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View Poll Results: Which steering configuration is safer?

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36. You may not vote on this poll
  • Above Seat Steering (ASS)

    14 38.89%
  • Under Seat Steering (USS)

    2 5.56%
  • Either ASS or USS; they are equal

    6 16.67%
  • Unsure, or not relevant

    14 38.89%
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  1. #1
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    Bike Accident resulting in 911

    While riding to work on my high-racer USS on March 22, I entered a left turn at my usual speed (15-20) but hit a surprise patch of sand (I guess). I fell down so fast and hard that there was no time to make any corrections. I broke my left hip (very serious, multiple fractures of the upper femur) and dislocated multiple bones in my left hand. After emergency surgery to rebuild my hip and snap my hand bones back into place, one blood transfusion, and five days in the hospital, I'm home now. I'm unable to use crutches effectively, since my broken hand is on the same side as my broken hip. Thank heavens I had a helmet, and no brain injury. Still, I'm facing months of physical therapy and no bike riding for a LONG time.

    I've been thinking about this accident, and a couple thoughts might benefit others. The chief hypothesis I have is that USS may be more dangerous than ASS. My left hand broke as a result of the sudden collapse of my weight onto that hand -- which would not happen with ASS. Also, a major contributing factor to the broken hip was the fact that I fell off, slid on my stomach, and my cleats grabbed the road, shoving my left ankle across my right leg until the left ankle reached my right hip bone. This is a great position if you're a practiced Yogi or Zen master, but terrible for me. Perhaps neither of these would have happened with ASS. Thoughts?

    Also, any ideas about how to speed my recovery? I'm working with an Orthopedic surgeon and a PT, but thoughts from the cycling community are appreciated. Perhaps I will try a trike in a few months...

  2. #2
    dam this is fun ! STEEKER's Avatar
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    sh*t that really sucks man , I hope for a fast recovery for you , by the wayy I am afraid of uss
    LOW RACER PILOT MASI fixed/singlespeed http://www.flickr.com/photos/steeker/

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    Praying you have a speedy full recovery !!! God BLess

  4. #4
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    Yikes, scary accident!

    I have OSS, and it *feels* safer because my arms are up there to protect my body. With USS, I think I'd worry about being kind of exposed. That's just me.

    I hope you recover quickly and fully.

  5. #5
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    Sorry to hear about the crash. It was hard for me to read your story and sit still in my chair. Glad you are ok to talk about it.

    My only advise on recovery is, if there was ever a time to eat healthy it would be now. Your body knows it has some major repair work to do and it will need all the help it can get.

    Mark

  6. #6
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Ouch! Good luck. Be as active as you can. Don't be afraid of pain medicine if you need it.

  7. #7
    el padre
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    I don't have nor have ridden a USS bike so can't do much for the poll but it could have just been the way the accident 'took shape' ,,that is there might be an accident where having your hands under instead of over would have been better. that is why it is called an accident. May your recovery go faster than expected and may you feel comfortable on wheels again soon................peace

  8. #8
    Opt-in Member GreenGrasshoppr's Avatar
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    I almost had a similar accident last summer.

    I have an ASS bike, but I believe that what saved me was the fact that I was using ordinary pedals without cleats or toeclips, and I was able to react quickly and swing my legs outward and down to regain my balance

  9. #9
    Ride more, eat less cat0020's Avatar
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    I hope you speedy recovery.

    As to which configuration is safer, there is no way to determine, unless the operator of both type of bike is the same person, the accident conditions are identical, and most importantly, the operator of both boke react to to the accident identically.
    No one person would react to an accident exactly the same way time after time, so there is no determination as to which configuration of steering is safer from another.
    The best way to stay safe, ride within your limits and be awear of your surroundings as all time. Chances favor the prepared mind, master your environment and you'll survive just fine.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    I crashed an older Linear LWB with USS a couple times in over 5,000 miles of riding it. The crashes resulted in some pretty painful hematomas (blood blister inside hip muscles) but no broken bones. The only crash that would not have happened with OSS is the time I was winging my way through a series of traffic cones in a construction area. Clipped the HBs with the top of a cone and went down in an instant. The last one convinced me to try a trike. I still occasionally ride both the Linear and an Haluzak Horizon both with USS but I'm a bit more careful in close quarters where there is a possibility of catching the tip of the handlebars on anything.

  11. #11
    Recumbent Evangelist
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    Ouch! Best of luck in your recovery, I hope you heal well.

    I would have to say that on a 2-wheel 'bent, OSS is probably safer. When a customer asks, I usually recommend an OSS model if they plan to ride primarily in the city. If they ride country roads, either style is fine.

    Damned sandy patches. I ride a trike because of 'em.
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  12. #12
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    Thanks All

    Thanks everyone for the support and words of encouragement. Here's an informal forensic analysis of the accident scene followed by a few more diagnostic details (for those with strong stomaches only). I hope the former proves constructive.

    At present, I've been instructed to allow no weight on my left leg for at least 6 weeks. By 3 months I may be allowed partial weight, depending on the results of followup visits. My left hand has nerve damage and cannot be used for anything harder than turning a newspaper page.

    Informal forensic analysis of the scene:
    -- The actual patch of concrete where I fell has been completely overlayed with new asphalt. I heard that this happened 6 days after my accident. Thus, no personal, detailed review of the actual accident point was possible. I will try to learn more about the condition of the concrete on that day with the officer in charge of the scene, though since she is a park official I doubt any significant problems will be noted (other than the issues I'll mention below). I suspect there was a sandy patch or some significant structural problem (pothole?), though in my 25 years of cycling centuries in many states I've never fallen so quickly and with absolutely no warning.
    -- The concrete preceding that patch still has significant potholes and gravel debris. This is what prompted me to enter the turn at a conservative speed (or so I thought). The entrance to the state park has (and had) a 6-foot diamond warning sign stating "Warning, Rough road ahead." Guess they weren't kidding! The substantial road problems were due to our second most snowy/cold winter in history, plus the usual woes of underfunded park systems resulting in delayed infrastructure repairs.
    -- My bike remains, uninspected, at the Sheriff's office. I will be anxious to check it for blowouts, catastrophic wheel failure, or other serious problems. If I find anything, I'll post to this thread. However, I suspect no problems, as I maintain my bike very well, since it is (was) my main work-commuting vehicle.

    My hip injury is called a comminuted intertrochanteric fracture of the left femur.
    -- X-ray view of another patient that appears similar to my x-ray: see here under the figure titled "Zickel nail bridging a subtrochanteric fracture." I have an additional screw at the other end of the rod.
    -- Diagram showing how the procedure was performed
    -- Studies related to types of hardware used in my femur: (1) "Second Generation Intramedullary Nailing of Subtrochanteric Femur Fractures: A Biomechanical Study of Fracture Site Motion," Journal of Orthopaedic Trauma. (2) "Results of Subtrochanteric Fractures Treated with Dynamic Hip Screw and Dynamic Condylar Screw," Medical Principles and Practice.

    One final note: no other vehicles were involved. This was just me, myself, and I.

    Thank goodness for my helmet.

    Be careful out there!

  13. #13
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    STEEKER and others: Thanks for the support.

    I do like the feel I get from USS -- rather like "flying," particularly at higher speeds, with nothing to obstruct my vision. (Well, my knees are in front of me, but somehow those seem invisible while riding. Perhaps the same is true of ASS steering?) I also like the comfortable feeling of keeping my arms relaxed and loose at my sides. However, this accident is making me reconsider the safety factor of ASS.

    I wonder, how common is it for ASS folks to get their "sensitive areas" injured in accidents that cause them to be thrown forward on the bike -- or for their inside thighs to be bruised, or femurs broken, as a result of falling sideways and hitting the inside leg on the ASS steering? (Of course, I'm assuming that the accident victim has no time to do a steering correction or put a foot down -- just as I did not.) Opinions are welcome as a substitute for experience, as I have almost zero experience with ASS recumbents.

  14. #14
    bicyclist LandLuger's Avatar
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    Unfortunately, I've had the opportunity to wipe out on both a USS (AB Jetstream) and a ASS (Optima Baron). The carnage was worse on the Baron, but this was mainly a function of speed. I choose ASS as the safest because it is easier for the inexperienced rider to master. However, in a slide on sand or loose gravel you've just about had it on a 'bent; not much "body english" can be used to recover and I've only been able to recover once in memory. This is the biggest selling point for a tadpole, IMO.

  15. #15
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    Indeed. Precisely for that reason, I started another thread to learn more about trikes.

    Thanks.

  16. #16
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    LANDLUGER,

    Does your low-racer give you an advantage in an emergency? For example, your closer bottom bracket would seem to reduce the impact to your hip and legs.

    I suspect my high bottom bracket contributed to the force of impact. Great falling distance = greater speed = more impact = more carnage.

  17. #17
    Senior Member BlazingPedals's Avatar
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    Bents are a two-edged sword in case of dicey or slippery conditions. There's no recovery, because as you've found out, you can't use body english to help keep you up. Plus, the lower you are, the faster you go down. OTOH, injuries are usually limited to lower-body because of your body position prior to a crash. Hips and legs usually take the brunt of the impact. Your hand injury was probably related to the USS, and also a testimony to how fast you went down that you didn't get your hand off the bar in time? Just a guess. With your injuries, I'm wondering if it was more than just a bit of sand, and that the quick repair job on the pavement was meant to get rid of evidence before the lawyers started talking to each other. After all, landing on even moderately rough pavement should have caused nothing more than a bad case of road rash. Compared to a lowracer, the higher seat might have contributed some to your injuries. It's hard to say. It might be that you just 'got lucky' and landed at the perfect angle.

    I'd suggest taking some calcium supplements while you're healing. Maybe some OTC anti-osteoporosis concoction. Couldn't hurt, and might even help you heal faster.

  18. #18
    Senior Member izgod's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear about your accident, BikeZen. I broke my femur and hip two years ago when I slipped on some wet leaves going downhill at what I thought was a not so fast speed. I have a titanium rod in my leg with a few screws holding the bone together. I'm sorry to say, it's never been right since the accident, though I had a wonderful recovery, according to the therapists and my surgeon. I'm grateful I can walk, though I have a noticeable limp, and I have some serious arthritus like pain on cold damp days. I'm definitely a much more "conservative" rider now, always erring on the side of caution. The doctors could not believe I did that much damage with a slip and fall accident. This kind of trauma is usually seen in train wrecks or falls from high places. One of the therapists said to me about DF bikes, "That's why they were called 'safety bikes' when they were invented." Also, I never go out without a cell phone, as it saved my life. My accident occurred on a bike trail early in the morning when no-one was around. I would have bled to death if I couldn't have called 911. Also there was absolutely no damage to my BikeE. I took the brunt of it, as my feet were also cliped in. I've goten rid of the clips since then.

    Hope you are doing much better now and get back in the saddle soon.

  19. #19
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    izgod: thanks for the support. I also have a titanium rod and screws in my femur, holding it together. The doctors said the same thing: they were surprised at the amount of damage for a fall.

    My bike was also undamaged, except for a bent left USS bar (easily fixed with a screw) and a road-rashed brake lever and bar-end shifter (also on the left side -- the same side as my broken hand).

    My left leg is about 2 inches shorter than the right as a result of this accident. It'll be another two months before the doctors let me put any weight on it, since bone still needs to grow around some of the fractures.

    What can you tell me about your recovery and physical therapy? I'm curious to know what I have to look forward to. Did you find new challenges on the bike as a result of your accident?

    I have a hard time imagining life without cycling. The fresh air and exercise are really important to me, and my years of jogging and 14er climbing are pretty much over. Right now I'm torn between a "get back on the horse" philosophy (getting back on my 2-wheel bent) and a more conservative "buy a trike" approach.

  20. #20
    Senior Member izgod's Avatar
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    One of the things that helped in my recovery was that I was very motivated to get back to biking. I don't own a car, so without a bike I'm crippled, besides that it just makes me feel good to go places "for free."

    My therapist put me on a recumbent bike as a major portion of my therapy, along with the usual manipulations and exercises. I also did lots of exercising at home mostly to get the gluts and the quads back "on line." A major difference in my case, was that they wanted me to put weight on the leg almost right after the surgery, so I'm assuming your case is worse than mine was.

    My legs were the same length right after surgery. I remember the paramedics saying my broken leg was shorter and that's how they knew it was broken. Oddly, I did not think I was so injured. I only became concerned when I realized I could not get up. Really, I couldn't BELIEVE I was so injured. We've all taken spills and gotten a bit scraped up from time to time, but at worst we limp back home. It was when I started going into shock, that I called 911.

    The therapy was difficult and some of it was painful. When I first got on the exercise recumbent, I couldn't even turn the pedals with no resistance, but it gradually improved. I got ankle weights to do knee lifts at home. I used fat elastic bands as resistance to help rebuild the muscles. A friend has a climbing machine, and I used that, too. It took almost 5 months from the time of the accident to when I could first ride my bike (and get back to work.)

    I too, considered a trike seriously. I also thought about hip pads. I finally came to the realization that this was a freak accident and I could get just as. if not worse injuries riding a trike, if I were hit by a car in just as freaky a way. **** happens. I'm ultra cautious now, no more hotdogging downhill stuff. I still can't run, and never will. Can't jump at all or climb very well. Getting up from a squat is difficult and painful, but I can do it. Riding the bike is no problem physically. It's low impact form of exercise to start with. I'm now 61 years old, not a good age to be breaking bones.

    Oh yea, and I expected the rod would set off alarms at airports. It never has.

    There's a broken leg forum here:

    http://www.mybrokenleg.com/

    As far as I can tell, you and I are the only people who have done this on a bicycle.

  21. #21
    eternalvoyage
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    Best wishes for a good recovery.

    ***
    This thread has been very interesting for me. I too like USS recumbents. I was warned by a recumbent dealer, who told me he thought they were somewhat more dangerous.

    However, I enjoy the ride (of some USS bikes) so much that I am willing to adapt or compensate for the added risk (by adjusting my riding accordingly, and by wearing some (basic, minimalist) padding, on hips and elbows at least).

    I have now read too many accounts of broken hips (or femurs) from falls off bicycles -- too many not to take the subject very seriously.

    That point on the outside of the hips where the top of the femur is very near the surface of the skin: it is a danger zone, particularly for older riders -- but even for younger ones as well.

    It is interesting to read the account of Floyd Landis' fall. He took a turn, and did not see the scattered loose pebbles in the road. They were the same color as the asphalt. He was in his twenties.

    There is a man in Northern California whose books I have read (guidebooks for riding in the Sierras). He was riding (slowly as I recall) on a road that had some thin ice ('black ice') on it, went down and shattered his femur.

    A close friend of my father's slipped on a wet floor and shattered it, with very serious consequences.

    I believe that a small, light, barely visible patch of closed cell foam would be enough to prevent these fractures. It's the sudden, uncushioned impact with hard, unyielding surfaces that is most likely to result in the shattering.

    ***
    Any recommendations on particularly fun-riding USS bikes? I enjoyed the Linear. Vision not so much. Haluzak not so much. Avatar yes. And there was one SWB USS bike (I don't know the make) that was an absolute blast to ride -- probably the most enjoyable ride of any bike I have ever ridden. (I wish I could find out the make, but it's gone....) I'm sure there are some others out there; I'd like to know about them.

    Life's too short to miss out on this level of enjoyable riding.
    Last edited by Niles H.; 04-23-07 at 12:46 PM.

  22. #22
    Be the Bike BikeZen.org's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niles H.
    Best wishes for a good recovery.

    ***
    ...
    However, I enjoy the ride (of some USS bikes) so much that I am willing to adapt or compensate for the added risk (by adjusting my riding accordingly, and by wearing some (basic, minimalist) padding, on hips and elbows at least).
    ...
    It is interesting to read the account of Floyd Landis' fall. He took a turn, and did not see the scattered loose pebbles in the road. They were the same color as the asphalt. He was in his twenties.
    ...
    ...there was one SWB USS bike (I don't know the make) that was an absolute blast to ride -- probably the most enjoyable ride of any bike I have ever ridden...
    ...
    Life's too short to miss out on this level of enjoyable riding.
    Niles, thanks for the words of support. A couple comments:

    -- No padding would have prevented my fracture. I'm in great shape (I normally ride 200-250 miles per week) and only 37 years old. The major contributors to the fracture were the events AFTER the fall, I believe. Specifically, I slide on my stomach and my left cleat caught on something -- perhaps the lip of a pothole. This caused my left ankle to be forced up the length of my right leg, coming to rest just on (or above) my right hip. The created a "twist fracture" that "sprung" the femur into pieces, then pushed the lower femur four inches towards my pelvis (inside the skin -- no external bleeding). It was the movement of the ankle up my leg, rather than the impact, that probably caused the fracture. This was truly a "freak accident." Unlike the other falls I've had over the years -- including one at 30mph downhill -- I had absolutely no warning or any indication of any problem until I found myself sliding across painful gravel; there was no time to say the first half of "oh *****."

    -- ALWAYS wear a helmet. A friend of mine had a closed head injury in the mid-80s. He was a Rhodes scholar studying at Oxford. A motorist hit him. His short-term memory is damaged, which means he's unable to learn non-procedural long-term memories. In English, that means every day I "met" him for the first time, even though we lived in the same building for over a year (since I met him AFTER the accident). He had no helmet. I've read the arguments that say helmets are a waste of time. Don't believe them.

    -- The SWB USS bike I ride is a Challenge Seiran just like this picture. Perhaps this is one ride you might enjoy? It's rock stable even at high speeds (50mph+) and is a joy to ride. Of course, it's not immune to freak accidents!

    -- Hotdogging is definitely out. I know a guy who was killed doing that. He hit a bridge abuttment at 50mph when a breath of wind knocked him to the side. Stupidity kills. (I will never go 50+mph again.)

    On another note, I just got my bike back from the Sheriff this week. It's in great shape; there was no "equipment failure" that contributed to this accident. I only need to loosen two screws, adjust the left handlebar, and retighten to have it back in perfect shape. The wheels are perfectly true and everything! This is a testament to the quality of Challenge bikes (and to the wheel builder, who did some custom work for me by building the rear wheel with an internally geared hub: Angletechcycles.com).

  23. #23
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by BikeZen.org
    -- Hotdogging is definitely out. I know a guy who was killed doing that. He hit a bridge abuttment at 50mph when a breath of wind knocked him to the side. Stupidity kills. (I will never go 50+mph again.)
    I hear you. I've noticed this too.

    Higher speeds work against you, in terms of safety.

    At lower speeds, you have more time to assess, more time to react, more time to evade, more time to stop, etc.

    And if something happens and you crash, the impacts seem to get exponentially more damaging with higher speeds.

    Kind of sad, in a way. I like speed. Most of us probably do. It's fun.

    I suppose good judgment -- knowing when to cut loose, and when to rein it in -- is a key element. It's hard not to get caught up in the spirit of exuberance sometimes. Something I am learning....

    Thanks for sharing.

    Makes me lean toward a trike, some of which have a very similar USS feel to them.

    Some of those SWB USS bikes can be such a blast, though....

  24. #24
    N_C
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    I selected Unsure. It is relvant, but I do not know as the only type of recumbent I have ridden is Above Seat Steering. I do know when I have fallen with my hands on the handle bars as they are I am able to put them out to help catch me. This is done on instinct, kind of like when you're walking & you trip & fall your hands instantly go out to try to catch you.

    Perhaps you tried to react instinctivley & your hands did not have enough time to catch you because of the short distance between your hands & the pavement & the speed you were going. Thus resulting in your injuries.

    Who's to say even with Above Seat Steering, or ASS at that speed there would have been enough time to instinctivley to get your hands out to catch yourself.

    Do you know if your hands got pinned under the seat when you fell & that is why you suffered a such injuries to your hands? Maybe with ASS you still may not have been able to get your hands out in time ot catch yourself, but you would not have suffered the extensive injuries that you did.

    Glad you're going to recover. Best wishes on a speedy recovery, hope you're back on the bike soon.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by jeff-o
    Damned sandy patches. I ride a trike because of 'em.
    couldn't you attach some sort of safety device - like a short metal tube on each side with a small wheel at the end, raised high enough to allow for cornering? It might look odd, but it would be better to have something like that take the force of impact than a hip. I'm thinking of getting a recumbent, but after hearing these stories, I would only get the bicycle variety (rather than a trike) if it could be modified to make this sort of accident less serious.

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