*Note: The photo of me wiping out above is not the actual accident. People were asking if I got a footage of my crash. I turned my action camera off minutes after gun start to focus on the race.*
It was the weekend my friends and I were looking forward to. We’ve been to several mountain biking spots in Luzon but this one was like no other. Imagine competing in a 100 kilometer cross country race by the coastline of Quezon, with views of green mountainous terrain on one side and vast blue waters on the other. It was an idea that was just hard to pass.
We were also set the day before. I prepared my freshly tuned bike from a local bike shop, secured my medical certificate (which took me almost a week to obtain), and pitched a tent to prepare for the big event.
The split second that changed my life
I woke up the next day to put my gear on and pedaled my way to the starting line. It was still dark but the vibrant crowd and the festivity of the event made it seem that everything would go according to plan: Finish the race, get the medal, take some photos, and celebrate with friends.
Before I knew it, I was racing with hundreds of other cyclists along the powdery trails, not knowing that this:
Would turn in to this:
My brakes malfunctioned when I was going downhill with speeds up to 40kms per hour. I tried to use my brakes upon accelerating but the levers weren’t responding as I lost control along the loose, gravelly trail. I crashed near the apex before passing out.
Total pain fest
Paramedics were trying to put me on a stretcher when I regained consciousness. It was the middle of nowhere and it would be almost impossible for me to be transported immediately if it weren’t for the very quick response of the marshals and emergency team.
It was hard to breathe and the pain was overwhelming. What’s scary was that I always let out a deep, heaving sound as I struggle to exhale. My left arm was unable to be touched because of the whimpers and screams I let out due to the extreme pain.
The ambulance took me to a hospital in Infanta, Quezon for first-aid and a dose of morphine. The body pains diminished for a while but my left arm still hurt like hell. Good thing they were able to put a splint on it and also gauze up my lacerated left eye.
I was then transferred to Laguna but the Ortho wasn’t available until 5pm. The ambulance then drove me to Makati where I was confined for a week. That was the fastest trip I have ever experienced from Quezon to Makati.
After several Xrays, MRIs, and a CT Scan, results showed that I have a non-displaced fracture in my cervical spine (C4), laceration and bruises in my left eye, and damaged nerves from my left shoulder to my hands and fingers. CT Scan showed no internal bleeding in the head. Thank God.
My helmet was split like a watermelon
“If you were not wearing a helmet, you’re not going to make it here.”
That’s what my doctor told me when I was able to get back to my senses and speak with people. I was in pain for days but I was able to sit up with the help of nurses and family members.
My friend BJ who was with me during the race took care of my stuff and kept my bike. With the help of the organizers and medical staff, my things were all in place.
He sent me a message about two days after the accident when I had the strength to check my phone. I was astonished by the damage dealt by my helmet and my bike’s front wheel. I sighed in relief thinking that it could have been my head.
My doctor was right…
The importance of wearing a helmet (Parts explained)
I’ve received some comments and messages on social media asking why I was wearing a helmet made out of “styrofoam.” To bury the hatchet, I’ll list down each parts and why we cyclists are wearing this type of protection:
- Shell: The outer part of the helmet is designed to be smooth in order for any punctures or sharp objects to slide off upon impact. It also helps to skid easily on rough surfaces to avoid further damage to your neck.
- EPS: That “styrofoam” stuff that was being demonized by some is called Expanded Polystyrene. This is what cycling helmets are made of. It was not put there primarily to make your helmet lighter and is in fact intended to save your life. These polymer foams were the standards in head protection because it was scientifically tested to dissipate the force effectively. (*Styrofoam is a trademark name while EPS is the generic industry name.)
- MIPS: Some helmets have this while some don’t. (And I prefer to get a new one with MIPS technology from now on.) MIPS stands for Multi-Directional Impact Protection System. It is another layer added to the helmet to further reduce friction. It allows the helmet’s absorbing layer to rotate slightly upon impact.
Other useful parts:
- Visor: Mountain bike helmets have detachable visors to protect against the sun. It also helps reduce rain water to blur your vision.
- Straps: To make sure that your helmet is locked securely as you enjoy your ride.
- Vents: Helps to keep you cool and comfortable during your ride.
- Full-Face helmets: Added protection for downhill and enduro riders.
It happens when you least expect it
I’m showing this to make everyone aware of the importance of wearing a helmet when cycling, skateboarding, or driving a motorcycle. I hope my story stresses out how valuable helmets are whether on the road or along the trails. My body may be injured in several places but at least I get to keep my life. Thank You Lord…
Take note that my bike was properly tuned before I used it, and I got a medical certificate prior to the ride. This is a testament that no matter how boy scout ready you are, accidents and mech errors can still happen. You’ll never know what surprises fate can throw at you out there (Real life example: Counterflowing trucks!) So please, PLEASE, as a fellow cyclist and a friend. Please protect yourselves and wear a helmet.