Astronaut Tim Kopra evokes cinematic bike spills

Thu, Jan 20
4:12
PM ET

All cyclists can feel for astronaut Tim Kopra, who lost his spot on the next mission to the International Space Station because of injuries sustained in a bike accident. We've all been there. You're biking along, enjoying the ride, feeling good, thinking about all the calories you're burning ... and the next thing you know you're on the ground, scraping gravel out of your flesh, staring at a twisted wheel and wondering how you're going to convince Mission Control (i.e., your spouse) that the road rash down the side of your face was suffered while shaving.

Tim Kopra
AP PhotoPage 2 reminds Tim Kopra that not all bike spills are painful.

Whenever I ride, there is always a little fear I my mind that I may not come home in one piece, which explains why I am such a sissy when it comes to biking downhill. I've had my share of spills, but at least I never lost out on a trip into outer space on a rocket.

Rather than focus on possible biking disasters, though, we'll provide a few famous crashes that didn't turn out so painfully.

"Breaking Away": Cycling- and Italian-crazed Dave Stoller waits eagerly for weeks for the Cinzano racing team to ride in Bloomington, Ind. When it does, he attempts to ride along, but the cyclists gruffly tell him to get lost. When he doesn't get the hint, a Cinzano rider sticks his bike pump in Stoller's spokes, sending him crashing into a ditch. Bruised and bleeding, he returns home and tells his father, "Everyone cheats; I just didn't know." Still, he recovers to win the Little 500 race almost single-handedly. (Incidentally, one of the Cinzano riders for the movie was John Vande Velde, who is the father of Christian Vande Velde, the American rider who finished fourth in the 2008 Tour de France.)

"Pee Wee's Big Adventure": Performing gymnastics that would do Mary Lou Retton proud on his bike, Pee Wee hits a curb, flips over the handlebars, sails through the air, lands on the sidewalk and somehow springs to his feet in front of five kids on their bikes. He brushes himself off and says: "I meant to do that." Wise words. Remember them the next time you face-plant in front of the restaurant when you can't get your feet out of your clips in time.

"E.T.": The silhouette of Elliott riding his bike in front of the face of the moon with E.T. in his basket is one of the most famous in film. (It serves as the logo for Steven Spielberg's Amblin Entertainment.) Not quite as famous is the resulting crash landing, which happens right after Elliott yells, "Don't crash!" Still, they survive, E.T. escapes and cyclists receive a reminder: Always ride with a cell phone so that if you do crash, you can phone home.