Nick and I did a gravel century last Sunday. We left Ames and headed to Ledges State Park then headed north along the river via some great hilly roads along the river. We rode down 224th, a dead end road I knew to have a great hill on it. Down was steep and loose, but we took it easy and, after a short break at the bottom, we turned around to ride up. I had ridden the road years ago in an adventure race and remembered that there had been a prize for those folks who managed to ride up the hill without walking. Either the hill has gotten easier or I have gotten stronger, because the hill was really pretty easy by Des Moines River standards.
We headed North through Boone where we scared some peafowl then continued on to the Y Camp road (166th). Here's where the fun happened. As we started down the steep grade the loose washboarded gravel got the best of Nick. He was about 10 yards ahead of me when I saw his rear tire break loose. First he swung to the right and I thought, "that's some loose gravel, I'd better watch out." Then he over corrected to the left and I thought, "he's not going to make it." I watched as he went down...hard. He fell to the left while his bike went more right. I saw a water bottle rocket out of it's cage and fly off the road to the right as a dust cloud rose from the impact. At this point, with Nick and his bike covering much of the road directly ahead of me I had to decide what to do. Ride over him or try to get around to the left where there was still some room. Riding over him was out of the question. I don't like to ride over my friends and I figured that it would just result in a bad header-type crash for me. I steered left and hit the brakes as hard as I could without locking them up. As it was there was no chance and I went down hard too. I slid down on my left arm and then rolled onto my back where I slid for a surprising distance on my Camelbak to a stop just a little downhill from Nick.
Nick spoke first, "Are you okay?" I figured he was hurt worse than I was so I said, "Yeah, I'm okay," and then stood up to prove it to myself. It hurt to stand, but I knew that there wasn't anything seriously wrong. We were both shaky from adrenaline and headed to a shady spot a little ways down the hill. There we sat down calmed down while irrigating our wounds with water bottles. Both of us had scrapes down our left sides, arms, and legs. His jersey was torn, while my Camelbak seemed to have taken the blow without damage. Both our bikes were okay except for misaligned brake levers. Nick said something like, "Bikes are tough." To which I thought, but did not say, "So are we."
At first as we rested I was wondering what the fastest way to end the ride was. Actually I started thinking about exit strategies even before I crashed. Do we ride back into Boone, continue up to Stratford and complete the ride, or call for a ride home? Pretty quickly we decided that we were okay to go on and carefully descended the rest of the way down into the valley. I cut a few miles off the route where I had planned to go back south and pick up a few more hills and we headed off along the river valley north to Pilot Mound. The hills were a little tougher than usual due to our injuries and I started to notice that my ribs hurt on my left side. It really only hurt when I breathed hard or pulled up on the handlebars. In other words only on the uphills. As we got past Dayton and climbed the last steep hill out of the river valley on River Road we started to hear small engine noises. I figured somebody was out on their ATVs and we'd see them soon enough, but as we got closer I started to hear the sounds of an announcer on a PA system. We had stumbled upon the Dayton Hare Scramble. We thought about trying to find some people who we knew would be there, but decided against it and headed on to Stratford. On the paved hill into Stratford my front tire started to go flat. Since I was only a couple of miles out of town and it seemed like a slow leak, I aired up the tire without changing the tube. I knew it wasn't the right thing to do, but I figured I'd feel more like working on it after I had rested and had something to eat and drink. I made it into town without any more problems.
After a Monster Pop (it is pop) and a bag of chips, we were good to go. I pumped some more air into my tire and we headed for home. About five miles out of town my laziness caught up with me when my tire blew. No slow leak this, I had to fix it. That done we rode along more dusty, washboarded roads into Gilbert and then back home to Ames. It ended up being a pretty tough ride. My legs don't hurt from riding, but my back, neck, ribs, and left arm are all pretty beat up from the crash. But hey, if you don't crash occasionally you don't know what your limits are.