I broke my leg in a crash last year. Freak accident, patch of mud on an otherwise clear paved trail, wheels gone sideways, bad landing, and crack. Split my femur like a wishbone in what's called a "spiral fracture."
For the curious, no bikes were harmed in the making of this anecdote. Bent derailleur hanger, a little paint loss, and a missing frame pump. And the rider recovered, in a grisly tale of titanium implants, staples, crutches, and Vicodin that I will -- thankfully -- spare you.
But what I find telling, even a year after that crash, is the reaction of other people when they hear about it. Bikers and non-bikers alike will -- without fail -- ask the same question first:
"Do you still ride?"
I can take it in stride now. I expect it. But it threw me the first few times, and the repetition of it -- the sheer critical mass of that one question -- continues to throw me, especially when I keep hearing it from people who call themselves cyclists. I'll admit, there were dark moments during my recovery where I thought I would never get a leg over an upright bike again. Yet even in those dark moments, my mind turned to recumbent trikes. There was no question that I would ride something. The question was simply what I would be able to ride.
It's funny. Most of the people I know -- myself included -- have been in some form of car accident, from a paint-scraping fender-bender to a full-on, airbag-popping rollover. Some have been injured. Some have been seriously injured. Yet no one asks, "So, you giving up driving?" We accept (or more accurately, deny) a given level of risk in our most common transportation choice. Ironically, it's the statistical anomaly, the freak accident, that makes the safer, saner choice seem extreme.
Sure, I'll give up riding someday. The grisly recovery taught me that I'm stuck in a mortal, fallible sack of skin. This body won't be able to make the pedals go around forever. But to just walk away, 35 years old, perfectly functional (and ever-so-slightly bionic), for one bad day, one moment of inattentiveness, when I've seen that the number of riding days on my calendar is finite? Hardly.
Do I still ride? Ask me if I still breathe instead.