The Big Spill
to go: 1,839.6
"Shouldn't we clean it
off first or something?" I ask David worriedly, as we survey the extent
of the damage. The wound, not yet an hour old, is still fresh and wet.
David nods. "We'll have
to be careful though," he says. "We don't want to abrade it
any further." And he goes off to the kitchen to dampen a couple of
towels. I remain on the sofa with my leg elevated.
toe clips were going to be trouble.
I knew it when we were
at the groovy Berkeley bike store last Saturday, measuring me for the
new bike. "Do I have
to have those things?" I whined, pointing at the weird configuration of
straps and buckles sprouting from the pedals. David and the Groovy Bike
Store Salesgrrl both assured me that toe clips were exactly what the
advanced cyclist needs. Toe clips give you more power. Toe clips give
you bunches more control. Plus toe clips make you look
cooler. (Basically, toe clips are the greatest invention since
"You'll be amazed how quickly
you get the hang of them,"
said the Groovy Bike Store Salesgrrl. "Then you'll wonder how you ever
got along without them."
But I wasn't convinced.
Somehow, locking my feet into place while I'm riding seemed like a
really, REALLY bad idea. I was going to have enough to get used to on
bike as it was, including twenty-seven new gear
combinations, an entirely different braking system and
the dreaded "hurty bar" (as opposed to the crotch-friendly top tube on
"Addie," my trustworthy Schwinn). Toe clips just seemed like one more
annoying -- and dangeous -- distraction.
"Careful," I wince, as
David applies the damp paper towels to the wound.
The inaugural ride on
the new bike was an abbreviated one: a quick couple of laps around the
abandoned Navy Base after work. I'd been waiting impatiently, ever
since we brought it home from the shop on Saturday night, to take my
new bike out on its maiden voyage. Rotten weather kept us indoors all
day Sunday. Monday, of course, we both had to work. So even though it
was already growing dark by the time we finally got home last night, I
was determined to test-drive my new toy.
And for the first
fifteen or twenty minutes of the ride ... it was glorious.
Yes, it felt weird --
and weirdly disloyal,
somehow -- to be riding something other than my little red Schwinn.
Yes, the frame geometry was unfamiliar: I'm not used to leaning forward
so far, nor to having my butt so high in the air. And yes, the toe
clips were a major distraction, just as I knew they would be. It was a
struggle to get my feet into them without losing my balance.
doing with the toe clips?" David shouted as we headed toward the
"I'm not a convert yet," I
But it was still the
finest bike ride of my life. I couldn't believe the difference that a
lighter, more streamlined bicycle makes. I felt fast and fleet and
lighter than air. Even riding into wind -- the worst part
bike-riding for me ordinarily, next to hills and sunburn and the
fudking Good Morning People -- was about a bazillion times
my new Trek 7700. I was in heaven.
Until the accident.
About fifteen minutes
into the ride, David cautioned me to slow down. "We'd better brake to a
stop here," he said, as we approached a four-way stop in the middle of
the base. Ordinarily we might blow right through a stop sign like this
one -- it's an abandoned
Navy Base, after all, and traffic at that time of night is virtually
nonexistent -- but David's eagle eyes had spotted something I hadn't: a
City of Alameda patrol car, approaching us from the right. I squeezed
the handbrakes gently ... brought the bike to a slow, smooth stop ...
and attempted to anchor myself to the ground with my left foot, as
Except that my foot was LOCKED
IN PLACE by the goddamn TOE
Over I went, like a
farmer's prize cow on Hallowe'en night ... my new bazillion-dollar bike
landing on top of me.
This was my first major
spill. I've taken a couple of minor headers in the last year -- a
scraped knuckle here, a bruised elbow there -- but this was the first
Big Kerplunk. I landed solidly on the concrete, absorbing the brunt of
the fall with my hands and knees. Fortunately I was wearing heavy denim
leggings -- the groovy Spandex riding pants were at home in the dirty
clothes basket -- and I had my bike gloves on, as always. That probably
helped to minimize some of the damage to my knees and hands.
I shouted to the police officer, who had slowed down to see if I was
alright. As I scrambled to my feet, the officer smiled and waved (OK,
so she's just clumsy, not drunk)
and eventually drove off to continue his twilight patrol.
I picked my bike off the
ground -- it's so light, I can literally lift it with two fingers --
and I dusted myself off. "Do you want to head back home?" asked David
I felt bruised and bloodied,
but nothing appeared to be
broken. (Except my dignity, maybe.) We rode around for another
minutes, over to where the U.S.S. Hornet is docked and back, just
long enough to watch the sun go down behind the San Francisco skyline,
and then we limped back towards home and our leftover corned beef
Now I am laying on the
sofa with my leg propped up on a pillow, watching David attend to the
worst of the damage.
"Well," he says, as he
finishes wiping the mud and concrete dust from the framework of the
bike. "That's about as good as it's going to get." There is a deep
gouge in the paint on the top tube of my bike, and another, lesser
scrape on one of the forks. Plus it looks like a couple of the spokes
might be dented.
I've had my bike for
exactly three days, and already it's got almost as many scars as *I*
Tossing the dirty wet
paper towels into the trash, David turns and looks at me.
says flatly. "That takes care of your bike. Now let's take a look at
throw a rock