I wasn’t certain, but as I dragged myself to my feet and started the evaluation process I was starting to think that this was going to be the most difficult day of my trip. One hundred miles through the hills of Eastern Ohio, 6000 feet of elevation and a last minute re-route were the challenges I was mentally prepared for. Even the 100 degree heat and impending thunderstorm that had been chasing me down for the last 2 hours were not deal breakers. It was the double digit grade hills, miles of logging roads with golf ball size stones and twice laying my Giant Defy on the ground that was starting to take its toll.
To say that my home turf in Oak Creek Wisconsin is flat is an understatement when compared to the hills of Eastern Ohio. In the 1,200 miles of training I had put in the preceding months, I doubt I had climbed as much as I was expecting to on this day. I will confess that I should have been a little more careful taking the turn that put me on the ground. But in my defense I was frustrated having already wasted oodles of painfully earned elevation by riding my brakes down a number of logging road hills. I was braking so much I was getting hand cramps which only fueled my frustration. I was losing time with the painfully slow descents, and was missing out on the satisfaction that descending on the back side of a hard climb that only a cyclist can really appreciate.
I knew before starting my adventure that falling was a possibility, but having only fallen once years before I didn’t give it much thought. Now falling for a second time in the last few miles I was starting to question my route choice and a few risk versus reward choices I had been making.
Getting to my feet the first thing I assessed was the extent of my injuries. Nothing seemed broken, but a number of red spots started appearing on my Belgianwerkx bibs. Strangely my next thought is how can there be blood when the bibs are perfectly intact? I guess that is the difference between sliding across bare pavement and pavement covered in gravel. As the shock of falling faded I gathered up my air pump, gels and a number of other items that had spilled out of my handlebar bag when I hit the ground. Having determined that I was going to survive I focused my concern on my bike. To my amazement and relief, nothing seemed broken or even scratched with my forearm and leg having taken the brunt of the impact and slide.
What I didn’t realize until returning to Belgianwerkx for follow up maintenance a few weeks later, I must have kicked up a stone or something that found its way into the chain and gearing that bent one of the chain links. It was a very subtle bend but enough to prevent the chain from properly rotating around the 5 or so smaller sprockets on my cassette. The resultant chain skipping made those gears effectively useless. At this point in the trip I was spending most of my time on dirt, grass and gravel or was going up or downhill. I could have certainly used the faster gearing on a few remaining flat stretches and most of the downhills, but at least I had the climbing gears and was content to rest the legs on the remaining descents.
Getting back on the bike I was admittedly a bit angry. I was angry at the jackass who dumped the load of gravel all over the road and even angrier at myself for having made that turn. Had I not missed the turn 15 minutes earlier I would not have had to unnecessarily climb the adjacent hill and therefore would not have been rolling back down that same hill into that turn with so much speed. Not only had I added more climbing to the day, that climbing gave me the speed which was the catalyst for the fall.
A few minutes down the road passing the entrance to a gravel pit I came to the realization that the gravel dumped on the road at the intersection was a probably group effort. I imagine numerous trucks day after day rolling to a stop spilling out a few stones each time covered the road in a mean little bed of gravel.
In the moment my fall was a painful and unfortunate part of my adventure from Wisconsin to West Virginia, but in retrospect it was one of the many elements that made it the most challenging, rewarding and memorable day of the trip. The 100 miles and 6000 feet of climbing in 100 degree heat was tough. The fall was painful. The lady out jogging with her lamb was interesting and a timely encounter. My Pit Bull run in was frightening. East Deliverance Ohio was unnerving at times, while my encounter with the ‘suicide deer’ was just strange. Those are stories for another time, but it certainly was quite a day. It was probably my favorite day.
When I purchased my bike from Belgianwerkx in the spring of 2015 I my adventure was not even an idea yet. I was only planning to do a little window shopping and maybe ask a few questions when I walked into the Belgianwerkx studio that day. Nick took the time to understand what I was looking for and was willing to answer every question I had. He helped me identify a few bikes that met my needs including one bike he did not sell. When I road tested the competitor’s bike he even took my call and answered several questions I had about that bike. In the end I went with the Giant Defy from Belgianwerkx for a number of reasons. At the end of the day the difference between the bikes was minimal, the real difference for me is the people. The customer support, fitting and follow up from Belgianwerkx has been second to none. Thanks Nick.