• The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
  • The Eki Chronicles
    The Eki Chronicles A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Bikes, Cars, and Split Second Decisions

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b2ap3_thumbnail_PA020302.JPGIt was Friday afternoon and I was finishing out the work day talking with my co-worker about the week. A glance to the clock told me I needed to get going as my friend Quinn would be to my house shortly to borrow a hydration pack from me for the next day's Heck of the North that we'd both be competing in. The "Heck" is a 100+ mile gravel road race through northern Minnesota, it is not something to be taken lightly. I had prepared my Salsa La Cruz the night before for the event due to my Warbird suffering a worn out bottom bracket. The La Cruz was solid and ready to go, however I was not used to riding the bike and things were slightly different than what I was used to on the Warbird, especially the brakes. The Warbird has disc brakes, which require very little hand strength for a great deal of stopping power while the La Cruz uses traditional rim style brakes and in my case had cables that probably should have been replaced. The first thing I noticed on my ride into work was sticky brake cables that needed a stronger than usual grip to get real stopping power. This would later prove to be a critical factor in the moments following my departure from work last Friday.

"Have a good race", was the last thing my co-worker said to me as I walked out the door. Soon I was rolling out of the parking lot and into the neighborhood streets following an older model Subaru Legacy wagon. Coasting down hill at about 20 mph with a comfortable 2 car lengths between myself and the car things seemed very normal. The car in front of me gradually started to pull over to the right as if it had reached it's destination, so I began to veer left in order to give myself some space while I passed. At the moment that I closed the distance to the slowing car it suddenly took a sharp left back into the lane as if to make a U-turn. Shocked, I moved further left in an attempt to pass by the front of the car knowing the driver would stop once she realized I was behind. However, she seemed to be accelerating toward the curb in front of her and off to my left. I couldn't believe that she had not looked around her at all before trying to turn around in the middle of the road. It was clear to me that she intended to nose up to the curb in front of her (she was now perpendicular in the road), then back up a bit, and finally put it in drive and complete the turn around. My options were diminishing rapidly. I was closing fast on this car and my plan to "sneak" between the front bumper and the curb were now minimal. In a nanosecond I concluded that if I tried to slip between the curb and the front of the car I would most definitely be hit and pinched between the high curb on my left and the car. I decided that I needed to hop the bike up onto the curb, but I was running parallel to the curb making the hop up to it more difficult. What I feared most about the move was exactly what happened. My front wheel went up to the top of the curb without issue, it was the back that had problems. I was in such a situation with the front of the car closing in fast that I had no time to "load" the bike for the complete hop. As a result of the miscue my wheel began to slide along the edge of the curb as it fishtailed hard out to my right. I had no choice but to dab my left foot into the grassy boulevard in an attempt to bound one footed along side my bike, which at the rate of speed I was traveling this would prove to be a tough proposition. On the first dab my foot met with firm purchase followed by an 8 foot bound through the air with the bike still clipped into my right foot. As I sighted my landing I recall noting the heaved surface of the concrete and how I'd be hitting it's uphill slope. My foot seemed to only graze the side walk as the hard bottomed cycling shoe ricocheted off the wet cement.

The combined sounds I heard in the next instant were the clatter of a bicycle hitting and sliding down a hard surface, a whoosh of air as my lungs were instantly deflated upon impact, "ooooofffff"...the sound of my own voice, and the crunching of a full bag of potato chips - my ribs. I rotated into a chest down position and slid that way for about 10 feet.

Photo: Eki versus car. Eki loses, suffers 4 broken ribs.  I am in a new kind of pain and I've experienced pain before. The driver that caused the accident stared at me for about 40 seconds, then sped away. I tried to get the plate #, but the adrenaline was flowing and I couldn't concentrate.  I re mounted and rode several blocks wondering if I could ride the Heck of the North tomorrow.  The body's morphine began to wear off and I knew I was in trouble. A kind lady let me call Amy and as I was doing so I saw the driver go by again. She wouldn't look at me as I yelled at her. I'm so bummed out right now.

To my friends riding the Heck, have a good ride and ride a mile for me.

Eki

White hot pain seared through my upper left back and I was completely stunned. I sat upright in the middle of the side walk and began to rotate my shoulders in order to check that my collar bones were in tact, surprisingly they felt fine. I rose to my feet and turned to where the car sat perpendicular in the road just as it was when I careened over the curb in front of it. The driver stared at me as I yelled, "WHY?". I'm not sure what I wanted from her, but in that moment I don't think I was just asking her why she decided to pull an unexpected U-turn, but more of a "Why did you break my ribs?, Why did you just put me on the couch for weeks?, Why aren't you getting out of your car?, Wait...why are you driving away?"

I circled my bike about 3 times as I tried to make sense of what happened. I growled into the air as the pain seemed to ebb and flow in a way that made me light headed. With the adrenaline flowing I mounted my bike and began riding down the street one handed as extending my left arm caused excruciating pain. I worried about how uncomfortable I would be the next day riding the Heck of the North. My head was spinning after about 5 blocks of riding and it was then that I felt my ribs moving under my skin in "clicking" action. It was then that fear began to rise inside of me as I contemplated possible internal injuries. I tried to stay calm and focused on getting home. As I arrived at 27th Ave. W., a formidable hill, I knew that it would be impossible to ride up it in my condition. Just then a woman pulled into her driveway talking on a cell phone. As she emerged from her car I yelled to her, "Can you help me?"Photo: I'm almost through the night. I've never been in this world of pain before. It's gonna be a long road.

As I explained my situation to her the girl that put me on the ground 5 minutes earlier drove by again! I yelled out to her as she went past and I saw her avert her eyes from me while blasting on the gas, clearly uncomfortable with seeing me again. Seconds later I had Amy on the phone and she was on her way.

Amy shoved my bike in the back of the car as I slithered into the passenger seat muttering something about getting to the hospital now! Fortunately we live very close to where I went down, so we made a quick stop for my wallet and insurance information. I skidded down the sidewalk at approximately 3:55 p.m. and was talking to a nurse at 4:20 p.m. My case was a slam dunk for the staff on duty. I had the sense that I was the 4th broken rib case they'd seen that night. At one point I actually said to the R.N., "To me this is all very confusing and to you guys it's all pretty straight forward?". Her reply, "Yes". I left it at that.

Laying on the couch that night, a dull ache coursing through my whole body I replayed the situation over and over in my mind. The extreme impact my body took, the position of the car sitting in the road, and the look on the driver's face. Should I have tried to squeeze between the moving bumper on my right and the high curb on my left? Maybe I would have made it. Maybe I would have had my leg broken by the car and various other injuries? The questions never end. I made a split second decision, it didn't completely work out -or did it? Time to stop thinking about all the could've, should've and start thinking about getting back to business as quickly as I can. A good friend recently reminded me that "bones will heal and the pain will leave" and he's right.

So, now that it's all over maybe I should say "Thank you" to that girl in the car and let her know that "I'm motivated now more than ever."

Be careful out there guys.

-Eki

See you soon!

 

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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.

Comments

  • Guest
    http://www.pavegreen.org/vioper/5667 Kenn Paulson Monday, 13 October 2014

    You sure are an inspiration. I'm 56, from Appleton Wi. I just purchased a 2013 Warbird and have aspirations of some gravel grinding. I am really just getting started at this prime old age, I have started an exciting journey and can't stop thinking about it. I'm building a Salsa Squadron for myself. Salsa seems to be the bike co. that fits my character and passions. I have a Salsa Campeon road race bike, Chili Con Crosso, and now this Warbird. The next will be a fatbike. I could use some help with gear, components, equipment and much more. I would love to find pedals I could use with these bikes. My frogs are giving me trouble, was thinking of Crank Brothers candy's but wonder what you use/like. I saw you use a Garmin, is that what you use for each ride/bike? Kid said there are clinic's out there. I would be interested in that kind of stuff. Perhaps you could steer me into other worthy gravel events near Wi.? MY partner of 7 years is also a willing participant to adventure and I want to do whatever with her as well. We ride well together, a woman who doesn't complain. I would love to meet you one day and have a conversation. I admire your work and passion. I saw the blue collar label and relate well. I will try to follow your travels, best regards.

  • Guest
    explanation Tim Ek Wednesday, 15 October 2014

    Kenn, thanks for your comments here. Those bikes you mentioned are all excellent choices. To answer some of your questions, I use nothing but crank bros egg beaters, with one set of candy's. I do use a Garmin and I use it for all of my bikes, just a different profile set up for each bike.

    I'm not too familiar with gravel races in Wisconsin. I do know of quite a few in Minnesota, the Heck of the North, The Dirt Bag, The Almonzo, just to name a few. Go to Gravel Grinder's website, there's ton of good info there. I'd love to talk some day, keep riding, maybe we'll bump into each other at an event some day.

    Eki

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