Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

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gentlegreen
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Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby gentlegreen » 17 Dec 2010, 2:18pm

I've been on the road on two wheels for 33 years now - 23 years ago I ditched the engine.
I'm 50 years old, 6 foot 2 and 18 stone so my bike is a roadified Giant ATX830 mountain bike with extra-strong wheels.
I cover 9 1/12 miles a day in rural / suburban conditions , and over the past couple of years have done quite a few 40 to 50 mile Sunday group rides.
I treat my commutes - especially homeward-bound as exercise and can reach 25 to 30 mph downhill.

I thought I had safety down to an art - especially recently... brakes, tyres .. though I confess I have until recently spent a disproportionate amount of time on making myself lights better than a motorcycle's.

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Unfortunately I neglected the fork. A rather basic Suntour suspension fork which I tightened right up as soon as I bought the bike as I avoid dropping off kerbs - let alone riding downhill in rocky terrain. Over the years, the seals dislodged, for a while one of the legs was filled with mud .. though a couple of years back I plucked up the courage to take them apart (I'd assumed they would be filled with oil and would never go back together again and I was amazed when I found they were just a lump of rubber and a spring ...

But they never actually caused me any problems, and I was nervous of tackling the task of replacing them - though the last couple of years on Sunday rides with people riding lighter bikes meant I was on the cusp of biting the bullet.

But I left it too long. In nine years I confess I had never so much as greased the steering bearings - perhaps something left over from the last bike I'd rebuilt - a Norton Commando - which had over-engineered sealed units - but there was never anything to indicate they "needed doing".

But 20,000 miles of riding all year round with just a half guard and a crud-catcher and all that time, mud, salt and water had been thrown up inside the steerer tube, gradually eating away at the steel... until last Monday when it failed - just above the bottom bearing and I suddenly found myself on the floor with no recollection of the minutes that led up to the event.

Image

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Somehow I managed to hurt the whole of the right side of my face - from a bruise on my temple down to a cut on my chin that needed five stitches - which was probably caused by some part of my bike as we hit the ground in a heap - cartoon style.

This is what I looked like when I got back from the hospital :-

http://img195.imageshack.us/img195/980/smashedup.jpg (not a pretty sight)

As it happens I had a very lucky escape. I was pedalling uphill and there were no following cars. Outside of the school run season I might have been doing nearly 30mph as the section follows a steep hill.

I was concussed and taken to hospital, but a CT scan revealed nothing obvious and 4 days later I'm well on the mend and hopefully the scar on my chin won't show....

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I've been a helmet wearer for quite a few years, but on Sunday rides, and when the sun's out, I have recently taken to leaving it off, and on my journeys home from work back in the autumn I was finding it even more entertaining than usual when interacting with often younger people trapped inside their steel boxes, to reveal my age via my thinning grey hair. (It was also partly an experiment to see if I got more respect that way - and to help "sell" cycling ...)

I was fortunately wearing a helmet on Monday

Image

The edge of it clearly hit some part of my bike which might otherwise have contacted my right temple or my eye directly.

I was knocked out and it was fairly dark, so I can't recall all the details.

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As I say, a freak accident which I don't anticipate ever happening again - and my helmet would probably not have prevented neck injury if I'd been going faster.

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[XAP]Bob
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby [XAP]Bob » 17 Dec 2010, 6:32pm

Ouch - hope you get better soon.

There is a small amount of crushing on the highlighted area, so some energy absorption took place.
It does look like you had a decent "not my face" impact though, although there was a lot of face impact as well...
A shortcut has to be a challenge, otherwise it would just be the way. No situation is so dire that panic cannot make it worse.
There are two kinds of people in this world: those can extrapolate from incomplete data.

George Riches
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby George Riches » 17 Dec 2010, 6:51pm

Perhaps steerer tubes need to be taken out and examined every 10,000 miles?

On one bike I had nasty rust holes developed at the bottom bracket after 11,000 miles. But that was easy to spot. Also the bike had a manufacturing flaw - holes for bolt-ons were left unplugged and there was no hole at the bottom to let water out.

The bottom of your steerer tube wasn't blocked by mud was it?

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gentlegreen
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby gentlegreen » 17 Dec 2010, 7:00pm

[XAP]Bob wrote:There is a small amount of crushing on the highlighted area, so some energy absorption took place.
It does look like you had a decent "not my face" impact though, although there was a lot of face impact as well...

My thought is that mostly it stopped my temple being punctured and kept my face off the road a bit. I was out cold for a few seconds though and then hazy for a bit - the first time in my life I'd experienced anything like that - apart from fainting when I was younger.

The main problem with this particular scenario was the extreme speed with which I hit the deck due to the sudden transfer of momentum.

I've only come off a few times in 23 years and always fell well - the most elegant example was when I first had the bike and grabbed the front (disc) brake too hard and perfectly taco-ed the front wheel on the way over - thus dumping a lot of energy before I actually left the bike.

Though I've only been wearing a helmet for maybe 10 years or so, I have never cycled without gloves. A key reason is the thought that they would give me the confidence to use my hands to protect myself if I came off - a similar reason I would never drive a car without sensible shoes.

... it's the sort of incident that might make some people take up religion.
In my case it will make me take regular maintenance even more seriously, and give some more thought to how I can keep following cars even more in control.

As it was, the car driver who was following was kind enough to insist I put what was left of my bike in the back of her car - I promptly lost consciousness in her passenger seat on the way to my workplace.

An Audi too. :)
Last edited by gentlegreen on 17 Dec 2010, 7:11pm, edited 1 time in total.

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gentlegreen
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby gentlegreen » 17 Dec 2010, 7:10pm

George Riches wrote:The bottom of your steerer tube wasn't blocked by mud was it?

No - I never use it off road and it was just a gentle build-up over time. Really nothing to see even recently when I actually started regularly turning my bike upside down for a weekly clean and oiling.

It's why initially I assumed it was water building up inside the frame tube - but we would be talking about a good inch .. the top bearing was rusty though - I lost the bottom one or any seal - there certainly wasn't any grease to hold water in !.

Though alloy and steel components are clearly electrically bonded where they fit together, I do wonder if some electrolytic activity could happen once a layer had built-up ...

Rest assured I will be greasing or painting my steerer tubes from now on - as well as specifically cleaning them.

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Steve Kish
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby Steve Kish » 17 Dec 2010, 7:28pm

I had a similar bump earlier this year when I hit a tree root in Swinley Forest. My helmet certainly saved me and even with it on, I had a decent wallop that put me out for a few seconds. It actually felt like my head was hit about 4-5 times in rapid succession. Helmet was a Lidl one, so just threw it away.

FWIW, please do not interpret this as a 'we should all wear helmets' posting. This is just a story from someone who believes in freedom of choice.
Old enough to know better but too young to care.

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gentlegreen
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Re: Freak accident - helmet may have prevented serious injury

Postby gentlegreen » 17 Dec 2010, 8:25pm

Yes.

I suspect that come the summer I will confidently be enjoying group rides sans helmet again - depending on conditions. I may treat myself to a new bike though - just to be sure ...

My key rule recently has been that if I need to wear a hat due to the weather, I will wear a helmet - certainly during the cut and thrust of commuting. I'm fairly sure it makes me more consistently assertive though ...