I’m lucky never to have been seriously injured in a bicycle-related accident and long may it stay that way. However there have been a few minor incidents over the years. I was reminded of these the other morning, when I was not on my bike but carrying it. The bike in question was the Brompton, unfolded, and I was walking up some steps at a train station. A moment of inattention resulted in my foot slipping down off the edge of a step. This in turn led to my jaw becoming very quickly acquainted with my handlebars. Punched in the face by my own bike. Great. Luckily all teeth intact and no bleeding, just a rather dazed feeling and slight embarrassment, but fortunately there were not too many other commuters around to witness my somewhat bizarre accident.
My worst crash happened on the very first ride of my first cycling trip to the Alps, a few years ago. Me and three mates had arrived after lunch, and having reassembled our bikes were heading out for a reccie of the surrounding area, to get our bearings and check our machines had been properly put together. As we headed out of town at a brisk pace down a slight slope, I realised my Garmin was not picking up my speed. A quick look down at the sensor attached to the chainstay told me it was slightly too far away from the magnet on the spokes. So not wishing to be without data (god forbid) and not wishing to stop (finally we were in the Alps after months of anticipation), I decided to reach down and adjust it on the fly. That did not turn out to be a good decision.
All it needed was a little nudge inwards. Unfortunately I gave it a big nudge inwards. It jammed into the spokes and sent me flying over my handlebars head and shoulders-first on to the road, at some speed. It seems remarkably fortunate that all I came away with was middling road rash (knee, hip, elbow, shoulder). How close was my head to hitting the kerb? Even with my helmet, that would surely have done some damage. No broken collarbone, no lost teeth. A lucky escape after a moment of gross stupidity. My bike came off less well and following a further tumble later in the week (not my fault this time – a level crossing made treacherously greasy by some light rain – two of us came down), it was effectively a write off. My decision to take out bike insurance just before the trip turned out to be a timely one (I do occasionally make good decisions…).
The other incident that comes to mind was on a Sunday ride with the Curly Designer Bloke. I was following him and we had just come down a gentle hill on to the flat, so were travelling with a bit of speed, to a point where the road both narrows and turns slightly. The high wall on the inside corner makes it difficult to see any oncoming traffic. I should have scrubbed off a bit of speed, but instead was wiping my nose (which drips more or less constantly when I ride) with one hand. As we round the corner, we see a Range Rover heading down the middle of the road. CDB slams on the brakes. With one hand off the bars, I take half a second longer to react and can’t slow down in time. I now have three options: into the path of the oncoming 4×4; into the back of CDB; or into the hedge on the left. So left it is. The way CDB tells the story he looked round after the car had past and I had vanished into thin air. In fact I had finished curled up in a ball deep in the hedgerow, but somehow still clipped in and unable to extricate myself. After I had finally unclipped, CDB helped me out, trying and failing not to laugh. This time a few scratches were all I had to show for my misadventure. Another lucky escape.
So what do we draw from all of this? Two lessons: pay attention, and don’t be stupid. Not exactly deep insight, but difficult to argue with.
I will try to listen to my own advice tomorrow, when I, NBE and CDB take on our traditional curtain-raiser for the season, the Kentish Killer. 70 miles / 112kms, 6700ft / 2000m of climbing. I shall report back next time.