It was late, and dark. Jasper was crying, and we'd already changed him, nursed him, and our attempts at cuddling and soothing were only delaying our arrival home. Dave and I had switched bikes, so he was on the Yuba and I was on his single speed Surly Steamroller. The Steamroller has only a front brake, which, as Uncle Sheldon wisely tells us, is adequate and safe-- if you're used to it. I'm not used to it.
In the dark, the chill, the hurry, the stress, and accompanied by the soundtrack of a silent neighborhood pierced by our wailing child, we were zipping down a slight incline. Dave, ahead of me, braked suddenly to soften the Yuba's ride over a speedbump. I, surprised by his deceleration and assuming something more treacherous than a speedbump, slammed on the brakes (er, brake) to avoid hitting or passing him. He continued on another block: apparently, it took me some time to yelp my distress.
In adrenaline-induced slow motion, I felt the bike stop. I felt the rear wheel lift. I felt my arms and my core tighten in response, and I felt the bike level off. The rear wheel returned to the ground. I even felt a brief moment of relief at my recovery. Then, I fell over, hard. And then I yelled, and Dave turned, and time began to move again.
I took the fall on my left knee and my left forearm. There was definitely blood, and pain, and I'd knocked something out of alignment on the bike, but Jasper was still crying and we still needed to get home. So I got back on and we started moving again.
This was the worst part. With no ability to assess what damage I had done to myself or to Dave's bike, we passed the next few miles mostly in silence. I realized we were out of hydrogen peroxide, and I wasn't sure where we stood on large bandages, either. So I sent Dave home with Jasper and stopped at the store to pick up first aid supplies.
There, under the fluorescent lights, I examined my wounds. Blood dripping down from an already-swollen knee, and some broad, but not deep, road rash on my arm. Lost skin and embedded grit in both palms. Bad, but not so bad.
At the register: "How's your evening, ma'am?" I look at my purchases, at the blood, at the clerk. "I've had better." He looks at me, all seriousness and sincerity. "Are you ok to get home?" I tell him I am. I check out. I limp the few blocks home.
And then I'm a mom: still bloodied, I nurse Jasper and rock him while Dave goes outside to check out the wounded bike. No big deal out there, a few quick adjustments and it's better. No big deal inside, either: exhausted Jasper goes right to sleep. And only then do I get to really look over my own damage, get into the shower, lick my wounds.
Over the next few days, I had to endure a fair amount of clucking worry. "Bicycling is so dangerous, you know." But I didn't learn the story's true moral until a week later, in Tacoma.
Another beautiful day. Out walking with friends. A new, smooth walking path. Jasper in a moby wrap. And I take a header. Slipping from the side of the path, I grab the baby's head and hit the ground in a sideways roll. I take the fall on my left forearm, again, and on my right knee. There is a lot of blood; I strap a disposable diaper around my elbow to staunch the flow. Jasper is unscathed.
So, the moral of the story? Cycling is dangerous. Really. About as dangerous as a walk with friends on a sunny day.