On a hot Sunday afternoon in September, 1966 my wife and I were road biking on a two lane country road near our home in Chattanooga, TN. Both of us had ridden this route near our house many times and were cycling the homeward leg of a large downhill, travelling approx. 30 MPH. I was neatly tucked down on my aero bars and clipped into my pedals trying to be as streamlined as possible so my wife could effectively draft behind me. Just at the moment of attaining top speed, a large black dog came streaking from my left across the road intent on chasing a deer.
The dog never saw me. I had no choice but to stay tucked on the bike, hit the dog broadside and hope for the best. At my speed, swerving was not an option nor was putting my arms out to cushion my fall (I was 3 months post-op from a third rotator cuff sergery on my left shoulder and I was most hesitant to damage it again). At my speed, I feared my arms would be torn from my body or at least mangled badly. Rolling seemed like the only way to survive.
I thought to myself just before impact, this is going to really hurt. I stayed tucked and gripped my aero bars tightly as I “T-boned” the canine. I flipped headlong over the dog and sailed through the air only to hit directly on my left shoulder. Still attached to the bike, I rolled numerous times down the middle of the pavement. Dressed only in a tank top and bike shorts, the summer clothing did not offer much protection to my back, shoulders, elbows and knees. My bike gloves and helmet were the only line of defense from a bad case of imminent road drash.
My wife, close behind me, seeing all this unfold, had wisely begun to brake but was unable to avoid the tangle of tumbling rider and aluminum in front of her. She immediately ran over my right shoulder with her front wheel and the large front chain ring sprocket, acting like a knife, cut my upper right arm before travelling up my cheek. The sprocket then sliced off the front lobe of my bike helmet as it whizzed past. My wife’s momentum was greatly blunted by hitting me and she tumbled onto the pavement, suffering a milder case of road rash than I had just received. Luckily there was no other traffic on the road at the time of the collision, otherwise our injuries could have been much worse.
After we skidded to a stop we both were disoriented and bleeding. We were attempting to get up and out of the road when the dog’s owner came running over to assist us. Having witnessed the whole incident, he was very concerned about us and became alarmed once he got closer. My left arm and shoulder, hanging limply by my side was not working at all. My head was starting to throb from the numerous impacts it had just received. Blood was starting to ooze from knees, elbows and shoulders where they had skimmed the pavement. To him I looked like a stunt double from a B-grade horror movie.
Curiously, I felt no pain (that was to come later with a vengeance). My bike front tire had assumed the shape of a pizza pie with a couple of slices missing and the front fork was bent far under the frame. My wife and her bike both miraculously had only a few scrapes. Later, x-rays showed I had suffered a broken left shoulder blade as the only serious skeletal injury. My orthopedic surgeon repaired my shoulder and marvelled at the fact that we were both not injured any worse.
My head, beside the cut cheek from the chain ring. had no other trauma despite being bounced repeatedly on the tarmac. Close friends later thought that my wife missed an excellent opportunity to get rid of her husband quckly by running over me, all the while making it look like an accident, but she maintains to this day that she really did TRY to avoid hitting me. Skid mark analysis was inconclusive. She has talked lately, however, of increasing my life insurance. I have noticed though she does ride farther away from me now.
According to its owner, the dog was not injured and ate heartily that evening. He claims that the dog now looks both ways before crossing the road and cowers at the sign of lycra bike shorts. The abrasions from the road rash have long since healed by the memories of the accident are still vivid to this day.
Every time I look at the scars on my body I remember the helmet that saved my head from serious injury on that hot Sunday in August. Don’t leave home without it.