The distant sound of a garbage truck. The merry tweeting of birds. The low hum of rubber on road. It’s raining ever-so-lightly but still another glorious morning on the bike where life could barely be better. Until the crash. It’s my fifth ever. But the fourth in the just seven weeks and it’s fair to say I’m well over tasting bitumen. This time I’ve simply caught an edge on the uneven road surface and, well, you know the rest. As seems to happen every time, things slow to a standstill as gravity draws me inevitably towards the awaiting ground. Before my body impacts I already know this will be the least severe of my crashes. My speed is low. There’s no traffic. And the road is wet enough to ensure I’ll slide along the surface rather than grab hard into the tarmac.
Whilst for once I’ve managed to avoid a head impact, thus saving myself from yet another helmet purchase, it goes without saying I still get up bleeding. As I dust myself off in an all-too-familiar daze, I’ve once again donated a piece of my right elbow and knee to the local road system. A dull pain under my bike shorts also tells me I’ve earned a nice little bruise on my hip that in a few days will no doubt be reminiscent of the kaleidoscopic welts I often sported after opening the batting for my local cricket team in years gone by.
Ironically, whilst the physical damage is largely cosmetic, the ramifications for my beloved bike are easily the worst I’ve experienced. The levers and bars are heavily scratched. Several spokes in my favourite (and previously indestructible) carbon wheels are bent. The rear derailleur is currently sitting, of all places, above my cluster and has snapped clean in half. The seat-stay is cracked. And, worst of all, the integrated dropout is broken clean through. How does so much damage happen from such a stupid little accident?
As I stand there bleeding – literally and, yes, financially – it’s clearly unrideable. Lucky for me I’m only a few kilometres from home. I call my dad who just happens to be visiting from interstate and he fetches my sorry self from the roadside as rain begins to fall, summing up my melancholy mood.
My wounds heal quickly and I’m riding a borrowed bike in 48 hours. It’s okay, but not the same. I pine for my fallen steed. Then comes the really bad news. For the past year I’ve thought I was insured through my Cycling Australia racing licence. According to the fine print I am – but, alas, my bike is not. At this point my hip pocket begins to ache far worse than my body. No amount of physio can help either.
I haul the mangled mess of Italian-designed Taiwanese-made carbon to my LBS for an expert opinion. After much frowning and head shaking they suggest I contact a local carbon guru, who delivers yet more grim news. Yes it’s fixable. No it won’t be cheap. I’m faced with a difficult decision. Like any self-respecting cyclist the thought of a new bike carries plenty of appeal and sends my heart-rate racing. However the thought of a $3,500+ dent in my already strained finances brings it crashing back down.
Fix? Or replace? I agonise – and scour the internet – for 72 hours and ultimately decide to replace; I think about jumping ship to another brand but in the end settle on a newer model of the exact same bike. It’s a sad moment as I begin to strip down the broken beast which has served me loyally for the past 14 months, salvaging what I can from the groupset, and posting the rest for sale online including the fractured frame. They say one man’s trash is another man’s treasure; hopefully they’re right and I can recoup some of my losses to avoid eating baked beans for the next two months. At least I’m not married.
After several days the initial financial aftershock has begun to subside, and is replaced by an air of pragmatism. Not having a suitably capable bike simply isn’t an option. So off to the LBS I go once more to provide the manager with surely the easiest bike sale he’ll ever make. I know exactly what I want. I know my size. I know what it’s worth. We quickly agree a price. I slap down a deposit. The deal is done in a matter of minutes. Now I just have to wait for it to arrive which is proving to be torture in itself.
Oh, and arrange insurance of course.
(FOOTNOTE: No, I haven’t crashed again. I actually wrote this in January and never got around to posting it.)