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Prompted By Pain

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This story makes more sense if you know that I grew up in northern New Jersey, just across the harbor from Manhattan. There, we learn profanity before we learn of the adventures of Dick and Jane. Letting fly a string of curses when angry or hurt is to us as natural as breathing.

There, we learn profanity before we learn of the adventures of Dick and Jane. Letting fly a string of curses when angry or hurt is to us as natural as breathing.

On a lovely weekend morning, I was in the park near my Chicago condo, on my mountain bike, practicing “manual” front wheel lifts, which are an important skill in the sport of mountain biking. This is not the classic wheelie move we all did as kids. The manual is done by shifting your weight back while pushing your feet forward. It’s a fussy move, fairly abrupt, and requires a high degree of coordination, which I do not have. I am not that good at it now. I was much worse then.

I kept trying to get my front wheel up and over a small branch on the ground, sometime lifting too late, sometimes early, never very high. Sometimes it felt like my front tire was filled with concrete. But I doggedly kept at it, although it’s a tiring thing.

Then my right foot slipped off its pedal. My left foot then drove its pedal backwards with great force and speed, causing the right pedal to smash into my right shin. Mountain bike pedals are equipped with sharp steel pins to keep the rider’s foot from slipping off when the going gets bumpy.

There was no second-long pregnant pause between injury and pain, as there so often is. I immediately felt as if someone had smashed my tibia with a red hot hammer. No injury in my life has ever hurt quite like that. Breaking my arm in two places had not hurt so exquisitely, although that time I’d had the shock of a bad fall, and maybe a mild concussion, to take my mind off of the broken bones. The ribs I broke falling on an icy CTA platform hurt like hell, but not right away.

Reflexively, the pain-driven profanity came rushing out of my brain toward my vocal cords; and then I noticed the family, Mom, Dad and a couple of little kids, who had, unseen by me, walked over to observe the strange man doing strange things on a large bike.

Deprived of the analgesia of a good ripping string of curses and oaths, I was reduced to clutching my shredded, bloody shin while rocking to and fro on the sun-dappled grass making gasping and whining sounds through my clenched teeth. The family was quite solicitous, though.

Like a lot of mountain bikers, I still bear on my shin the tracks of my attempts at learning to manual. I also now wear shin guards.

Profile photo of Dave Ventre Dave Ventre
A hyper-annuated wannabee scientist with a lovely wife and a mountain biking problem.

Tags: pain, biking, laceration, profanity
Characterizations: right on!, well written


  1. Khati Hendry says:

    Ouch!!!!!! Always a joy to read your beautifully-told descriptions and I think you captured the moment perfectly. Also, shin guards good!

  2. As always you take us with you Dave, painful as the ride may be!
    Great writing and wear those shin guards!

  3. Laurie Levy says:

    What an awful experience, Dave. Glad you are now wearing shin guards.

  4. Fellow cyclist–I know your pain. And I wish for you never to have another crash. As I wish equally for myself.

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