Weather Forecast


Nathan's column: Dangerous rides, inside and out

Riding a bicycle has its share of dangers. Every time a cyclist hits the road, he's trusting his well-being to a pair of skinny tires, a bunch of sometimes-sketchy pavement and roads full of drivers that don't always seem to consider his continued existence a priority.

My brother has been hit by a car while riding his bike. My dad has finished no fewer than two rides with broken bones. My step-father once broke his hip while biking in Toronto, and my mom suffered a concussion while riding from the hospital back to her hotel for a change of clothes. Boy, were the doctors surprised to see her come back in an ambulance.

Reading that paragraph, I feel like I?need to spend more time riding alone.

I've had my own share of mishaps on a bike. Once, my front tire came off while I was riding and I went flying over the handlebars. Fortunately, I was young and resilient. When I was a junior in high school, I hit a patch of sand going down a hill and my bike went out from under me. I somehow ended up on my feet. It is the single most athletic thing I have ever done, and I have no idea how I pulled it off. And, of course, there were no witnesses. If I'd had video, I definitely would have put it on YouTube. You know, if YouTube had existed when I was in high school.

Since I started riding seriously, the worst thing that's happened was the time I lost control crossing the Stone Arch Bridge in Minneapolis and went flying into a railing. I had bruises up and down my side for weeks.

It was one of my less athletic moments. It also would have been pretty awesome on YouTube.

For the most part, those dangers disappear when you move your riding inside. Get on a stationary bike and you don't have to worry about nasty potholes, and oncoming traffic is nearly never a concern.

Before last weekend, I would have said it was impossible to crash a stationary bike. And I would have been very wrong.

It happened Saturday morning. My brother and I were taking a cycling class. Participants bring their own bikes and hook them into trainers that provide resistance to the rear wheel and measure power output. It's a bring-your-own hamster-wheel kind of thing.

I've been to the class many times, and while it's often exhausting, I?never would have pegged it as a risk to my continued well-being.

I'm still not sure what went wrong. We had just started warming up when my brother's bike came loose from his trainer. He went over to his left. He fell onto me. I went over too, out into open space. By the time I knew what was happening I was in my side. One foot was still clipped into the pedal. The cleat that connected my other foot to the pedal had ripped out of my shoe altogether. Once I got up, I realized my rear wheel was bent. My ride was over. Somehow, the most damaging crash of my riding career happened while I was moving exactly zero miles per hour.

My brother suffered some cuts on his shin, probably from my bike. it serves him right. He finished the class, though. Then he discovered one of his spokes was broken.

My shoulder was sore the next day. So was my hip. I had a bruise on my calf. I'll be OK, though. The company that puts on the class will pay for a new cleat on my shoe and a new wheel on my bike.

Still, I can't help but wish my brother had fallen the other way. Not so much because it would have protected me, but because there were six other people lined up in that direction. It could have been awesome.