Kieran Oakley is a senior at Bloomington High School and a 4 year rider in the Minnesota League. She’s also served as an exemplary League volunteer. Here’s Kieran’s personal take on riding and that bad word, wrecking.
Now I don’t mean to scare you away, but if you ride your bike often like me, the odds of you wrecking eventually are not in your favor. Hopefully you won’t suffer an injury, or several, like me. Whether it is a minor scrape, serious abrasion, broken bone, or even a head injury, how you handle a biking injury and most importantly how you reflect upon it will determine how successful you are in the sport.
Let me share some background on my experiences. I feel I am an expert on this topic. I have had two concussions, and seriously messed up my knee. I have been to the emergency room a total of five times in my lifetime, three of which were due to biking accidents. All were all preventable, at least to some degree in my opinion. I suffered a lot of pain to learn three things you need to know about biking injuries: how to prevent them, how to handle the situation in the moment, and how to reflect. I know, I know, how interesting (not!). However I went through a lot of pain to learn all this stuff so LISTEN UP! This could save your life, or at least your pride.
How to prevent a biking injury
Be prepared. No one really wants to get in an accident that could hurt their body, bike, and prevent participation in other sports. So to begin, we will start with the mundane: sleep. This is something I still don’t quite have under control. Though, you should know teens are biologically inclined to want to go to bed at 1am and wake up at noon (look it up and then stick that fact in your parents faces, ha!). Next time you’re on Google check out the effects of a sleep deprived brain. There are too many gaps in your awareness of both yourself and your surroundings when you are sleep deprived.
Your body and mind need a well-balanced protein containing meal a couple hours before your ride. Yes, that means eat breakfast even if your ride is at 7am.
Get your ride gear together well in advance, especially if you are racing. I do not condone getting all your stuff together and bike checked the night before. I encourage that to be done during the daytime. I REPEAT: do not run around trying to put what my coaches call a “Go” bag together when it is dark out and you are nearing a time when you should be sleeping. Don’t attempt this the morning of a race or practice when you should be trying to get into a calm and collected headspace either. Gather your stuff together the day before. Here’s a list of what my Go bag includes:
- Clothes (jacket, layers, bike wear)
How to handle the situation
A collected mind and calm body make for a smooth, fast, and accident free ride, I have been told. I admit to having marginal success when testing this theory. I will let you know if I ever experience a calm, cool, or collected demeanor, while riding. But while I try it, you should give it a shot too.
If you’ve just had a fight with someone, don’t get on the bike.
The gist of this is it takes an awake, alert, and focused mind and body to have a successful ride. A frazzled, distracted, tired, or nutritionally depleted you will not be successful.
Balance your risk taking and caution. There’s a difference between “I think I’m lucky enough to make this obstacle” and “I think I’ve got enough experience and skill to make it.” More importantly never ever try that difficult feature or line for the first time when you’re alone. Risk taking can lead to learning and new skills but can also lead to injury. Know your limits and do your best to pay attention to your body.
How to reflect
The final thing to address is what happens after an injury. There is always something to learn from a crash. Whether it’s just a reminder to sleep more or that you need to always check your bike before you ride, there is always a takeaway. Take a moment and really reflect, “not only I would have done this but next time, I should really do that.” Learn from your mistakes. Don’t say, “I’m never going to bike again.” Instead pick yourself, up brush off the dirt, and say, “I’m going to bike better.”