The Crash


It’s the elephant in the room no one’s talking about

Crashing is horrific. Crashing really stinks. Even though the likelihood of crashing increases exponentially as our time on the bike increases – mostly we try not to think about hitting the pavement. This is probably because we are mortal – flesh and blood – and as we age gravity pulls harder. The formula looks like this:


Distance is a fixed value: the measurement from the top of your saddle to the pavement. [Sliding, bouncing or rolling distance after we strike the pavement are a different measurement altogether, and can be accounted for in the crash values discussed below] Impact is solely a relative value – so you could use either english or metric measurements. But for the sake of tradition and clarity I will use the metric system.*  If you are 20 years old and fall 75 cm to the pavement at 30 kph, your IMPACT VALUE is 2100. If you are 52, your IMPACT VALUE is 5460. This is why launching off your bike hurts more as you age. It is, in fact, 2 1/2 times worse. The numbers don’t lie.

What constitutes a legitimate crash?

bicycle-accidentThe Bicycle Must be Moving. For example, if you come to a stop sign, forget to clip-out and fall over…this is NOT a legitimate crash. Last year, after a punishing climb through a mountain pass I spied a convenience store with a flashing neon ice cream cone in the window. Mesmerized by this vision I rolled up to the front door and forgot to clip-out. I was saved only by hugging one of the posts holding up the front porch. Had I fallen over it would have been a violation of RULE 43: Don’t be a jackass. And of course, it wouldn’t have met the criteria for a crash. A fall is something altogether different.

Crash values are governed by several variables:

  • LEVEL 1 – bruises, road-rash not to exceed 12 sq cm, scraped handlebar tape and/or scratched pedals, one bounce followed by a slide no longer that 1 meter. No adjusted impact value.
  • LEVEL 2 – add torn shorts with max 24 sq cm road-rash beneath, two or more bounces followed by a 1-2 meter slide, abrasions on elbow or forearm with road grit, shifters or stem knocked out of alignment and moderate yard-sale: bottles, gels, iPhone strewn about the crash site. If you ride carbon, cracked or chipped bars and frame are a possibility. Adjusted impact value X 1.2.
  • LEVEL 3 – add speed in excess of 35 kph, collisions with other cyclists,  being run over by other cyclists, inverted bicycle and rider, trashed bars and wheels, destruction of cycling garments, dinner plate sized road-rash, cracked or broken helmet. Bounce and slide distances are pointless. Hospital visit is a wise idea. Your bike is pretty messed up. Adjusted impact value X 1.3.
  • LEVEL 4 – add terminal velocity above 45 kph, broken bones, internal injuries, family members and priest contacted. Extended hospital stay for psychological evaluation and treatment of injuries. Trash bike and start over. Adjusted impact value X 1.4.

Where do you rate?crash_p1

In a LEVEL 3 crash our 52 year old would multiply his impact value X 1.3 and would have an adjusted crash value [ACV] of 7098. Any interaction with a motor vehicle resulting in a crash or near-miss earns a 1000 point GLAD-TO-BE-ALIVE bonus.

Crashing is not something we brag about. Your ACV is for informational purposes only. You’re only allowed to talk about crashing for three reasons. FIRST, in therapy with a licensed counselor or in private conversation with your physician or other crash survivors. SECOND, you can write about it for the benefit of other cyclists…but try to speak in the third person whenever possible to avoid grand-standing. An excellent example can be found here. THIRD, if you have visible signs of road-rash or garment destruction and someone asks you what happened. In July I saw that my mechanic had LEVEL 3 road-rash from knee to ankle:

‘Hey Jonas, that’s some kinda road-rash, man’ ‘Yah, we were havin’ too much fun the other day’ ‘Is the bike okay?’ ‘Oh yah, no worries there’

This is how it’s done. 


Crash season is nearly upon us. In three more weeks it’ll be 40 degrees and we’ll be venturing out onto the road for our own personal spring campaigns.  CONDITIONS WILL VARY. There will be a lot of sand, water and road debris after four months of winter. During a spring ride I once encountered about 4 feet of perforated metal strapping with hundreds of wickedly sharp  teeth. In a lapse of vigilance I hit it and flatted. Thank God it didn’t get wound up in my wheels or drivetrain! Approach every ride with eyes wide open. [I still shudder to think about that stuff getting wound around my legs and the resultant garment destruction] Along with the temptation to hammer before we get enough miles into our legs, it’s easy to be enticed into descending our favorite hills at mid-summer speed. You’ve been warned.

My tire of choice during the early spring is the Vittoria Open Pave CG III [say that 3 times fast]. Unlike traditional racing tires it has a pretty agressive tread that excells in sand, grit and other debris. It’s also pretty durable. Continental also makes a Four Season model, but the Vittoria weighs less and comes in sick green.

In case you were still wondering about the *

Cycling was born in Europe. They use the metric system over there, and besides even in America road bikes and wheels are sized metric. Sense and sensibility cry out for consistency in this area. Besides, what sounds better: I rode 62 miles, or, I rode 100 kilometers?


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