Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Racing - Racer's Kit After The Crash

So now we know how the rider and the bike fared in the spill. What about the kit? You know, the shorts, jersey, helmet, shoes? Keep in mind that I fell on pavement at about 28 mph - that's when the SRM said the bike suddenly went to zero mph.

We'll go from toes to head.

Shoes are hit or miss in a crash.

In my case my shoes made it through unscathed. A few scratches on the buckle, a slight rub on a toe, but otherwise fine. Since it's the most expensive part of my kit I'm glad they're okay. Incidentally, I hadn't touched them since the EMT removed them in the ambulance. Or at the race, I forget which.

Nothing happened to my socks as far as I know. I was wearing some DeFeet Jelly Belly socks, an older version (when they wore red kits). I have a few pairs and I haven't tracked them down yet.

Next up, the shorts, made by Verge.

The shorts had minor damage. Check the first "E".

So minor that you can't really see it unless you turn it inside out.

Based on the minor damage and the minor amount of bleeding, it's no wonder that no one bothered to check my hip. Even I didn't think it was a big deal sitting on a gurney in the hospital. I chalked up my inability to walk properly that night to my cramped and tired legs, although the pain did seem a bit excessive.

I thought I was being a bit over-dramatic because a few mosquito bites on the front walk really motivated me to get moving. I mean, come on, if mosquitoes motivate me, it can't be that bad.

I just didn't realize how much I hate mosquitoes.

The pain felt pretty real, regardless of how I thought I should be acting. The day after the crash I totally broke down just trying to get into bed. That was when the missus decided that I should get my hip checked out.

I can't say enough about the Verge shorts. When I first started using the shorts, over 10 years ago, they were the best ones around, hands down. The Carpe Diem Racing team used them back in those days. We even had a similar incident to mine - one of the guys on the team fell on a twisty descent, sliding across a gravel driveway. He didn't look particularly hurt, but a gravel rock managed to dig its way into the guy's thigh. The shorts were untouched.

The team I'm on uses Verge gear, and I'm very happy with it. I actually have problems sitting on the trainer for too long in almost anything else, and I can't use any other bib shorts due to discomfort (I think I have 6 pairs of non-Verge bibs).

The shorts from the crash look good enough that I plan on keeping these shorts in my "outdoor" circulation, i.e. I'll wear them for outdoor riding.

The jersey. Made by Hincapie, it withstood the ravages of crashing relatively well.

The left shoulder, which got the brunt of my upper torso damage. Not bad, right?

The back. You can see where I had the nine (yes, nine!) pins on my number. All pinned the same direction. Looks like someone shot me with a shotgun.

Interestingly enough, I read on Joe Parkin's blog about the pre-Kermese rituals. Actually, I didn't really read all of it, because I realized that if I read it, I'd have to do it. And when he noted that all the pins have to be facing in the same direction... Well, I stopped reading.

Since I had the hardest ever crash after the one and only time I pinned my number on with all the pins facing in the same direction, I figure that my normal rituals work fine. One of the first things I did after the crash was to read Joe's post, this time to see what NOT to do.

Luckily there was nothing there for me.

This jersey, unfortunately, is now a trainer jersey. It's a bit too beat up for outdoor use, except maybe as a base layer.

I should mention that many racing publications recommend wearing a base layer, partially to offer two friction surfaces (base layer and jersey) that don't use human flesh. The alternative, and the two friction surfaces that I had, is having the jersey rub against the rider's skin. Although I am not a base layer kind of person, this fall has at least put the thought back in my head. We'll see if I do anything different next year.

I wore my trusty Mechanix gloves. They're long finger gloves meant for auto mechanics, but they work well for abrasion resistance in other venues. They came out fine, and my hands did too. I had one minor cut on top of a finger but that was it. I can't find them around here so no pictures, but there is no visible damage to them.

The helmet. I have only wrecked a half dozen helmets in my long and illustrious bike racing life (heh). The last one was back in 1992 or so, when I took a tumble in a now-extinct crit in Scotch Plains, NJ. It's been a while since I've felt foam dig into pavement, but I have to admit, it sounded way too familiar when I heard it two Tuesdays ago. Everything seemed familiar, the scraping, the impact, but with no extreme pain.

I am sorry to admit that I've fallen a few times without a helmet on, including some doozys. When I've impacted my head, the pain is just immense, overwhelming, something I'd never wish on anyone. Once safer helmets became the norm, I've only ridden twice without a helmet.

I just cannot imagine hitting the pavement with my skull. Just cannot.

When I fell I'd been wearing a helmet the missus gave me for my birthday, a Specialized S-Works helmet.

The back of the helmet.

It looks somewhat evenly crushed, no sharp impact point like a spear. Roads are broad, flat surfaces, and bike helmets are designed for them. Falling into a pointy sculpture or something would have much worse consequences.

The cracks include the right vertical brace, just above the strap.

Incredibly I did not impact the front or side of the helmet. Apparently I tucked enough to hit just the back. Or I flipped over or something. Whatever, I'll take it.

On the left you can see some slide marks. Sliding is good, snagging is bad.

I'm guessing my left shoulder's road rash was worse than my right because I impacted the right, slid on the left. Again, sliding is better. My left shoulder is completely healed. I can barely move my right arm, two weeks later.

Inside, you can see the cracks going all the way through the shell.

I've seen a number of pro helmets up close. One of the things that they do (or used to do) is hollow out the foam so that the helmet breathes better. Since pros can't choose their helmets (because the sponsor gives them a particular model), they make do by "customizing" helmets themselves. Some helmets are so violated by a pocket knife that it's amazing there's a helmet left at all.

Based on my experience with this and other helmets, I would strongly recommend NOT imitating the pros on that habit. Any reduction in foam material would reduce the helmet's effectiveness.

To Specialized's credit, I did not even get a bruise on my head. I plan on buying a replacement helmet, but I'll wait until the new models come out (check out colors and such). I won't be riding outside for a while, and I still have my Specialized Decibel. Next summer I should be wearing a new, well-ventilated lid.

So that's it. I did wear a cut up cap as a headband, but that's gone MIA.

As a bonus, I took a picture of my new piece of equipment. It's actually on loan from a friend of ours. Light aluminum, adjustable height, soft rubber tip, anodized gold, comfy grip, and even a wrist strap so if I drop it, it doesn't go anywhere.

No swords built into it, not even a blowgun, but it's anodized bling bling gold and it's adjustable.

I've played with the height (of course) and have decided on one that works well for me. Tall enough to work when going downstairs, short enough that I can hang it on the bathroom counter.

I looked briefly at it to see if I could get a blowgun out of it, or a pocket knife, but nothing really popped out at me.

However, I think there'd be room in it for a stack of AA batteries, and with a contact button in the rubber tip, I could put LEDs all up the shaft. It'd be a good safety feature, kind of like kid's blinkie shoes.

And, if you wanted, you could have a Down Low Glow shaft. Now that would be cool!


Chris_V said...

Specialized has a crash replacement program on their helmets. See here:

Aki said...

Thanks for the link (and it's legit, for everyone out there). I checked out the program shortly after I was thinking enough to realize that I only had one real working helmet left. I'll probably buy another Specialized, but I want to see what comes out on the market between now and whenever it gets hot out next year. I also decided I want a little less generic helmet, not a silver or grey, but I don't know what color I want yet.