Thursday, March 18, 2010

A bad spill

I was an active bikerider from childhood through college, including making the 7+ mile trip to the university each morning by bike for three years, and going almost everywhere else by bike, in Long Island traffic. The last few years I've gotten back into biking since I've been healthier, and it's good exercise, and fun. So all told, I've got a lot of biking experience under my belt. I've taken my share of spills and gotten my share of scrapes, but so far I've never had a broken bone (from bike spills or anything else), or anything else serious.

Last night, though, I had the most serious bike fall I've ever had. Even so, I got off pretty easy. Nothing that won't be fully recovered in a week or two, no broken bones, no sprains or strains, no cuts that needed stitches, and no lasting harm (except to my sunglasses). But I'm still an unhappy camper today, covered in bandages and 4x4s.

In addition to some basic skinned knuckles (despite wearing bike gloves), I've got three major areas of bandaging. The least bad is my elbow which got a fairly routine, though nasty, scraping.

The area that looks the worst is my cheek. Remember how I wondered about cheap versus good sunglasses, and last year, finally decided to buy good sunglasses -- RayBan Aviators at about $100? The hope was that they'd last a good long time and not degrade while I had them like cheap ones do. Well, they didn't degrade: on the last day I had them, they were as clean and scratch-free as the first. However, real glass lenses also break if you hit them hard enough, and I did. A few of the little broken bits of glass cut up my cheek, fortunately pretty shallowly, but it sure looked ghastly because it took me quite a while to recover from the crash, recover the dog, get my phone working, call for a rescue, wait for the rescue to come, and then get loaded into the car. By then the whole side of my face and beard were covered in blood, but the cuts themselves were few and shallow.

But what hurts by far the most is my left knee, which got scraped and also bruised deep down into the muscle. The muscle bruising means I can walk on it just fine but if I happen to turn just slightly wrong it hurts like the dickens. Getting in and out of chairs is far worse than walking, even up and down stairs; and getting in and out of bed is the worst. It also made it very hard to sleep since I had to stay on one side all night long (which I just can't do) and there were very few positions that didn't trigger one of those twinges of pain. I am yawning more today than on my 36-hour day.

This makes two dog-related bike injuries in a year, so even with the Springer ensuring that 99% of the time Socks can't knock me down while we ride, I can't keep exercising her this way without making some kind of change. 99% still means 2-3 bad falls a year which is way too many: it's inevitable I'll do some lasting harm eventually that way. Knee pads might be a good start, but I really need some way to avoid falling entirely.

The first thing is to not use the retractable leash as a backup leash. Last night, I had recovered from the first tug (which broke the Springer's breakaway) but got knocked down (and bad) by the second tug on the retractable leash which was hooked to the handlebars (very bad idea, in hindsight). I use the second leash as a backup to avoid her running off if she breaks the breakaway, since she's not adequately trained in "come" (nowhere near enough to counter the attractions of places she hasn't smelled yet, let alone the possibility of squirrels).

However, in this case, it was my downfall (pun intended). If I hadn't had it, I might have had to chase her in the woods; worst case, she would have gotten away and we would have had a stressful while to wait for someone to follow her tags and microchip to return her to us. But I wouldn't've taken the fall. And if she were well-trained in "come" it wouldn't even have been that. So the best solution is probably to train her assiduously in "come" and then take her with just the Springer's leash (always carrying both a regular leash and a spare Springer breakaway with me), so if she gets free, I can recover her and get her back onto the Springer.

I'm not sure if that would be enough. The scare of how much worse that fall could have been has me worried that the Springer isn't enough even without the second leash, and even with kneepads added in. Trouble is, I don't have an alternative exercise method for her, beyond what we did all winter: hope she exercised herself enough in the yard. (It worked all winter, though. Maybe it would work in summer as well. It's tempting: these daily bikerides with her are exhausting, and a strain in how much time they take, even discounting the pain and risk of more falls.)

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