Friday, December 14, 2007
The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Falling Down In Public
As reader, insightful commenter, and pun enthusiast Leroy pointed out in the comments on the last post, if you rode over the Brooklyn Bridge this morning, chances are you paid for your poor choice by falling down at some point--especially if you tend follow the roadie's guide to negotiating snow and ice, which is as follows:
2) Stiffen your entire body
3) If your wheels should start to slip, apply your brakes forcefully
4) Fall and break your collarbone (Roadie collarbones break like Bontrager steerers at Paris-Roubaix. Every time a roade fractures his clavicle triathlete hem lines get a little higher. Why do you think they show so much skin?)
Now I'm not saying I fell today, and I'm not saying I didn't. But I will say that falling during a commute is much worse than falling in a race--not because it's any more severe, but because there are lots of people around. A fall during a race is in context while a fall in the city is just embarrassing. If you do happen to fall, here are some ways to pull it off:
--Stay down. Make it look as though, while you certainly didn't mean to wind up on the pavement, you're kind of happy you did. Go into your bag, make a few phone calls, maybe eat something. Or else just fold your hands behind your head, relax, and gaze wistfully at the sky. People respect people who take life as it comes.
--Make it count. Once you realize you're going down, maximize the shock value. Send the bike sliding for a few yards. If you can, take a few other riders with you. Then get up and finish your bike off like Pete Townshend laying waste to his guitar at the end of a concert. Maybe even take out a car windshield too. Clumbsiness is embarrassing--carnage is awesome.
--Be hostile. People might ask if you're OK, but they're really just gloating. You know what's good for wiping the smugness off some self-satisfied good samaritan's face? A snowball.
--Jump right up and shout incredulously. "Holy crap! Did you see that?!?"
--Accost and blame a diminutive, non-English speaking tourist.
Here's what not to do:
--Try to pretend you're not hurt when you are. I've seen this one before. That's when someone has an awkward fall, is obviously injured, but is to embarrassed to acknowledge it so refuses help and just rides off in obvious agony. Not only is that unwise, but it just doesn't look good. It's kind of like Pee Wee Herman leaving the biker bar. Falling over because you couldn't get out of your pedals may look stupid, but getting back on too soon, riding the wrong way down a one-way street, and getting run over by a Fresh Direct truck looks really, really stupid.
--Say "I meant to do that." Again, it was funny in "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," but it's lame in real life.
--Bang your seat back into place with your palm. Why do people do that? It's not a race--take two seconds, use an allen key, and do it properly.
--Attempt to commiserate with passers-by over equipment damage. "Look! See that? The brake lever's all bent now!" Nobody cares.
So remember, it's getting messy out there. If you can't be careful, at least be dignified. And stay off the Brooklyn Bridge after bad weather.