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  1. #1
    Brusheda
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    Dangers of Long Distance Cycling?

    I don't know why but this question popped into my head yesterday. HOw often do cyclists in long distance events have something go wrong and wind up in the hospital or worse? I was just curious if it happens very often that people have learned to ignore suffering and push themselves too far and get really sick during events (not including RAAM).

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    4 deaths in PBP since 1891, no idea on hospitalisation.

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    Senior Member lutz's Avatar
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    In Germany, the sport with the highest death rate is the traditional equivalent of bowling (Kegeln) - a sport that is carried out in a pub environment.
    Weigh your risks!

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    The thing is, people get injured or become ill from all sorts of things. I believe heart attacks are the #1 killer, and heart attacks are generally caused (or triggered) by things like a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, eating foods that aren't so good for you, and obesity ... quite the opposite of the lifestyle of most long distance cyclists. And lots of people get injured, hospitalized, or killed at work or at home ... or in their vehicles. People die every weekend around here in car accidents.

    Injuries and death do happen to cyclists, but I'm not sure that they happen at any greater percentage than doing anything else in life. I'm accident prone, and I'd have to say that the number of cycling accidents I've been in is probably about equal to the number of non-cycling accidents I've been in. The worst injury I have ever experienced was not cycling-related. I dropped a pot of boiling water on my left foot, and burnt it to the bone. Right now I'm healing from a separated shoulder (cycling related accident - a crash during a 200K 6 weeks ago), but 7 years ago, I was healing from a torn rotator cuff (non-cycling related accident - that was a sweater incident).

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    Dead Men Assume...
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    but 7 years ago, I was healing from a torn rotator cuff (non-cycling related accident - that was a sweater incident).
    Send that sweater to your worst enemy!

  6. #6
    Senior Member Paul L.'s Avatar
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    Hypothermia/heat stroked is one to watch out for since the sport includes temp extremes from day to night.
    I developed back problems before switching to the recumbent after my first 400k.
    Then you have shermers neck, saddle sores, and numb hands or feet (I had toes that were numb for several weeks after a 600k once).

    Most of those are avoidable before having to go to the hospital but I have seen people get awfully close to having to go.
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    Senior Member rodrigaj's Avatar
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    I believe the real issue is how fit you are. Every year a dozen or so folk die from snow shoveling in Wisconsin. No one would consider snow shoveling an especially dangerous activity, but when coupled with sendentary life styles and lack of fitness, it can be deadly.

    It has taken me about two years to be fit enough to ride 100 miles. My guess is that anyone that is injured in a century (not including crashes) has not adequately prepared their bodies for the event. I'm 58 years old and I know my limitations. I eat well and ride daily, but I am not ready for the 200km or 300km events that are tossed about on this forum.

  8. #8
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    I was healing from a torn rotator cuff (non-cycling related accident - that was a sweater incident).
    See, that sweater should have had a full zip! Bad sweater! Video link?

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    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    See, that sweater should have had a full zip! Bad sweater! Video link?
    Yeah, that one should have had a full zip!! There I was getting dressed in the morning, more quickly than usual, and the next thing I knew there was a loud SNAP, and I was sitting on the edge of the bed clutching my left shoulder and fighting off nausea and pain. (Yes, the same shoulder I've now separated)

    But I couldn't bring myself to seek medical attention ... what was I going to say??? "Ummm, I guess I was having some trouble getting dressed, and ....."

    It wasn't till 2-3 weeks later when I couldn't move the arm, and was having pain from the wrist up to the shoulder and down my chest and back, that I finally saw a Dr. ... in emergency.

    Believe me, it is less embarrassing to hurt your shoulder in a cycling-related incident than it is to hurt your shoulder in a sweater incident!!


    But despite the fact that I ended up in emergency because of a sweater incident ... I haven't given up dressing in the morning!! And just because I've separated my shoulder in a cycling incident ... I haven't given up cycling.

  10. #10
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rodrigaj
    It has taken me about two years to be fit enough to ride 100 miles. My guess is that anyone that is injured in a century (not including crashes) has not adequately prepared their bodies for the event. I'm 58 years old and I know my limitations. I eat well and ride daily, but I am not ready for the 200km or 300km events that are tossed about on this forum.
    How many centuries have you ridden? Once you've done 2 or 3, you should have no trouble riding a 200K ... that's only 125 miles.

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    Member motoman2100's Avatar
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    A buddy of mine was doing a 24 hour race and his kidneys shutdown from all the stress, he ended up in the hospital for a night and was released the next morning.
    Life is Short Bike Hard

    Work to Eat, Eat to Live, Live to Bike, Bike to Work

  12. #12
    Senior Member ken cummings's Avatar
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    Why do you exclude RAAM? The organization is very open about why people drop out or what horrors they suffer and still finish. Go through the back issues of ULTRACYCLING and make a list. I've followed RAAM since the beginning and the worst case I can recall was that of Wayne Phillips, a Canadian. He was smashed off the road in Texas by a yellow vehicle and is permanently crippled.
    This space open

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motoman2100
    A buddy of mine was doing a 24 hour race and his kidneys shutdown from all the stress, he ended up in the hospital for a night and was released the next morning.
    Just a guess, but perhaps he didn't take in enough electrolytes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cummings
    I've followed RAAM since the beginning and the worst case I can recall was that of Wayne Phillips, a Canadian. He was smashed off the road in Texas by a yellow vehicle and is permanently crippled.
    Bob Breedlove died during RAAM

  15. #15
    Senior Member The Octopus's Avatar
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    Being overly hot or overly cold are probably much more of a concern to the long-distance crowd than the typical cyclist. I've personally been hypothermic (a 200K ridden in 38F pouring rain with 20+mph winds) and I suffered occular edema in a race once (solution: blink more, hydrate dried-out contacts). I've seen guys whose neck muscles have failed, folks with severe saddle sores (I rode with a RAAM veteran last weekend who claims scars from saddle sores; I didn't personally verify this!), lots of hand and wrist numbness and tingling that can last for weeks or longer (I know a PBP ancien with some permanent nerve damage from long riding). Note that a lot of this stuff is preventable, but these are some risks that you're more likely to encounter if you do long rides/races than if you don't.

    Probably the biggest risk that we long distance cyclists face is from increased exposure to normal cycling risks -- things like bad encounters with cars (and their hostile occupants), nasty dogs, falls, wrecks, catastropic mechanical failures (I broke a stem bolt during a 400K!) -- because we're riding a lot more miles than most recreational cyclists. The risks of these sorts of things are probably fixed; they're the same no mater the kind of riding you do. We're just exposing ourselves more.

    In races and even randoneuring events, these common events manifest themselves frequently. Someone died at Calvin's in 2004; RAAM has claimed two lives in the last three years; I've seen pile-ups, folks leave the road, folks hit by dogs, folks hit by cars. Of course, I've seen all this stuff in club rides (tours kill folks), USCF races (crashes are a dime a dozen) and informal group rides (got to love those country dogs!).

    Most likely, I bet, injuries -- especially those that require a trip to the ER or the morgue -- to long-distance cyclists are going to come from the fairly common things like cars, wet pavement, and dogs, and not from the uncommon. That said, the uncommon stuff -- severe electrolyte problems, nerve damage, scars on your ass -- will likely never happen to you if you don't do the long stuff.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Hard to say, you don't define "long distance", nor whether the cycling is part of an organized event, or just folks riding along. There are no accurate records that bridge the collection of situations because there are no "umbrella" organizations recording all related activity.

    To the best of my knowledge, records would have to be perused manually, for "incidental notes" transcribed by emergency techs to detect the nature of medical facts related to each incident.

    Therefore no records exist [that I know of ] -- and this thread is just one more in a long line of bull-fish that these forums often generate...........................

    For a few hundred thousand $US, I'll rectify the situation.........

  17. #17
    just another gosling Carbonfiberboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    But despite the fact that I ended up in emergency because of a sweater incident ... I haven't given up dressing in the morning!! And just because I've separated my shoulder in a cycling incident ... I haven't given up cycling.
    Well, I just hope you warm up better before trying to get dressed! It's dangerous. A male friend of mine reached down to put on his socks and wound up spending 2 weeks on the couch with excruciating back pain. It's terrible what can happen.

  18. #18
    Don't mince words Red Rider's Avatar
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    Last year I rode 5 centuries with no problems aside from the usual elation/exhaustion that accompanies such events.

    This year we've ridden 4 centuries on our tandem (thinking about 200K and beyond next year, since this is my husband's first year of riding distances & his schedule interferes with training). On our third century, at mile 97, we were doored by a clueless motorist who blamed us for the incident. Front wheel of the tandem was taco'd, our door-hitting-sides were contused and bruised badly. We filed a police report but aside from ice & Ibupr*fen required no medical intervention.

    If I worried about getting hurt, I'd never get on the bike.
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  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
    Well, I just hope you warm up better before trying to get dressed! It's dangerous. A male friend of mine reached down to put on his socks and wound up spending 2 weeks on the couch with excruciating back pain. It's terrible what can happen.
    They should put warning labels on clothing!! You just never know!!




    Of course, with me around, just about everything should have a warning label on it. I once sprained an ankle in a TV channel changing incident. I bashed in a knee on my coffee table while slipping on a garbage bag while falling off my trainer. And I've impaled myself on a picket fence. Just to name a scant few of the accidents I've had ....

    If I worried about getting hurt, I'd never get up in the morning. But then, knowing me, I'd probably fall out of bed or something.

    LIFE is fraught with dangers!

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    Quote Originally Posted by motoman2100
    A buddy of mine was doing a 24 hour race and his kidneys shutdown from all the stress, he ended up in the hospital for a night and was released the next morning.
    This is a concern of mine as I get ramped up into the century range. I don't race, and certainly a century isn't the same as a 24 hour race, but living on only one kidney and riding long distances concerns me sometimes. Still, no guts (so to speak), no glory.
    - Mark

  21. #21
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markewallace
    This is a concern of mine as I get ramped up into the century range. I don't race, and certainly a century isn't the same as a 24 hour race, but living on only one kidney and riding long distances concerns me sometimes. Still, no guts (so to speak), no glory.
    Have a read over some of the articles on this site about things like dehydration, drinking too much, electrolytes, hyponatremia, nutrition, sodium, and water:

    http://www.ultracycling.com/siteindex.html

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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    Have a read over some of the articles on this site about things like dehydration, drinking too much, electrolytes, hyponatremia, nutrition, sodium, and water:

    http://www.ultracycling.com/siteindex.html
    I haven't, but I shall. Thanks for the tip.
    - Mark

  23. #23
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    More miles = more hrs. on the road = more exposure to cars. Not to mention you're solo more often than Sunday club riders, so you're even less visible.

    Wear high vis. and use lots of LEDs.

  24. #24
    Senior Member Goonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ken cummings
    I've followed RAAM since the beginning and the worst case I can recall was that of Wayne Phillips, a Canadian.
    You've followed RAAM from the beginning, and don't know about the two fatalities in the event?

    The first was Brett Malin, struck by a truck while turning around on the road.
    The second was Bob Breedlove, who probably lost consciousness somehow during a descent and crossed into the path of a truck.

    I believe the single biggest medical reason for RAAM DNF's is pneumonia and other respiratory problems while riding in temperature extremes and dry air of the high desert.

    Otherwise, serious medical problems from long-distance riding are rare. Hyponatremia is very rare, especially when compared to marathon runners. Hypothermia, heat stroke and dehydration are more common, but rarely lead to hospitalization. Nerve damage in hands and feet is fairly common after very long events, but not really that "serious".

    I've heard it said that the biggest cause of serious injuries on PBP is riders falling asleep and crashing. That's why the ACP outlawed aero bars.

  25. #25
    Senior Member Goonster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by danimal123
    More miles = more hrs. on the road = more exposure to cars.
    Not necessarily. I just rode a 400 km brevet that had less traffic than some of my local forty-mile club rides.

    But yes, proper lighting and reflectors are key, which is why they are required and checked on brevets.

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