bruises seem to seek out marauding countertops and coffee tables to bash. This joyful stage starts with hunting down a washcloth that will be ok to ruin since you’ll be “steel-wooling” your dirt-crusted abrasions with it. But… give it a few days and usually we’re good to go; hopping back on our bikes.
Until we get to that point in our lives when we notice that frequently… we’re not good to go in a couple days anymore.
I remember the time I crashed on a little popper, coming down a fire trail in Briones a decade ago. It was no different than any other minor crash and yet… it was. Not AT the time, but rather FOR the time. Or- more specifically- for the amount of time it took to heal. I was 32 and after riding and crashing for pretty much my entire life (riding more often than crashing thankfully) I noticed one major difference after that one: I had the same abrasions and the same bruises, but the sad change was the ridiculous amount of time it took my body to feel normal again. Since that memorable crash at 32, I have been among the ranks of those riding studs who enjoy the distinguished 5th stage of crashing.
Stage 5. The what-the-hell!-this-is-taking-forever! phase.
This usually starts two weeks into stage 4 and can last for a surprisingly long time. Simply stated, crashing doesn’t hurt more as you age, it just takes more time to heal, so it hurts for longer. What used to take a week or two to get over now takes three weeks to a month. Two of my riding buddies went down at the beginning of the summer. It’s now late August and one is still on the mend, unable to ride, while the other was going so stir crazy, he hopped on his bike yesterday even though he was wearing a medical boot for his broken heel… and he’s the young’n in his mid-thirties!
So all you whippersnappers out there, enjoy your quick-healing years while you can because you’ll still love riding just as much in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s and later. The difference is that you’ll know you have the capability to do what you used to, buuuuuut… you might like riding so much you want to skip being laid up for a month or three.
And punching bluebirds in the face just for being happy while you wobble home bleeding is just not nice.