Let’s take a little trip down Memory Lane. What? You didn’t know that Memory Lane is flanked with thorny bushes, meanders like weavingest drunkard you ever saw, has gaping cracks that stretch straight down to the fifth-and-a-half circle of Hell, and has signage worse than New Jersey’s? It’s true, at least for my Memory Lane.
Despite the Death Trip implications, let’s mount our anemnestic velocipedes and hit some of the highlights. Today’s topic: “Bicycle Crashes I Have Known.” I’m going to go about this in chronological order. Come, pedal with me.
First we have the experience with my first “grownup” bike. It was a ten-speed, with the spongy foam ram’s horn handlebars. No more banana seats for Pannie! It was incredibly light, weighing only three times as much as today’s bicycles. But the most amazing thing was the new technology this amazing wonder vehicle of the future sported: the “quick-release hub.” No, I am not referring to a Mexican Divorce. The quick-release hub was this fantastic thing that let you remove the wheel without needing a wrench, pliers, or a half-dozen swear words. Just a little flip of a lever and some twisting. This was incredibly useful if you happened to pilot your bike in such a manner that it rolled over, like a magnet, any piece of sharp metal in your path, necessitating an endless supply of patches and replacement tubes. I was so proud to own a machine possessed of such miraculous design that I demonstrated it to anyone and everyone I met.
Well, I guess over time I got a little cocky with my demonstrations. One day as I was riding along things somehow didn’t feel quite right, in fact something felt a little loose. So what did I do? Did I do the smart thing, stopping and dismounting, peering around to see if anything was amiss? You know the answer. Of course I didn’t. I continued riding at speed and started repeatedly lifting up the front wheel. No effect. What did little Pannie do next? Right again! I began thumping that front wheel up and down more vigorously, until…
Time slowed down. All the noises around me merged until it sounded as if I was inside a giant seashell. My vision narrowed, everything focussed downward, past the handlebars, to the empty fork hovering a foot above the pavement as the front wheel bounced merrily away. It was just like a movie.
Then time abruptly resumed normal speed. The fork plunged down to the ground. I can’t be sure, but I think there were sparks. I tumbled forward over the bars, was flipped and somersaulted ahead over sand-limned sidewalk (I grew up near the beach; all the sidewalks had sand on them) and came to a skidding stop twenty feet down the way, supine and and staring at the sky. I was unconscious for 3.8 seconds, a long, languorous blink. Then, almost as an afterthought, that wretched bicycle went sailing overhead.
I swear it was snickering.