April Fooled

Wheeling down the W&OD on the Fuji at just under 20 m.p.h., approaching the crossing at Columbia Pike, I was reveling in the cool, sunny glory of a breezy April day.  Suddenly there was a loud “bang,” and my world was in chaos.  I could barely control my bike; I was practically sitting on the rear wheel; I couldn’t find the brake levers.  My bike veered to the right.  I steered mightily to get it back on the trail before I crashed.  Unevenly, still careening and veering, the bike went off the left side of the trail.  By then I had regained posture and the brakes, and got the bike to stop without falling off.

As is often said of such episodes, the whole thing seemed to unfold in slow motion, yet it probably took a total of four or five seconds.  I can’t remember every nanosecond, because I was so bewildered, trying to figure out what had happened and what was happening.

Off the bike, I checked myself out.  There were some abrasions on my chest, and some on my butt.  Then I noticed the bike.  It had no seat.  Or to be more precise, the saddle was attached to the bike only by the wedge, the small tool carrier bag that hangs from the saddle and loops around the seat post.  The saddle was not attached to the seat post.

My discomfort and danger had been wrought by what apparently is the weakest link in the seat post, the white metal threaded bolt that tightens the clamp that holds the rails on the bottom of the saddle in place atop the seat post.  It also determines the forward/backward tilt of the seat depending on how it is set.  The bolt had simply snapped.  That was the bang.  The saddle was instantaneously detached from the post, which is why I found myself suddenly almost sitting on the rear wheel.  I had the seat adjusted nearly to its farthest back position, and apparently over time that considerable weight and pressure was put on the bolt, especially when I went over a bump and came back down on the saddle hard.  (Though I had not done that immediately before the crash.)  Right after it snapped, I must have descended fast, with my chest hitting the top of the seat post.  Then I must have been partially sitting on the still spinning wheel, hence the posterior abrasions.  Amazingly neither my jersey nor my shorts were torn, or even visibly abraded.

I walked back along the trail to find and pick up the two pieces of the clamp.  It was remarkable how far I had traveled in those few seconds.  Perhaps 100’ to 110’.

Jane responded quickly to my emergency call.  Since the crash happened almost right at a major intersection, her route was straightforward enough once we had located the spot on the map, amid the tangle of Arlington roadways, in a phone dialogue.  I was very grateful, even though the ride only covered 8.75 miles of a projected 24.  The weather was so nice that I considered a short ride on another bike after we got home, but decided this was enough adventure for one day.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2012.

3 thoughts on “April Fooled

  1. Geez. You did well to report this unpleasantness so well. I echo Sarah in saying I’m glad you were not more seriously hurt.

  2. Yikes. I guess the extra leverage of having the seat pushed all the way back put more strain on the bolt. I don’t know how this could be avoided — unless as a preventive measure you look for a higher-grade replacement bolt to use in its place.

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