One of the greatest things about living where we live (and my parents living where they live) is that we can cruise on up to their house pretty much exclusively on a paved bike trail. On one such day Bree and I rode up to their house for dinner.
As we rode, we approached a man on an old mountain bike slowing down for the stupid gates they put up on the trail in order to keep bikes from cruising across the road with no regard to traffic. We watched as he struggled to navigate through the opposing fences, running into one has he made the tight turns.
As I slowed down and prepared to un-clip because the man had pretty much come to a halt, something didn’t feel right. After a quick twist of my left heel, it still felt oddly… attached. Another twist – and nothing. My foot wasn’t coming out. I was nearly stopped now, and somewhat panicked as I tried to stay upright. I was determined to keep my record of being the only clipless rider I know that has not fallen due to an unclipping issue. Trying harder and harder to unclip,I suddenly knew very well what the problem was.
As some back story, the day after we returned home from our bicycle tour, we spent from dawn until well into the night cleaning and repairing our bicycles and camping gear until we were exhausted. I must have been somewhat careless about reattaching the bike cleats to my shoes at the end of that very long day.
It turns out when I put my cleats back on, one of the screws didn’t get tightened appropriately and in the subsequent rides the bolt which attached the cleat to the sole of the shoe had loosened and finally fallen out. Thus, without one screw, my shoe was merely pivoting around the cleat, eliminating any chance of freeing my foot from the pedal.
So there I was – knowing that my foot was not going to come out, but already leaning too far toward my left foot to avoid a crash. There was no way for me to shift my weight toward my right foot, and I knew very well that I was going down – even as I was still hoping a final twist of my heel would release the cleat. And with that, the left side of my body hit the gravel that lined the trail.
It turns out that due to my frantic foot twisting, I didn’t go down as one normally might in such a situation. I ended up with practically sitting on top of my bike, with my large chainring nestled safely in the crook of my knee. Unfortunately this landing proved catastrophic as each individual tooth of the chainring punctured my calf and lower hamstring, leaving 9 or so bloody, grease-filled holes.
Reaching my parents house was a shorter ride than turning around, so we decided to ride the rest of the way. We were late for dinner, anyway. With each strained pedal stroke more blood and grease would ooze out of the holes, attracting stares from the other cyclists and joggers that we passed along the trail. My muscles didn’t feel like they were working quite right (go figure), so the going wasn’t as fast as I might have hoped.
Arriving at my parents’ and asking for a camera and a first aid kit, I got to work. With my family crowding around as I scrubbed and dug bits of grease out of my holes for several minutes, I realized just how injured I really was. It appeared as though I’d been bitten by a small shark.
We debated the possibility of stitches, but decided to hope for the best. Five weeks later it is looking much better – just a series of 3 or 4 dark scars which look strangely like a shark bite. Bree dubbed me “shark bait” and I think it just might stick.