A Post-Crash First-Aid Secret Every Cyclist Needs to Know

Sarah Sung
by Sarah Sung
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A Post-Crash First-Aid Secret Every Cyclist Needs to Know

“They say there are two kinds of cyclists,” the ambulance guy tells me as we’re speeding to the ER after I’ve been picked up on the side of the road bloody and in shock, “the ones who crash and the ones who will eventually crash.” Now, that’s pretty morbid, and we’re talking about a guy who sees nothing but accidents all day, every day. But in a way, he’s kind of right.

I recently had a crash on my bike. It started as an amazing day of riding in some of the world’s most beautiful areas (in my opinion). I was riding strong and loving every minute — glad to be alive. About 10 miles from the end of my 100-ish-mile ride, I spotted debris on the road — aftermath of recent tree-trimming-and-failure-to-sweep-the-road shenanigans. Eucalyptus tree limbs, twigs and leaves were everywhere. I slowed down, moved over in my lane and thought I had maneuvered away from the worst of it and was in the clear, until suddenly my front tire took a sharp right turn and I rolled on the road landing and hitting my head and my entire right side on the asphalt. I didn’t pass out, but everything happened so fast that I didn’t know exactly where my body was in space. Once planted on the asphalt, and looking down at my knee I could see my entire patella right there where skin should’ve been. Gross. Knowing my riding partners were just slightly behind me, I was relieved help would soon be on the way, but totally and completely in shock.

After 8 hours in the ER, I was sent home with 10 stitches in my knee and countless scrapes on my face, elbow, hip and hands. Oh, and my poor hands. The tops of my hands and tips of my fingers did not come out well in this crash even though I was wearing gloves. Cleaning out the wounds is key and luckily most of that was done in the ER, with a week’s prescription of antibiotics and a tetanus shot just in case.

Full of gratitude I hadn’t suffered more injuries, but embarrassed I crashed, I tried to be low key about it all. But one look at me, and it was patently clear I had been in a bad accident. If I had a nickel for the grimaces and second looks, well, I wouldn’t be nervous about my upcoming hospital bills.

Here’s the thing, though, cyclists love helping other cyclists. And I believe it’s human nature to try to make others feel better about their situation. On top of hearing everyone’s gory crash stories and injury lists, I got a ton of first-aid advice.



Right now, I have a first-aid station in my kitchen. It’s stocked with everything you’d expect. We thought we bought enough Band-Aids for a lifetime supply, but we were wrong. Neosporin, Band-Aids of many shapes and sizes including Activ-Flex and Skin-Flex for knuckles and elbows and knees, non-adhesive pads, gauze, medical tape, scissors, Q-tips, Steri-Strips — all present and accounted for, and not surprising picks. I’m at this station a few times a day, replenishing bandages and trying to heal as quickly as possible.


But the one thing every cyclist swears by and I never heard about before was Tegaderm. It looks like Saran Wrap and can be insanely frustrating to put on (and sometimes keep on). I don’t know if it’s me, but this stuff that’s purported to stay on for up to 7 days lasts a few hours on my skin before it threatens to roll off. I’ve also heard it’s waterproof, but since it doesn’t stay on me even under ideal conditions, I haven’t yet tested the waterproof aspect. But I digress …

Even with the aggravation, it’s still pretty miraculous. All you do is measure the amount you need (I suggest buying the biggest ones (6-by-8-inches) and cutting from there), then carefully remove the printed backing and apply the sticky side down over the wound. You can use a small amount of Neosporin, but note it will affect adhesion. That’s it!

Since it’s see-through, you can watch the healing process minute by minute. (If you’re like me and can’t really do much until you’ve healed, watching your wounds heal becomes a fascinating past-time.) It also breathes so injuries still get some air without letting in bacteria, and it stays secure enough to do its healing business.

Some cyclists even say they didn’t scar because they used it. I have a feeling nothing is going to make my knee look even close to normal after all is said and done, but so long as it bends and I can get back on my bike, I think I’ll be OK.

About the Author

Sarah Sung
Sarah Sung

An avid runner, cyclist, swimmer, yogi and all-around gym rat, Sarah Sung has written lifestyle, health and fitness content for publications including AFAR, San Francisco Chronicle, Sonima and UrbanDaddy. Now she manages editorial for MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness. In her spare time she teaches indoor cycling in San Francisco and has raced in triathlons in California and Hawaii. Traveling and checking out the latest dining scene are always high on her to-do list.


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