Together with Machines for Freedom we’re unearthing the imperfect and unique moments in cycling. #FreedomStories is a new column authored by Melbourne based Strava Influencer, Verita Stewart. She juggles full time employment with full time racing and training and isn’t afraid to share her lessons learned along the way. Dive in as she tells us about the scars she’s accumulated over the years.
We all have a scar story. Sadly, it’s part of cycling. Do you remember the first time you rode a bike? I’m sure a crash was involved somewhere in those wobbly beginnings.
Every time I take a shower I look down at a scar on my elbow. I both cringe and laugh at the sight…if only scars could talk. This tiny scar has such a story to tell.
The scar on my elbow reminds me of the time that I crashed during a Team Time Trial (TTT). I crashed into, and took out my entire team in one freak accident. It wasn’t only my own body and bike I damaged, but also my four teammates — thank goodness they are forgiving! The accident still haunts me to this day.
It all happened less than 1km into the race. I had just finished pulling my first turn in the TTT, I rolled to the right of my teammates and a gust of wind blew and took my wheel out from under me. I blew straight back into them at 40km/hr, skittling them all to the ground. It makes me cringe thinking about it, not only at the fact that I ruined any chance we had at winning the TTT, but the sound of carbon on asphalt and the fact that I had also crashed out my whole team! Thankfully none of my teammates were (too) physically injured in the crash, but, there was a large amount of equipment damage.
This crash caused damage to everyone’s time trial bikes, three sets of carbon wheels, one disc wheel, three helmets, shoes, kits and a set of handlebars. It was pure carbon carnage! Once adrenaline kicked in and after a quick bike change, our TTT was back on the road again and we stumbled across the finish line +8 minutes down. We were able to finish the race, albeit slower than hoped, Strava shows about 5 minutes delay getting back on the road, but, it is amazing what the rush of adrenaline can do. Once that wore off, we were able to have a laugh about the whole thing, reminiscing about the bunny hop that caused the broken handlebars, the tyre burn on ones leg and the sheer spectacular nature of a whole team pile up and graceful moves back onto our bike.
Miraculously I ended up with the worse of the injuries, skin missing from the right side of my body, bleeding and a very painful elbow. Post race I limped off to hospital for an x-ray, which revealed my elbow was chipped, with a deep flesh wound — down to the fat layer. Again, cringe. The flesh wound hurt more than the chipped elbow itself. I spent the next few weeks changing dressings from weeping wounds, watching the skin heal. I now have a tiny scar to remind me of that day, when luck didn’t go my or our way.
But, maybe I am a lucky one, as I have remained relatively unscathed in respects to scars. The accident is my only ‘real’ one. Conversations at the coffee shop remind me how lucky I am.
As cyclists, we put ourselves out there. Whether we like to acknowledge it or not, we are extremely vulnerable on the road. We ride along the road, we race at high speed, we are only wearing a thin layer of lycra, we dodge traffic, we defy gravity.
Most of the time we don’t crash, sometimes we do — some worse than others.
I know people that have horrific tales of traffic accidents.
“I am covered in scars from being hit by a truck in 2013. I have scars on my knees, arms, hands, and face from the crash and suffered a broken pelvis, nose, and a traumatic brain injury. When I look in the mirror and notice the scar above my lip, I’m filled with a sense of gratitude for having survived the accident and having such a speedy recovery. My scars are a reminder not to take anything for granted and to enjoy each day.” — Nicole Justice
The fact of the matter is, we crash, and sometimes we can’t explain why.
“I’ve got a scar from my collarbone surgery. It happened during a race as I was attacking into a hairpin. Everyone wanted some sort of explanation after, like there was gravel on the course or I hit a grate, but I didn’t have one that satisfied anyone. I was feeling great and I took a risk, that’s all.” — Ginger Boyd
Then there are times where, sometimes we are just unlucky.
“I have two scars framing my eyebrow over my left eye. The first happened when I was a kid. I was a little too rambunctious in the house and landed face first on the corner of a coffee table. The second happened decades later when a friend’s tire blowout caused us both to crash our bikes on a particularly adrenaline-filled descent. Like a tattoo, the two scars together seem to suit me. It’s my personality to dive head first into things. Sometimes I miss and get a little scratched up. But I always bounce back.” — Jennifer Hannon
Some accidents happen, regardless of how cautious we are.
“Some might laugh, but for all the crashes and scars I’ve collected over time the only stitches I’ve had were on my pinkie. I hit a root with my mountain bike that happened to be in a ninety degree turn where my bike went one way and my body the other. My pinkie took the brunt of the impact. The marks on my hand remind me how quickly you can be thrown, but easily dust yourself off and get back in the saddle.” — Annie Vranizan
Riding a bike requires guts, fearlessness. We ride our bikes fast. We take calculated risks every day.
As I look down at my scars, I do cringe and laugh, but I also feel empowered. The saying that you live and you learn rings true. It is almost a year to the day that I chipped my elbow in that awful team time trial. As time goes on those scars heal and I’ll get back on that bike and ride another day. We create new scars, with new memories, that are plastered like a bad tattoo you shouldn’t have got when you were 18.
Every scar has a story, and almost every athlete has a few scars to talk about. What’s your scar story?
Take a quick glance around your knees, arms, hands and think of what you’ve learned from these trials, tribulations, marks of time your body won’t let you forget. Share your story in the comments below or tag @StravaCycling and @MachinesforFreedom on Instagram with a photo and the hashtag #FreedomStories. We’ll be reposting our favorites and sending those athletes a Machines for Freedom Signature Cycling Cap.