Raz Breaks Elbow Finds Unexpected Benefits

sling 2

This past year, I experienced my first broken bone. I grew up as a swimmer, so I was never in a position to break bones with my hobbies. Apparently biking is a different story. I was on a long bike ride and about a mile from my house at the end of my ride, when my back wheel hit a pothole cover and I ended up breaking my right elbow.

Luckily, I didn’t need surgery or a cast – I was in a sling for six weeks. More people approached me and talked to me on a random basis than ever before when I was walking around town with my sling. I even had conversations about why I was in a sling in Spanish. The teenage boy speaking Spanish to me about it proceeded to tell me about how he hurt his knee playing soccer in Spanish. From the grocery store to the bus to being out at a bar, everyone wanted to know what happened and people were very helpful.

I joked with my friends that the sling was a man-magnet. This was especially true one night at Local 16, which to be fair is a pick-up spot in and of itself. I was there for a friend’s birthday and another friend’s celebration. I could barely take one step away from my friends without a new guy approaching to ask what happened and come chat. The sling was like an opener, I guess.

To be honest, it was an adjustment not wearing a sling anymore and being treated like a normal person. I was thrilled that my elbow was healed and I could resume my normal activities, but it really was an adjustment.

Has anyone else been in a sling or a cast and had similar experiences?


After the jump find Raz’s advice for purchasing a new bike.

As gas prices have gone up, and even as they have settled back down, I have seen more and more bikes on the road. It seems like everyone is biking around town these days. If you are interested in joining that bandwagon, but not sure about how to find the right bike, I have some tips for you:

  1. Determine what you will use your bike for. Do you want a bike for commuting less than a few miles around town? Do you want to start going on long bike rides? Do you want to take your bike off-road? Do you want to get into biking on a competitive level?

  2. Determine what kind of bike you want. If you are just going to be commuting, you are best of with a hybrid or a mountain bike. You sit upright on these bikes, so it is more comfortable. Both of these kinds of bikes have wider tires than road bikes, so they are better suited for DC streets (see my entry on how I broke my elbow falling on a pothole cover on my road bike). If you want to race and bike competitively, go for a road bike. If you enjoy going off road, go for a mountain bike.

  3. Determine how much you are willing to spend. When purchasing a commuter bike that you will be leaving locked up around town, you don’t want to spend too much money. You want to make sure your bike is safe and reliable, but you don’t want to spend $500 and then your bike gets stolen. A somewhat ugly commuter bike is ideal. My little brother’s 1995 Trek mountain bike that I use for commuting is not a beauty, and that is perfectly fine with me. If purchasing a new road bike, expect to spend around $1,000. New hybrids are around $500. I have not purchased or looked into buying a new mountain bike, but I imagine they are around $500.

  4. Know the Tricks to Saving Money on a Bike. Bikes are like cars, you can get a good deal on the 2008 models after the release of the 2009 models when a store is looking to get rid of their old stock. You get a better value buying your bike at a big-brand store like Hudson Trail Outfitters or REI. I got a $1300 road bike for $800 on super 2007 clearance in March of 2008 at Hudson Trail Outfitters. Also, if you know what you are looking for, Craig’s List is a great place for bargain bike shopping. You can also buy bikes on EBay and other websites, but I like Craig’s List because you can go take the bike for a spin before committing to it. Also, when you buy a bike online you have to assemble it yourself.

  5. Tips for Craig’s List. Ask to see pictures of the bike. I’ve gone to see a bike that sounded great in the ad, and walked out immediately because it was nowhere near what I wanted. Do your homework about how old the bike is, how many miles are on it, and the last time it was tuned up.

  6. Shop Around. I went to three local bike shops when I started my bike search and tried a few bikes at each. The mom and pop bike shops are a good place to go to get an idea of what you want, just don’t let them pressure you into making the purchase and then buying all the gear associated with your bike. I am still stuck with a pair of bike shoes that I was pressured into purchasing, and ended up not liking, but I couldn’t return them past the two-week shoe return window.

  7. Get Fitted. When you are shopping around at bike stores, have them fit you to a bike. The right bike fit is based on your height and torso length. I am 5’9, and apparently have a longer torso then most women, so I ended up buying a men’s road bike. After I got used to it, I had to do some personal adjustments, like getting a shorter stem, so I didn’t have to reach out as much to hold the handlebars.

  8. Enlist a Knowledgeable Friend. When I went to my third bike shop, I brought along my cousin who is a big biker. It was good to have someone there who knew what he was talking about and if I was getting a good deal.

  9. Find Out About the Maintenance Program. All bike stores have some type of free maintenance program if you buy a bike from them. From my understanding, most of the mom and pop shops give you free tune ups for a year and a free fitting after you’ve had your bike a few months. (Often once you get used to your bike, you’ll realize you need a shorter stem or your seat moved forward, etc.). For my bike from Hudson Trail, I get free tune ups for life and I got a free fitting on my bike.

  10. Get a Helmet and Lock. A helmet and lock are crucial for biking. I see plenty of people around town without helmets, but to me they are asking for trouble. I got my helmet for less than $20 at Target. For your lock, get a U-lock. A cable lock makes it a lot easier for someone to steal your bike. I got my U-lock online from Jenson USA, and it was much cheaper than I saw it at any bike store. People are also often selling them on Craig’s List as well.

  11. Take Your Time to Buy Other Gear. Get used to your bike before you go out and spend money on bike gear. I had no idea until I went into it, but a bike can really be a black hole of spending – bike shoes, special pedals, shorts, jerseys, a bike computer, etc. — all of these items can really start to add up. Take a month or so to see how much you are using your bike and what you really need before you get carried away purchasing what could potentially become dust collectors.

I hope these tips are helpful. If you have other questions, leave comments and I will get back to you.

14 Comment

  • Nice bike. I would actually like to purchase a Roubaix Pro myself, just as soon as I have surgery to repair the cartliage in my knee (that I messed up playing soccer).

    Anyone looking for a new bike should consider Performance Bikes – they offer lifetime adjustments and tune-ups if you purchase a bike there.

  • I did not have the broken bone – my friend did. She broke her wrist in two places and needed to two pins and metal bar to hold the whole thing together (all of this hardware was outside the body, kind of sticking up like screws). All this while we were in college. She met a ton of guys – really – our nights out were financed by guys buying us drinks. We were sad when the bar was removed – we had to start buying our own drinks.

  • I bought a bike on craigslist and had a great experience. I paid 450 for a bike that was originally an 1800 dollar bike and it was only used a few times. My buddy turned me onto it as he is a bike fanatic and would scour craigslist for bikes. He has about 5 of them now and they are all for the most part different types of bikes. This is the place to get good bikes in my opinion. Most of the people who are selling them are experienced bikers and can help you fix them, get the right parts for you, and will even tune them up for you normally.

  • The old rule for bike ownership in a city is, ‘spend more on the lock than on the bike.’ However, if you buy a nice bike, you should ideally keep it indoors; if that is impossible I suggest a u-lock AND a heavy chain lock, such as bike messengers use.

    Also if you are picking up an $1800 bike on Craigslist for $450, there is a pretty good chance that the bike is stolen. I would imagine that many of the bikes for sale on craigslist are stolen. An old trick is to place a piece of tape on the bikes’ fork stem, and on it write ‘THIS BIKE IS STOLEN’ along with your name and phone number. Then if it is ever taken in for service and the mechanic sees the note, you have a chance of getting your bike back.

    I had a nice $800 Cannondale stolen back in ’96. Wonder where it is now…

  • I got a great deal on a nice Cannondale back in ’96 on Craigslist. What a steal!!

  • That seat seems very low, I would be suprized if it fit properly.

    I like bikes a whole lot…..

    I like riding them
    I like fixing them
    I like shopping for them
    I like building new ones
    I like talking about the
    I like reading about them

    If anyone here is shopping for a bike, please send me an email.

    I would be happy to help you shop for a bike.

    Also, if there is some interest, I would be happy to do a demonstration on how to change a flat, clean your bike….ect. Many people do not know how to do some simple stuff and rely on the bike shop. This could be done at say….a bar, and I could be compensated with say…..beer. 🙂

    [email protected]

  • Okay so I am thinking of buying a bike and would like to go the Craigslist route to save money but I don’t want to buy a stolen bike. Anyone have any tips on how to avoid this?

  • Wow, that’s a nice bike to develop on before you go pro! People will know you’re all business with the double (as oppose to a triple). But seriously, should you decide to purse the racing career… those wheel reflectors need to go… and platform pedals need to be deleted for some Look or egg beaters pedals…

    keep of riding 🙂

  • Anonymous,

    most bikes on Craigslist are not stolen.

    That said, if you do not know a lot about bikes, there are some really bad deals out there.

    Feel free to email me craigslist links and I will be happy to let you know if the bike is worth it.

    What kind of bike are you looking for?

  • I’ve bought two bikes from Bulldog Bikes, out in Arlington. Good prices, and some vintage bikes – http://www.bulldogbikerestoration.com/Currentbikes.html

  • Id like to post a plug for Folding bikes! If your only going to be going around town a couple miles and dont want to worry about theft, think about bring the bike in with you. I ride a folding bike (a bike friday Tikit to be exact) and they are great machines that ride much like normal bikes. Mine is fairly expensive at 1300 dollars, but with the security in knowing i wont be leaving it outisde for thieves to grab. if 1300 is a bit steep, folding bikes go as low as 200 dollars, although for a decent one your looking at about 400. Check out the following companies on google: Dahon, downtube, swift, strida, bike friday, brompton, carryme. Also if youd like to test ride one, college park bikes by UMD has a great selection and a friendly knowledgeable staff.

    as for a bike lock, if you really value your bike, get a NYC fuggedaboudit lock. these are the best of the best and should deter all by the most determined theives.

    also make sure you have proper bike locking down. Lock your front wheel and the frame together to your anchor using a u lock. carry an extra chain or cable and thread it through your back wheel around the post. Also be sure to get rid of any quick releases on your bike, as these only beg for a thief to steal your seat, or wheels.

    Craigslist is great for bikes in my opinion. people sell decent bikes for really cheap, and if your looking for a mountain bike beater, there a dime a dozen!

  • Since you do live in the Petworth area, shouldn’t you consider riding a customized fixie? How about joining the hipster fleet of Bianchi Pistas? 🙂


  • I’d like to second the recommendation of Bulldog Bike Restoration out in Arlington. I got my budget used Schwinn from him, and while it’s not a particularly nice bike (I like to say that it “has personality”), it was a steal at $175 and has held up beautifully through 35-40 miles a week of city commuting.

    Also, I’m going to disagree with Raz’s suggestion that a mountain bike is good for city commuting. Mountain bikes take a lot more effort to ride than road bikes (because of the small wheel size and the extra friction from nubbly tires), and if you have to ride through hilly areas (like, say, up to CH or Petworth) they can be really tiring. Generally speaking, larger wheels with less friction require less effort to move. If you have trouble balancing on skinny tires, or you just don’t feel comfortable on a road bike, a hybrid is a fine compromise.

  • hipsterphil, love your bike, but I noticed you only have a front brake on your bike. Does that front only brake make sudden stops hazardous?

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