The sound my helmet made when it broke on the pavement was louder than the clatter of the bike on asphalt, louder than me saying, “Shit!” when I realized the inevitability of the fall. I had taken my attention off the road for a second to adjust the frame pump, which had been rubbing on my leg. With one hand off the bars, I hit what I think was a hickory nut, throwing the front wheel into a spasm that aimed me at the wire guardrail on the left side of the narrow road. Hitting that would have flipped me over the handlebars and over a bank, or worse, onto one of the guardrail posts. When the front wheel dropped off the pavement, to avoid either of these conclusions, I laid the bike down on my right side.
There was no damage to the bike beyond a twisted brake lever. I didn’t feel too bad either, just some road rash on my elbow and what would turn out to be a cantaloupe sized bruise on my hip. I hadn’t lost consciousness, although I felt slightly dazed. I figured that was just a bit of shock. Checking my helmet, there were indentations on the outside from the chip-seal pavement. On the inside, the foam was cracked. Clearly, time for a new one, but nothing seemed like a big deal. A quick blow from my palm straightened the brake lever, and I saddled up to continue the ride to work.
Several hours after the crash, my head hurt and I couldn’t concentrate. It was like being hungover. Still, I finished out the day, although I got little done, and cycled home. Tired, I went to bed early. The hangover feel was still there in the morning. I drove to work, put in a couple of desultory hours, went home, and called my doctor. I was told to come right in, and 15 minutes of questions and bright lights in my eyes confirmed what I’d come to suspect – I had a mild concussion.
The crash was Tuesday, and apart from two hours Wednesday morning, I stayed home from work the rest of the week. Thinking hurt. Looking at a computer screen hurt. By Friday afternoon, I felt close to normal, and Saturday I did a 42 miler, sporting my new helmet.