Fall from my cycle – freak yet bizarre

It sounds so silly, and somewhat concerning too!

Dec 20, 2010:

To make up for some slackness in riding last two months, I was on a spree. Just two days by then! I did couple of fifty kilometer rides the previous week, gave rest for two days and went on a ride that morning at 5 to International Airport from my home in Kondapur – round trip of 64 kms. I nearly completed my ride and was approaching the Gachibowli junction. I looked behind to check for vehicles so I can cross to the right lane. I vaguely recollect the handle wobble. That is I recollect. When I ‘woke up’, I realized I was on the ground. The tar was warm and welcoming. Felt like going to sleep then and there. But I quickly realized I must be on the middle lane of express way and run the the risk of a speeding vehicle. I calculated later from GPS reading that I must have been unconscious for 3 to 4 minutes. When I ‘woke up’, I wanted to get up but did not have the energy and ‘alertness’ to get up. I wasn’t fully awake, and it was kind of fuzzy (not literally by sight but by alertness). I was trying to say myself, everything will be alright, and if I did not get up, I will risk from oncoming traffic. Still it took a while, being able to decide and actually the strength to get up. In the mean time, three passersby came in and helped me get up. One of them asked me, if I was alright. When I confirmed, he said he felt I was unconscious. I again replied him I was okay. Pulled my cycle to railing and stood. There was water (probably from hydration bag; I still don’t understand how) on the road, and I gulped some from the bag. I looked at the watch and saw that it was 8:10 am while it should have been about 8:05 am since I last saw the watch at 8 am, about a km away. Anyway, I came home, and did not have much trouble riding to home which was 3 kms despite the uphill. I did not feel the need to call my wife to get the car. Surprising that I was not weak or even in deep shock of my fall. Just amazed!

I had bruises on my both knees, left thigh (has some swelling too with thigh muscle forcibly hit by the handle bar), knuckles of both hands, right elbow, swelling on my right forehead (where helmet touches from side), and small marks by helmet protrusions inside. I had painful buttocks and somewhat painful hands in biceps area. Could barely walk. Thanks to demands from work, I could not take leave, but took the liberty to work from home though.

Here is some background. I did not have dinner previous night (which is not unusual). Had milk in the morning. Reasonable quantity of water. Did not push myself too hard. In fact it was one of those easier rides (I am trying to move away from grinding in high gear to high cadence in low gears since the previous ride). Slept for only three and half hours previous night but had long sleep the previous night.

Questions and concerns were:

1. Why did I fall in the first place? There was nothing on the road which should have made me fall. There are a few times that I wobble when I am looking back and riding, but usually manage to notice and correct instantly. Was it lack of sleep and so lack of focus or lack of enough food/energy reserves? It was damn cold today, more so near airport. Having said that I am used to sub-zero winters of Chicago (7 years back). By the way, when I picked up the cycle, the front wheel was stuck with brake pad on one side, which I could quickly correct (and I used this brake all my ride that day).

2. Why did I get bruises all over? It completely amused me. What position/s would have given me bruises on both knuckles, both knees, right elbow, left thigh (I suspect this was by the handle – road bike). And pain in buttocks. The temple injury must have been due to helmet (do not have inner soft paddings). It is possible, like my father guesses, since I never applied brakes, I might have been dragged by the inertia for some distance on the ground.

3. Was my unconsciousness (confirmed by the GPS reading I checked after returning home, and injury on right temple, anything I should be really worried of? I hate doctors and diagnostics. 

On a side note, I was deeply disappointed that I would not be able to ride for next few days.

I had been riding for just one year, and did a few century rides during the year, and several around 70-80 kms. I ride to work every day, which is 7 kms one way, with a good uphill road. This particular ride today, wasn’t exhausting at all. But yes, it was unusually cold this time in Hyderabad with temperatures dropping to 9 degrees Celsius. Near the airport it was even more chilling. Should have been at least three degrees lower.

In retrospect, I had realized the symptoms that I had that day was identical to the hypoglycemia attacks I used to have several years ago when I was diabetic. I would have bare idea of what is happening (about 10 to 15 seconds notice) and ‘just enough conscious to know’ that I need to ask for help, but would not have control on my body to call for help (to my wife sleeping next to me). I would get them both when I would strenuous work out on cross trainer, as well as in the middle of my sleep. I was not able to find the cause. The physician concluded all diabetics have this condition. Since return to India seven years ago, I gave up allopathy medicines (and later ayurvedic) and never had those bouts again (barring one instance). The only difference was this time, I was not sweating when I fell down.

And this time, curiously, I only recollect the sudden handle wobble for a second or two. That’s it! I don’t even remember falling down. The next thing I knew after the wobble was I am on the ground, and slow recovery of conscious. I must have been in that position for three minutes.

Dec 24, 2010:

Finally, it is busted! Why I fell. And it sounds silly, yet matches so well, with happened that day!

I saw the doctor (my elder brother – who also specializes in vertigo). He asked me about my normal blood glucose levels, and then here was his conclusion (I forgot the technical term he gave).

When we move in a singular direction for very long time, without moving head and sight, mind gets used to that position. When there is a sudden change in orientation and a direction difference so much so that we are actually seeing in reverse direction, there is a momentary disruption of oxygen to head (through neck area), and so a potential loss of consciousness. This often happens to drivers in cars. He handed over a sheet of neck exercise routine for better fitness in that area. In my case, this is exactly what happened like he said. I was riding on the express way that day (which is rarely my preferred route) and in pitch darkness (thanks to severe winter this year and my early morning ride). During the onward journey other than the cycle light there was nothing to see. It was unusually cold at about 7 degrees C. I would usually turn my head every now and then, wanting to see what’s around me, as I pass through and enjoy the route. Here on that day, there was nothing to watch on onward ride and very little during return. So surprisingly that day, just after riding about 40 – 45 kms my neck started aching for being put in constant position. I was wanting to drop my head loose and relax while I ride. But these days’ traffic situation and uncertainty of ever changing road conditions would not allow me to take that risk. With the road bike, the neck is in a more taut position, if we do not consciously notice and shake head. I do change my hand positions often (hardly did that day). Then there was this downhill and I knew there was fencing by the road and clean road ahead. So I just dropped my head in a relaxed posture and rode for some distance. When I wanted to cross over two lanes to the right, I just lifted my head and turned back. That is all I remember! The next thing I knew was flat on the road, and waking up after a gap of 3 minutes (per the GPS Application) wanting to get up. Couldn’t operate my limbs myself, until someone helped. Once I was up, I was near normal. A gulp of water, and some bleeding injuries, I was on my way, uphill to my home, not needing my wife to pull her car out for me.

Lessons learned:
1. Drink water every few minutes whether thirsty or not (have been doing this after some bad experiences during summer)
2. Eat after every few hours of ride, whether hungry or not (used to do this after reaching destination – halfway, but recently got into bad habit of nonstop riding for 4-5 hours)
3. Take a break after a couple of hours of ride (doesn’t kill any statistics; really I am not racing or for it)
4. Keep moving head every now and then (will need to do consciously if the route did not provide an opportunity, naturally)

I am running through some bad times; at profession, monetarily (somewhat!), and health-wise; and stressed. Racing behind time all the time. My bruises still trouble me somewhat. Being winter they wouldn’t heal soon. And here I am stubborn, wanting to avoid antibiotic.

Current status:
Most bruises don’t trouble me much. The knee does, and back of palm. Blood clot on thigh is Nearly gone. Rest healed well. Not too bad, understanding that at about 25 kmph I did not brake and fell. Must have been dragged for a distance. There are some minor damages to cycle (scratches). Having coughed up over 80k of money on that, yes I am unhappy on that too!

2 thoughts on “Fall from my cycle – freak yet bizarre

  1. That is something I'd never heard of, Malik. Glad you're pretty much OK, and the bike is still functional. That would be very frightening. I'll have to keep it in mind, though I think it would be extremely rare for me not to turn my head at times. Dan


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