Archive for July, 2013


Broken Ribs

They say that there are three or four things that anyone who wishes to be considered a “serious” cyclist must never do.

The first is that you should never forget whether there are three or whether there are four things that you must never do. A Serious Cyclist would never forget that. It would be a totally bad show if you thought that there were only three things that a serious cyclists never ever does and, lo and behold, it turns out that there is this fourth thing out there that you should have been worrying about along with the other three things. Not knowing that there is a fourth thing to worry about means that you are backsliding on your obligations to the public as a Serious Cyclist as well as it being a virtual guarantee that you are blithely doing that forbidden fourth thing week-in and week-out, much to the disgust of the arbiters of style on your weekly group ride.

I think that the Fourth Thing That a Serious Cyclist Never Does has something to do with wireless power meters or Strava. I don’t remember.

Anyway, firmly listed among the Three Things That I Can Remember That A Serious Cyclist Never Does is this: thou shalt not wear a facsimile of the Yellow Jersey that is traditionally worn by the leader of the Tour de France. That one is carved in stone. And a corollary to the No Yellow Jersey rule is this: thou shalt not do a solo training ride on a yellow bike with yellow wheels and yellow trim that looks a whole heck of a lot like a bike that the Yellow Jersey might choose to ride into Paris on the final day of the Tour de France, especially if that solo training ride occurs, just by coincidence, on the actual final day of the Tour de France.

Simple, really.  It is a rule that is designed to keep you from looking like a total tool to your fellow cyclists and to John Q. Public who, by the way, already thinks that anyone in Lycra on a racing bike is a freak and a TdF wannabe. How iron-clad a rule is this? Let me put it this way: Miguel Indurain, Bernard Hinault, and Greg Lemond are all actual winners of the Tour de France and yet they rarely, if ever, slip on one of their old Yellow Jerseys to go for a ride with the guys. I mean, each one of these guys has won a closet full of Yellow Jerseys and….yet….they Respect the Rule.

So given that actual Tour winners wouldn’t be caught dead riding around in a Yellow Jersey during Tour de France time, it would be very fair to ask just what I was doing this past Sunday, on the final day of the 2013 Tour de France, wearing a Yellow Jersey and riding a fancy yellow bike. The answer is “Popping Percoset and nursing two broken ribs and a bruised lung, which is the rather steep price that one may be asked to pay for thumbing your nose at The Three Or Maybe Four Things That a Cyclist Must Never Do Ever.”

In fact, I am taking another Percoset right now.

First, the jersey. Yes, I had a yellow jersey in my closet. In my defense, it was not one of those sad copies of “the” Yellow Jersey that you can get from World Cycling Productions or wherever. It was a plain yellow Coolmax jersey that I just sort of accumulated a while back. I did not buy it myself; I think that it was a gift from someone who didn’t know any better. I honestly don’t remember. But because it was that color I never wore it. Ever. So it sat in my closet for several years until this past Sunday, when I dug it out because nothing else was clean. I do remember chuckling to myself as I pulled on the jersey, thinking “Sheesh, I look like a total Fred. I really hope that I don’t bump into anyone that I know while wearing this thing.”

As fate would have it, me and my Yellow Jersey would be meeting lots of people very shortly.

As for the bike….well, I like yellow. For 49 weeks of the year the fact that my bike is a screaming shade of yellow with matching yellow wheels doesn’t raise an eyebrow among the fashionistas.

Tires pumped, Garmin zeroed, water bottles filled, I rolled out for what I expected to be a smooth spin down toward Lorton, Virginia. My first waypoint: the local Army base, Fort Belvoir.

If you are going to crash or otherwise fall off of your bike while riding around Fort Belvoir, as I did this past Sunday, let me strongly recommend to you that you have your accident over by the Officers Club. Seriously. First, if you crash during the morning hours when their justly-famous Sunday brunch is being served you are almost guaranteed to draw an appreciative crowd. And you certainly don’t want to be to going to all that trouble of losing some skin or breaking some bones if no one is there to fully appreciate your efforts. Especially the kids. Kids love bike wrecks. The bloodier the better.

Second, your Officer’s Club audience is remarkably well-equipped to come to your aid once you stop skidding along the pavement amid a cloud of broken bike components and carbon fiber shards.  Hitting a pot hole and doing a swan dive for the asphalt can happen anywhere, but if you do it while riding along one of the many delightfully shady residential streets adjacent to the Officers Club there is a reasonable chance that, like me, you may end up deposited on the ground in front of the stately brick home of the Chief of Surgery for the base hospital. You may also get to meet his neighbors, the Hospital Administrator and the Chief of Internal Medicine, as they pitch in and help to keep the EMT guys on their toes as they scrape you off of the road and heave you into the back of the ambulance. I mean, the crowd that eventually gathered around my twitching and bleeding form was so ridiculously well-credentialed that I half expected to see the Archbishop of Canterbury, Physicist Stephen Hawking, and the transplant team from Johns Hopkins Hospital milling about.

More to the point, given the impressive accomplishments of the inhabitants of this particular neighborhood, I quickly realized that it was probably not lost on anyone in the large crowd that had gathered to help the poor cyclist that I had violated The Three (Or Was It Four?) Things That All Serious Cyclists Must Know. Yes, I had let the side down very badly by crashing so spectacularly and so publicly while wearing a Yellow Jersey on the final day of the 2013 Tour.  My shame as Serious Cyclist was complete; there was no hiding what I had done.  What was worse, the fallout from my heinous breach of one of cycling’s most fundamental rules of style followed me into the back of the ambulance; lying there on the gurney while the EMT’s tried to stabilize me I was greeted by a cacophony of of beeping and flashing equipment as the Emergency Poseur-Detectors started going off. But the EMT’s didn’t need their equipment to know what I had done. Indeed, the EMTs were the harshest judges.

Each EMT was a Serious Cyclist.

Each EMT had memorized the Three or Four Things That A Serious Cyclist Must Never Do Ever.

Each EMT knew there was, in fact, a Fourth Thing That A Serious Cyclist Must Never Do Ever.

Each EMT knew exactly what I had done.

One EMT, grinning sarcastically as he cut away the shredded and tattered Yellow Jersey from my painfully bruised torso, asked if I rode a lot or whether I was a just “a weekend warrior,” the latter words thrown down like a gauntlet. I normally would have kicked him right in the balls for a comment like that except for the fact that the act of just sitting there and breathing was painful enough without adding in the extra movement that would have been necessary to get in a good swift kick.  Plus, the EMT had taken the advance precaution of strapping my legs down on the gurney. The EMT cackled and merrily returned to his task of stripping me of my unearned Yellow Jersey like a soldier being broken in the ranks.

Duly chastened, I was deposited at the base hospital where I was told by a phalanx of doctors that despite the seriousness of my Crime Against Cycling Style I had gotten off rather lightly this time: two broken ribs, bruised lungs, and a small pneumothorax that earned me an overnight stay in the surgical wing.  But, to remind me of just how heinous a crime I had committed, I was issued the Yellow Hospital Socks of Shame. You see, this particular hospital color codes its patients, issuing them socks and a bracelet fob in the color that matches the particular medical risk assessment assigned to a patient.

I was deemed to be a code “Yellow” – a moderate risk of falling.

The Yellow Socks Of Shame


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