Kissing the Tarmac: How to Deal With Road Rash


16.07.15 at 3:00 pm

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We’re no strangers to Road Rash (skin abrasions from hitting the tarmac) at Yellow Jersey.

I like to think it’s because we ride hard and push ourselves and our bikes to the limit, but ‘poor bike handling’ is an accusation which has been levelled at us in the past!

If you come off at speed there’s usually a slide, which removes some of the energy from the crash and this is where both your clothes and skin are lost.  In our (humble) opinion the idea and look of road rash is worse than the actual pain and it’s more of an inconvenience than real injury and not sticking to your clothes and bed sheets can be a constant battle. At least as a Yellow Jersey Cycle Insurance customer you wont have to worry about the bike if you crash.

Here’s a few tips we’ve learnt to help you through the hassle of road rash quickly as possible, and get you back on the bike.  Firstly assess the damage, is it just sore and red? If so get back on your bike and see Rule #5. If you’ve gone deep into your flesh, exposed bone etc etc stop reading this article and get yourself off to hospital before you and anyone you’re with faints! If you’ve removed the top layer of skin, there’s bleeding and the flesh feels very tacky then you have road rash, and that’s when the advice below can help.

There are effectively two approaches to dealing with road rash: Open and Closed.  The open method is the approach most people adopt as it’s fairly straight forward. This involves cleaning the wound straight after the injury and then keeping it as dry as possible allowing a scab to form. The downside of this method is that scabs crack, or get knocked off very easily and it only takes a rough bed sheet to have you waking up like an Egyptian mummy. Along with the annoyance factor, there’s also the increased likelihood of infection and scarring.

The closed method we adopt does require a little more effort, but gets round the issue of scabs breaking and the wound reopening. Firstly, it’s important to thoroughly clean the wound, making sure any debris has been taken out.  We’ve found one of the best ways to do this is in a warm bath, with some antibacterial soap and a flannel. To be honest the first time the water hits the road rash it will tingle a smidge. Try not to make it worse, but keeping going until any debris is removed, depending on where the wound is you may require a friend to help…. one you’re ideally happy to share a bath with.

Once  done you need to get the wound covered as soon as possible, do not let it dry out, cover it with an antiseptic cream something like Savalon or Germolene and apply a gauze or even better some form of second skin plaster.  The aim is to not let a scab form at any point, so keeping the wound moist is the most important part of the closed method. You can take the gauze/plaster off, but remember to reapply the cream. To stop a scab forming it’s helpful to jump back in a bath or shower and (gently) remove any drying scab in the warm water. This is in no way as nasty as it sounds and soft flannel (some swear by a toothbrush) used regularly will soon have nice pink flesh appearing after a few days. It’s worth noting that there may be a little blood the first few times, but again, see Rule #5.

In no time at all you’ll have a nice soft pink mark where you would have had a nasty cracking scab, just remember to keep using the antiseptic until the skin has sealed over the whole area and apply high factor sunscreen when it has, as this new skin will be very sensitive.

Let me be clear, we are in no way medically trained (other than a little first aid) so if you’re in any doubt seek medical assistance, but rather than mess up the leg of your white flannel beach trousers, or cream silk sheets why not give the closed method a go next time you go for a slide off the bike.

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