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Sketchy recollections of an icy tumble

The last thing I’m sure I remember is watching my mate Simon’s front wheel snap out from under him on the black ice. There’s the teasing suggestion of a memory of my own wheel following suit but that might just be me projecting. I certainly can’t recall any detail.

The next memory is of standing around swapping blokey banter with Simon and two other cyclists, one of whom was a friend – another Simon, confusingly enough – who had miraculously appeared out of nowhere, the other a stranger who had clearly gone over a moment before us.

It didn’t strike me as odd at the time that there was a hole in my memory…that I’d jumped from one moment of clarity to the next without noticing anything amiss. I was distracted by the look of confusion and pain on the stranger’s face and the trembles in his body as he hobbled around in a daze.

I wasn’t sure what to make of the fact that I’d completely forgotten about the driver who had offered to help me untangle myself from my bike, or that my helmet now had a massive crack where it covered my left temple.

Between Rule 5 quips and curiously formal introductions, we decided it might be wise to call the stricken rider’s wife. As soon as she was on her way we decided it might be best to call an ambulance too, as the level of the rider’s discomfort became clear.

A farmer appeared with a cup of sweet tea, which our injured friend (whose name was Jonnie, we had by now discovered) started gulping gratefully – until the emergency services operator on the other end of the phone sternly ordered him to stop, at which point the rest of us shared it.

By the time the ambulance arrived, ten minutes or so later, Jonnie had seized up completely and couldn’t really move at all without considerable pain. He was given numerous blasts of entonox but still whimpered and cried out when he was lifted from chair to stretcher.

The Rule 5 jokes continued, but very quietly now as we watched a pale, shaking Jonnie being lifted into the ambulance, where he was then injected with morphine for the ride back to Brighton with his suspected fractured hip.

The remaining three of us decided to cut short our rides and head back via the coast road – a loop of about ten miles. We rode it quickly and quietly, still individually processing what had just happened.

The aches and pains grew and multiplied in the hours that followed. Now, 36 hours on, I’m hard pushed to find any part of my body that doesn’t hurt at least a bit. The most obvious is a vivid bruise and graze on my left hip; the most worrying is an odd pain right in the heart of my left shoulder.

We’d set out in good weather: sunny and clear with hardly any wind and temperatures around 4 or 5 degrees. Once we’d come over the Downs the temperature dropped a degree or two, as it does, but it didn’t feel cold enough for ice. But those back lanes barely get any sun and the same hedgerows that block the heat make it hard to read the surface sometimes. I’m not sure what we could have done about it even if we’d had a clear view of the road surface, though.

In fact I’m not sure about a lot of what happened. There’s a surreal edge to the whole experience that I can only attribute to shock and that bash on the head.

One thing I am sure about though: I will most definitely be replacing that helmet before I go out again.

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 

59 comments

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sonofgav [2 posts] 2 years ago
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nice rendition, you left out the bit about you groaning like you were in ecstasy. you bruise well my friend, like a ripe peach  41

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danhan900 [5 posts] 2 years ago
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Snap - I've got one of those! But I bet you don't have a new shiny piece of metal (hope it was new - you never know with these NHS cutbacks) holding your collarbone together to go with it. Came off my bike a few weeks ago - just got back on the turbo this weekend, 2 months before I'll be back out - hopefully the ice should have gone by then!

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therevokid [911 posts] 2 years ago
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and me .... luckily I'd decided on the dhb bib longs rather
than the Assos !!!!!

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dave atkinson [6145 posts] 2 years ago
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yeah, and me. although mine was more a comedy fall than a serious one. the bruise is in the same place though...

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Martin Thomas [377 posts] 2 years ago
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I feel a bit of wimp for even mentioning it now...someone in my club came off four times on the morning of my spill (to be fair though, he was probably pissed).

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mikeprytherch [223 posts] 2 years ago
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We turned off the main road into a side road, spotted loads of black ice on the corner which we managed to roll through, went 200 yards further and decide the road had not been gritted (unlike the 50k of road we have already ridden), so a decision was made to turn around... fatal, we hit the same black ice we just rode over and bang, before I knew it I was sliding down the road with the bike in the air and me on my arse.... stupid stupid stupid... why didn't we walk on the pavement !!!! DOH lesson learnt.

My hipand elbow took the brunt, the bike completely undamaged as it never hit the ground, somehow I managed to lose the rear and so I just slid under the bike and remained clipped in. Trip to hospital as my elbow was bigger than my thigh, very lucky, no breaks, but boy did I have a bruise, went from my shoulder to my wrist all the way around.

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Flying Heron [54 posts] 2 years ago
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Feeling the hurt!!! Managed so far to come off on ice every year for the last 5 years, never learn my lessons.

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bfslxo [144 posts] 2 years ago
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I've good time, add the extra mile & a 1/2 onto the route to work two Wednesdays ago, hmm the road looks a bit slipper than i would like - half way through gentle sweeping left easy easy - hmm suddenly my 6 month previous switch out from SS to full fixie doesn't seem as smart, cant get outside left down for counter balance - ah, oh so that's what tarmac looks likes from ground level... check bike, move on - in work 7 mins later and the hip is already swelling & bruise rising beautifully. Next morning - weird?? my ribs hurt (alot), my shoulder hurts wonder why? 3 mornings later yes sir please put your hands up here while we take the chest x-ray, oh lovely look at that rib there!! (jesus when did sneezing hurt so much..) and the lesson? - the most painful bit - when your sub subconscious actually actually (yes 2 actually's) says in the dark bedroom so as not to wake the good lady - i really don't think you should wear your not even 10 day old mad money Castelli pocket liner this morning put the old faithful night vision on instead it's dark out there now - did i listen, of course not!!! skin isn't the only thing that can get road rash - grrrr ahhh raging...

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Orbea Mike [20 posts] 2 years ago
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Me too. Last Sunday. A41 (very quiet fortunately) into Wolverhampton from West Bromwich. The part of the road where the Midland Metro actually runs as a street tram. Yes, you've guessed. I've crossed the tracks many times before at a good angle to eliminate the risk of slides. But, as the road on the other side (by the kerb) looked a bit frosty I was thinking of avoiding to tight a turn to straighten up after crossing the tracks. So I didn't get the angle right, front wheel touches the steel rail and down I go. Quite slow speed at the time but I'm sure I gave car drivers at the junction a bit of entertainment. A few grazes nothing more.

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mbrads72 [165 posts] 2 years ago
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Managed to stay upright for 65km of freezing roads on Sunday only to slide off in the rain at a roundabout this morning. Bike looks OK, but shoulder, hip, thigh and knee all starting to seize up.

Nice cut in the waterproofs and on my leg where my work pass and holder was in my pocket. Doh!

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kobacom [97 posts] 2 years ago
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I'm staying in on the turbo.

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arfa [696 posts] 2 years ago
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sticking with the mountain bike until the sludge goes from the roads/risk of ice diminishes.
I hit some sheet ice on a hill and was still able to control the bike last weekend as a result of those big fat tyres. I am hoping greater friction/heavier bike will hold me in good stead in the spring.
I have to say sliding around muddy trails is great fun especially when compared to descending in terror on skinny tyres.
I hope all those injured heal well in time for 2014's riding

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solentine [95 posts] 2 years ago
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The good thing about falling on ice is you slid!

Came off a month ago, bruised hip, dislocated carpels, whiplash and a factured helmet.

Rapha 3/4s, teamed with Torm top (subversive!) undamaged, not even scuffed.

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Martin Thomas [377 posts] 2 years ago
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Update: Jonny's been in touch. He's had an op already and starts physio any time now. Hopes to be back on the bike in four months. Be careful out there!

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giff77 [1191 posts] 2 years ago
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No ice up here. But contending with some b&@%*$d winds has been interesting to say the least. One particular stretch had me walking due to the crosswind. Fortunately I'm on the steel fixed right now so a bit more weight involved.

Stay safe everyone whatever the elements are

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dexradio [7 posts] 2 years ago
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I feel your pain.

Its not just Black Ice that is a hazard, although by its nature it is quite scary since you obviously can't see it, but around the back lanes of Kent (I'm sure its not exclusive to Kent), we also have muddy roads where local farmers drag the mud from their fields onto the roads. Two of us went down just before Xmas at the same time on the same spot.

Hope you heal up quickly.

Dex.

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sorebones [138 posts] 2 years ago
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Someone should compile a list of what tyres / pressure everyone was running at the time of their spill - see if any trends emerge!

I've been lucky so far this winter, survived one scare when the rider next to me went down, hit my front wheel but miraculously I stayed upright. Hope everyone heals fast.

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carlwhallinon [3 posts] 2 years ago
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Mile 1 of 70 in an Evans ride it sportive late last year, 1st roundabout , touched rear brake to slow a little, back of bike went from under me and skidded across the roundabout still clipped in! Decided to withdraw as my arse could now be seen clearly through my torn bibshorts! 70 miles is a long way to ride with a cold and grazed bum!

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Sugnea [1 post] 2 years ago
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Just a word of caution - thats a hematoma and depending on the size and amount of swelling it could require some additional treatment.

My GF did almost exactly the same thing about 4 years ago on black ice and the top of her leg is now a completely different shape as a result of the tissue being deformed by the blood for quite a long time - it never regained its previous shape.

We both thought, hey its a bruise, it will go away, but it didnt.....

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mike the bike [565 posts] 2 years ago
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I can only sympathise as we've all done it and sometimes it seems we never learn ......

One dark and bitterly cold January morning last year I set off for work and on the first bend my front wheel slipped on the ice and down I went. A broken shifter, torn waterproof, bruised shoulder and even more bruised hip convinced me to take the car. I hurt for a couple of weeks.

One dark and bitterly cold February morning last year I set off for work and on the first bend ......

I needn't finish this, need I?

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Initialised [270 posts] 2 years ago
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Me too, I'm sporting a nice big bruise below my knee from using it to steady the bike after hitting some black ice a few days ago heading up the north west side of a 200m hill. I managed to stay upright and had the sense to get off and walk through the village at the top where shade from the houses etc... had allowed the ice to cling on, took it very easy down the other side just in case.

We've all been a bit silly. Better to get the CX or MTB out and go play in the mud once things start to freeze up. Worry less about mileage and get some skidding practice in for when you need it on the road.

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oceandweller [31 posts] 2 years ago
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Wow! I'm sure it's just me being weird, but all these stories have cheered me up no end. In fact, sitting here thinking maybe I deserve another drink.  1 Road bike's been in the back of the garage for months. Been getting my kicks on the hardtail up in the woods - it has 2 features I find useful @ this time of year, that're missing from the rb... (a) tyres & (b) brakes.

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PhilRuss [352 posts] 2 years ago
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[[[[[[ Better to slow down than go down....I let some air out of the tyres. Fundamental, innit.
P.R.

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Zebra [33 posts] 2 years ago
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It is 9.21am and already 29 degrees C and 60% humidity. Oh well, guess I had better stay in the aircon and watch the cricket. Tomorrow I will get up earlier and head out for a roll.

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massspike [139 posts] 2 years ago
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I was once riding along an icy trail on one of my winter bikes with studded tires...after 1 hour of this I was feeling pretty chuff and then the next thing I knew I was picking myself off the ground. I looked around and couldn't see my bike...there was nothing on the trail.

I got up and started a search...it turned out the trail was frozen solid (think ice rink) and my bike had slid 30 feet down the trail and into a ditch.

P.S. It turned out I also broke my helmet in the fall

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Leviathan [1784 posts] 2 years ago
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therevokid wrote:

and me .... luckily I'd decided on the dhb bib longs rather
than the Assos !!!!!

High quality material will pass a scrape right through to your flesh and remain completely unmarked... as I discovered one day just shorts though, also bird shit and rain under bridges can be quite slippy too. I always seem to absorb the energy of a fall with my hanger, only £17.99 a go.

No helmet debate, makes a nice change.

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Martin Thomas [377 posts] 2 years ago
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bikeboy76 wrote:
therevokid wrote:

and me .... luckily I'd decided on the dhb bib longs rather
than the Assos !!!!!

...
No helmet debate, makes a nice change.

As far as I'm concerned, there is no debate any more.

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matthewn5 [639 posts] 2 years ago
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I went down last year on the road to Moreton after going through Epping Forest and Wooton Bassett. It was one of those cold mornings in London but there had been no frost in the city or in the Forest. Once I got into open countryside it was a different matter. Ice everywhere.

I'd passed quite a few places where there was black ice from water splashed out of potholes and coasted through without incident. But on a very cambered section of road just after a monster puddle that had icebergs floating in it, I was suddenly on my right side clipped in and sliding along. I had no memory of the loss of traction, no memory of falling, nothing. Id taken the fall on my right hip and right shoulder, neither my Craft elite bibs nor my Castelli rain jacket were torn, so from the accounts I'm reading, I was lucky! I think the road was so slick that I was sliding on pure smooth ice.

Got a nasty but small bruise at shoulder and hip, learnt my lesson! At the time I was more worried about the winter bike, but the only casualty was the right Ultegra 6600 shifter, which had been rotated around the bar, and which now bears a scratch on the tip. I always leave them a little loose so they can rotate around the bar rather than break in the event of a fall. The rest of the bike - nothing! I think I lifted it off the ground as I fell. So I finished the 100km and went home.

Thinking about it later I feel much more worried. What if it had happened where there was traffic? My head would have been paté.

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davidmcw [6 posts] 2 years ago
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Hi Martin, I'm a radiology registrar, and I've just read your blog during a quiet moment at work. A large part of my job is scanning people who've bumped their heads, and I'm concerned that you've suffered a significant head injury. You probably should have had a CT scan of your head at the time, but if you're still OK, then you've probably got away with it. However I'd strongly urge you to have a very low threshold for going to your doctor and getting checked out. That is if you have a persistent headache, any funny numbness or weakness, disturbances of your sight or smell, clear fluid coming out of your nose or ear, etc etc.

For future reference if you bump your head, and are knocked out, suffer retrograde amnesia of more than 1/2 hour, aren't quite yourself for over 2hrs post injury, or suffer persistent vomiting, then you should go to A&E, and probably get a CT scan, (ref: NICE guidelines for head injury 2007).

Having said all that I hope you've made a full recovery.

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Martin Thomas [377 posts] 2 years ago
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Thanks very much David. I was just talking to my wife yesterday about how silly it was that I didn't get myself checked out. We decided it was due to a slightly ridiculous combination of me not wanting to alarm her and her wanting to believe my scrubbed up version of events...or something.

Anyway, I'm back to my perky pre-crash best now after a couple of wobbly days so I think I did get away with it. Most of the aches and pains were muscular and are fading nicely, as are the bruises. No headaches (apart from on the day itself), numbness or any of the other symptoms you describe.

thanks again - I really appreciate your contribution, for me and everyone else reading this.

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