Its going to happen, so be prepared. Its virtually impossible to be a cyclist and not fall. Thats the bad news. The good news is that falling doesnt have to be a major crisis. Most injuries youll experience, as a cyclist wont be serious.
Personal First Aid Kit
Most crashes dont result in serious injuries that require a trip to the doctor. Keep these items around for immediate home treatment of any injuries you sustain.
• Aloe gelsoothes sunburn
• Adhesive bandages in various sizesfor smaller cuts and scrapes
• Sterile gauze padsfor larger wounds that are actively draining
• Self-stick paper bandage wrapsan alternative method for hold- ing gauze pads in place
• Hydrocortisone creamfor minor skin irritation and rashes
• Moleskinfor blisters
• Betadineto wash the site of a wound and clean it of bacteria
• Tweezersfor removing splinters
• Acetaminophenfor pain relief in the first 24 hours following the injury
• Ibuprofenfor pain relief and reduction of swelling once bleeding has stopped
• Chemical cold packsto reduce swelling
• Antibiotic ointmentto reduce the chance of infection
• Hydrocolloid bandagesfor slightly weepy wounds
• Hydrogelto keep a wound moist
Replace your Parts
If ever there was an occasion served by the saying better safe than sorry, this is it. Have a shop technician inspect your bicycle carefully following any crash and be prepared to follow the advice you receive.
Components made from steel, titanium, and aluminum are pretty durable, so if they have sustained enough damage to require replac- ing, it will be fairly apparent. The same holds true for steel frames and forks, as well as titanium frames. Anything that appears bent to the naked eye should be replaced.
Frames and forks made from aluminum should be considered carefully. Because aluminum has an endurance limitthat is, after a finite number of stress cycles the material will break suddenlyany frame or fork made from aluminum that has gone down in a crash should be inspected carefully by a shop technician. If the frame or fork has sustained a hard enough impact to bend the tubes even slightly, you should replace it.
The proliferation of carbon fiber components has made crash- ing painful to the body and wallet alike. Thats because carbon fiber is anisotropic. As mentioned in Chapter 4, steel, titanium, and aluminum are isotropicequally strong in any directionbut carbon fiber is strong only in the direction the fibers are oriented, so a hammer-like blow to any frame tube will kill the whole frame. Additionally, carbon fiber structures can sustain damage that is not apparent to the naked eye. Naturally, any obvious damage, such as a visible crack in the fibers themselves, warrants replacing the part. It is possible, however, for a part to sustain trauma-inducing damage in a crash and still appear to be fine. As one companys head of engineering said (off the record, of course), The frames the top pros are riding are strictly single use. If you crash it, you should just throw it away.
Give your Body Time to Heal
When recovering from an injury, let comfort be your guide. Some injuries, such as road rash, cuts, and hematomas need not keep you off the bike for long. If your injuries required a visit to the doctor, be prepared to follow your physicians advice.
Broken bones will take a number of weeks to heal. At minimum you will need eight weeks, though your doctor may advise even longer, especially if tendons or ligaments were torn; they can require surgery. Head injuriessuch as concussionscan take a significant amount of time to heal, and strenuous activity can slow recovery or even re-injure the site. Stay off the bike until you have been cleared to ride by your doctor. In your first few rides back on the bike, dont worry about going fast. If the injury was to your legs, feet, or back, focus on range of mo- tion and a smooth pedal stroke.