If you’ve been watching this year’s Tour de France you know that, so far, the race has been defined by big crashes and injuries. As the news of a crash crackles over the race radio, team mechanics and doctors prep themselves in the follow car. Their aim is to check over the rider and their bike and to get them going again as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, as amateur riders, we don’t have the luxury of a support team to check us out after we take a tumble. While none of us plan on crashing (in fact, we recommend not doing it whenever possible) we should all be prepared in case of a tumble.
Ride Prepared – Make sure to bring your ID and insurance card in the event of an emergency. It’s also a smart idea to carry a cell phone in case you need to call for help. Consider wearing a product such as Road ID which contains vital personal information that can assist emergency personnel. Keep a first aid kit in your vehicle so it’s available when you get back to the trail head or parking lot.
Check Your Body – Following a tumble take some time to get your bearings before rushing to your feet. Do a quick “inventory” of your body. Can you wiggle your toes? Fingers? Are any areas in extreme pain? Are you feeling woozy or were you knocked unconscious when you fell? If so, you may have a concussion. Get up slowly and check for cuts and scrapes. If you have any deep wounds you can use your jersey or a spare tube as a make shift tourniquet. Call for help if your injuries are severe.
Check Your Helmet – Modern, lightweight bike helmets are only designed to take one impact. They dissipate the force of impact through the shell and reinforced form core, effecting the structure of the helmet. If you hit your head during your wreck it’s a safe bet that the internal structure of the helmet has been compromised. You’ll want to replace the helmet before riding again.
Check Your Bike– If you have to continue riding after your wreck to receive help or make it back home, you’ll need to check that your bike is safe to ride. Look over the frame carefully for damage. If it’s an alloy frame you’ll want to check for broken tubes or cracked welds. Most metal frames will still be rideable with minor dents. Today’s modern carbon frames are a little more tricky. You’ll want to carefully inspect for impacts and cracks. If you find an area where the carbon is cracked you’ll want to squeeze the tube around the area with your hand. If the tube feels soft or you can push any part of it in do not ride the bike. You’ll also want to inspect the drivetrain and wheels to make sure they’re safe to ride.
Wound Care – Minor cuts and abrasions should be scrubbed thoroughly as soon as possible to remove dirt and debris from the area. If available, use an antiseptic to flush the wound. In a pinch, you can use water from your bottle to flush the area. Cleaning the area as soon as possible will help to prevent infection. After cleaning, apply antibiotic ointment to the wound to keep it moist and prevent scabbing, helping to prevent scarring and speeding up the healing process. Bandage the wound with non-stick gauze, keeping it moist and protected.