Charles River Wheelers

The Comeback Crew

2023-07-20 1:43 PM | Anonymous

By Eli Post

There are risks in any active sport. You can get hit by a bat or a ball, slide on an icy spot into a tree, or get caught in a pothole or smashed by a car. We don’t know how biking safety relates to other sports, but we do know that some of our friends are involved in accidents and get injured. Not to our surprise, we learn that a broken bone, or whatever, doesn’t discourage most folks from getting back on the bike, which is the point of this article. We review the accident stories of CRW members who were injured but continued riding and put their past injuries aside when they recovered. Reading this article may cause you to question the wisdom of some of the authors as there is a fine line between courage and foolishness. Finally, stories matter, and change how you think about issues. We hope these stories encourage you to keep biking if you have a spill and are even injured.

Pamela Blalock

I am always surprised when folks ask how I was able to get back on the bike.  What's the alternative? Not riding is simply not an option.  

I've had a few setbacks in recent years. I get back on the bike because it brings me joy, pure and simple.  (Photo is Pamela relaxing with her cat)

It started in 2013, when I was hit by a truck. I was visiting my dad in NC and had gone out for a quick morning ride. An inattentive driver hit me from behind. Luckily, I was riding a fixed gear bike and was thrown clear. When the truck tire hit my rear wheel, the pedals stopped moving, but I kept going. Good thing or my left leg would have been crushed. I broke several vertebrae and ribs. A surgeon who had ridden down the same road a few hours earlier before, put rods and screws in my back to stabilize things.  

The next day as I started to process what had happened, I spent a split-second wondering if would be able to get back on the bike. I had to wear a back brace for several months and as a result lost a lot of core strength. But I started walking right away and was soon walking 6 to 10 miles a day. I started riding a stationary bike at PT and have photos of me smiling on the bike.  

I've never been one who enjoys riding indoors, but I got a stationary trainer and set my fixed gear bike on it. I rode it lots over the next few months.  I got out of the brace just after Christmas, just in time for snow and ice to present an additional challenge. But then a mild spell came in January, and I headed out one day for a spin up and down the bike path. And it felt good. Bob Wolf accompanied me on my first road ride and thanks to having no memory of the collision, I had no PTSD. What I felt was the simple pleasure I have always taken from riding a bike.  

I've had a few setbacks since, with cancer, shoulder replacement and a few broken collarbones. The bike is always there and my source of strength for each recovery. 

Bob Wolf

In November 2022 I crashed on my own when turning right and landed hard on my left side.  I have no memory of what happened so don’t know what caused the spill. Injuries included concussion, vertigo, broken collar bone, plus other more minor trauma.  I saw 7 doctors for 10 conditions and am still in recovery.  I’m now happily riding with friends. Despite all my medical issues, I never thought of not getting back on the bike. (Photo shows Bob with his precious grand-daughters)

Author’s Note. Bob is a good friend, and I visited him at home several days after the accident. Although he slipped and fell without contacting an automobile, his injuries were severe. I can’t think of a medical term to use, but I will try my best to describe his injuries as I perceived them. They don’t exist separately and the collection in one body was scary. It is a credit to Bob’s courage, determination, and positive thinking that brought him back to biking.

Eli Post

It was the Spring of 2011, and the two of us started out in Brookline, and were heading to Lincoln. My friend was ahead of me and made the light at Center Street in Newton. I remember the light changing and crossing Center Street, but the rest was blank until I found myself on a stretcher being loaded into an ambulance. My son arrived the next day and we put together the scenario. A twig got caught in my front wheel, locking it up. I flew over the handlebars and suffered a partial shoulder tear, and cracks in my cervical spine. I’ll spare the gory details, but one incident is revealing. The surgeon came by my hospital room with his medical team. He patiently explained my medical condition vertebra by vertebra and advised that surgery was not warranted but that I would need to wear a massive neck brace for many months. He spoke for several minutes, was serious in tone, and concluded his exhaustive medical analysis by asking if I had any questions. Without thinking, I blurted out “When can I get back on the bike”. His head dropped in utter astonishment, and he never responded.

Fred Newton

My accident was so unlikely to happen again, say less than one in a million, that it was easy for me to rationalize continuing riding. (Top photo is Fred out of rehab,and bottom is on a ride three months later.)

Back in March in 2017 I was on a small group ride on a windy day when a small piece of tree branch fell and bounced into my front spokes, sending me over the bars and landing square on my back. Immediately I couldn’t move either leg, and a friend had to release my feet from the pedals. I was taken to Lahey and after about an hour I regained some movement in my left leg. After a laminectomy and metal rod insertion for fractures of thoracic vertebrae 3 & 4, I regained some movement in the right leg, but was left with a permanent 50% loss of strength due to spinal cord compression. 

I went home with a back brace and walker, but after a few months I got on my indoor exercise bike and by fall I was able to do a 17-mile road ride with a friend and I did well but was 3-4 mph slower. I was stable for 4 years, but old age creeped up on me and I got an e-bike the spring of 2022. Love it and having as much fun as ever!

Author’s Note. Fred is a friend, and I visited him at Whittier Rehab in Southborough. He was wearing a monumental back brace and was not able to lift a leg. It was as if his brain could not talk to his legs. I feared he would not be able to walk. However, I was delighted to see Fred return to biking after months of rehab, exercise, and old-fashioned determination. It is truly miraculous that Fred conquered his injury.

Rich Taylor

I was on a club ride in 2012 when the disaster struck. I was in Harvard, MA on a long downhill when the front wheel came off my bike. We don’t know what caused this mechanical disfunction, but the consequences were severe. I lost control of the bike and went over a rock wall. My injuries included 12 broken ribs, puncture of the lungs, and a broken shoulder bone. I had to be air transported to the UMass Hospital in Worcester. There was a medical doctor on the ride who stopped and rendered aid. I was in the emergency room for 2 days and in the hospital for 10 days, when they took me to a rehab facility where I spent another week, before recovering at home. In total it took three months to recover. You ask why I didn’t call it quits. I love biking and it would take more than some broken bones to make me stop.

(Author's Note: Rich is a dear friend, and I visited when he was at UMass Hospital. I thought I was on a movie set as he had all sorts of tubes with multi-color liquids surrounding him. I could not tell which were connected to his body nor whether the liquids were from within him. Needles to say, the picture was of a man with elaborate medical support, and Rich underplays how serious his condition was. I was happy to see him back on the bike, and we recently rode together.)

Barbara Martin

Greetings Eli, thank you for this survey of those of us who have had biking accidents and their consequences for our lives going forward.  (Photo shows Barbara with her son after his run in the Boston Marathon) 

I was within the first 10 miles of an 80-mile ride and was in the lead of a smaller group of friends starting a descent of a smallish hill when I saw a dog owner with his dog on the sidewalk on my right. The dog was straining hard on the leash, and I remember (the last thing to remember till I was in the ambulance moaning about the pain in my lower abdomen) saying to myself, “Oh I hope he can hold that dog”.  

Needless to say, he was not able, and the dog must have come at me resulting in me crashing.  Elizabeth was the first on the scene and the others followed quickly.  They too found me moaning but seemingly coherent enough to say to them, “I best get up and lay down off the road”. (Again, no memory of this). 

At the hospital in Worcester, I was evaluated, and it was discovered I had 2 cracked ribs and a dissected descending aorta (only months later did I find I had fractured my pubic bone).  Only 4 months later did I realize that the impact of the accident had stretched the ligaments that support all my female organs to the point that for the last 3 years I have suffered with prolapse of all female organs with the consequence of needing major surgery.  While the specialists say this condition is due to 2 pregnancies, there is no question that it is a consequence of the accident.  

 Thankfully I can say that I have healed from the injuries (including the stretched ligaments which are, strange as it seems to both my doctors and friends, feeling like they are regaining their strength and elasticity).  Only time will tell how thorough that recovery will be. 

I always knew the accident would not prevent me from getting back on my bike and I was blessed with a body that knows how to heal itself to allow me to fulfill this resolve.

Frank Hubbard

This will be a difficult post. It essentially resolves the benefits of riding varied routes with other people. My last accident was dramatic, but I cannot recall the specifics. I was on a training ride in preparation for the July diabetes ride, but I have no memory of the accident or for several days following the ride. I had a fractured leg but also a fractured spirit. At the time, I did not see a path to return to biking. As I progressed in rehab, I focused on improving my walking and dreamed of a return to swimming. Only with time did I begin to realize that riding with friends and getting out every day was essential to my recovery. I hiked, swam, and did indoor biking but I missed the socialization provided by group riding. I finally analyzed the facets of my riding style that were problematic and realized that if I were willing to return to riding, I would have to accept the risks. If I remained sedentary however, I would lose part of my social identity. The choice was simple.

Dr. Marc Baskin (Dr. Marc Baskin, MD, is affiliated with Boston Children's Hospital)

I was in New Hampshire on a CRW ride and was riding in front of the main group. The road ahead was bearing to the right I went to the left side of the lane and signaled as our route showed a left turn. A panel truck that had been behind me, moved out into the passing lane, and then swerved into my lane striking me on the left side and throwing me to the right. I was knocked unconscious for a short time and had a shoulder injury, and eventually recovered.  My impression is that the panel truck, when it went to pass saw an oncoming car, and that they could not see me initially, because the road ahead was bearing to the right.  I assume this caused the driver of the panel truck to move back into my lane striking me. Although it was a scary event, cycling is my main sport and I really enjoy it, so I went back to riding.

Dom Jorge

My accident occurred on June 19, 2021, when I hit a pothole that I hadn't seen. Although I did not lose consciousness, others told me that I continued to talk to them the entire time, I don't remember anything after flying over the handlebars until I was in the ambulance on the way to Emerson Hospital. I was told that I was moved to the local fire station where the ambulance picked me up. Ken, who I was riding with, took care of my bike.

After multiple CT scans it was determined that I had a pelvic fracture and a cracked sternum, as well as abrasions and deep contusions. They told me that no surgery was necessary and that everything would heal naturally in time. That evening I was transferred to the MGH trauma center at MGH Boston as Emerson does not have a trauma center. Also, my PCP and other physicians are at MGH.

I spent 2 nights at MGH before being released on crutches to my home. They estimated an 8–10-week recovery period. I received at home PT 2-3 times a week for about 5 weeks. 

My wife spent a lot of time taking care of me and the only reason I thought about not riding again was so that I would not put her through the ordeal again. But she was very supportive of my returning to riding, and I resumed riding in mid-August, first with a few stints on my trainer & then back on the road.

I had no hesitancy in going back to riding as I missed riding with my cycling friends. I have not suffered any PTSD and have continued riding since then with no adverse effects.

That's it. If you would like any further details, feel free to let me know.

Ken Hablow

October 2005. I was arrowing the Rosy Cheeks ride for, and with, Connie Farb. We were coming down Littleton County Rd. just before the friendly Crossings Hostel. Connie was behind me. A dog ran out from the right, which I did not see until it was too late to slow or make maneuvers.  I remember hitting the dog, then getting airborne. My next memory was lying on the side of the road with the EMTs asking which hospital I wanted to go to, Ayer (NOT!) or Emerson. I spent 3 days in the ICU after having a CT scan. I had; 6 or 7 cracked ribs, a cracked scapular, a fully torn left rotator cuff, and a cracked pelvis. “Cracked” is the operative word since nothing required surgery, except for the rotator cuff. I spent 2 full weeks in the orthopedic ward of the hospital. There was daily PT and OT. They would not release me until I could walk up and down 3 steps. It was the cracked pelvis that kept me immobile. It was several months before I could get back on a bike, and about 6 months of outpatient PT. the objective was always to get back on the road, which I ultimately did. There was never a doubt that I was going to do that, cycling is too addictive.


  • 2023-07-28 11:19 AM | Dave Adams
    Thanks for sharing these inspiring stories. I am just getting back on the bike, up to 20 mile rides thus far. In November 2022, commuting to work in Boston, the chain link fence was broken along the bike path between I-93 and the Mystic River (Medford / Somerville line.) I remember seeing it leaning over the path, but next thing I knew I was on the ground with my coat torn from my shoulder to my wrist, a Medford Fire EMT leaning over me, and an ambulance arriving. I felt okay with no broken bones, some bruising, a headache, and crushed helmet. A week in the ICU with a subarachnoid hemhorrage and a subdural hematoma at MGH stabilized me, but a worsening headache / growing hematoma led to a craniotomy in December, then a long, slow recovery. Doctors urged me to stay off the bike until about a month ago. I'm still getting my cycling habits back in good form, but I'm just loving being on 2 wheels again.
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    • 2023-07-29 6:43 PM | Anonymous
      Dave, Sorry to hear about your accident, but you are recovering and getting back on the bike. Eli
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