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Well, I never expected the descent to be harder than the climb!

Had an epic 40th birthday last Thursday, along with hundreds of others celebrating the life of Tom Simpson on Mont Ventoux. The climb was like nothing I've ever experienced, the feeling of joy when you could rest on a 7% gradient, wanting the hurt to stop whilst revelling in every single view. And the tower keeps looming.

A beautiful day and instantly memorable. Unfortunately, I never quite made it back to Château Reynaud. Came out of a corner a little out of shape and the stupid reverse brakes took a victim. Locked up the back, was quick enough to release it but muscle memory kicked in and I grabbed it again. Hobson's choice saw me choosing to hit a crash barrier which has fractured my ankle, the flight forward saw me hit one of those stupid metal poles causing fracture and grade 4 dislocation of the clavicle.

Now the fun bit, helmet took a battering where my shoulder did, debate away but I was delighted with the polystyrene!

Anyway, on the mend and not put off. If you haven't took on a mountain, ridden a pass in France, go do it! Loved (nearly) every moment!

14 comments

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sergius [447 posts] 2 months ago
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Get well soon!

This sort of thing actually worries me more than a little; I don't fear riding up some of these epic mountains, but descending them on a hire bike is kinda scary.  Even the baby descents I did earlier in the year on Fuerteventura were much longer and faster than anything I get around Surrey - on an unfamiliar bike its disconcerting.

 

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Grahamd [597 posts] 2 months ago
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Sounds painful, hope you still saved it to Strava. Get well soon.

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davel [1608 posts] 2 months ago
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All the best with the recovery and getting back on the bike.

I don't ship my bikes overseas, and I haven't done enough descents on 'forrin' bikes to overwrite my existing UK braking muscle memory. Like you say, it kicks in when you really need it to, and it can be hairy when that means pulling the 'wrong' brake.

A couple of near misses has led to me dragging the brakes a bit whenever I'm overseas on a hire bike, just to play it safe. It's a bit of a shit compromise, but compared to the off I surely would have had by now, probably worth it - and I can't bring myself to trust my best bike to baggage handling.

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Yorkshire wallet [1347 posts] 2 months ago
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 Get well soon. At least you went up before you came down!

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madcarew [434 posts] 2 months ago
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I was kind of hoping this was the guy asking the question about carbon rims and alpine descents. Would have beeen a delicious irony  1

Glad you survived. That continental bike set up is a real PITA. Heal well, and then go try again  1

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700c [1139 posts] 2 months ago
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Sounds nasty, hope you recover soon.

Your comment about the helmet is probably not as controversial as you think. It's these kind of activities where their use is generally* accepted to be of some benefit.

What bugs people is with widespread helmet use in normal commuting, utility riding, the peception grows in the general public and the motoring lobby that to not wear one is irresponsible or renders you somehow liable in the event of a collision with a vehicle. As if the polysterene is going to prevent being crushed by several tons of metal!  As soon as discussion focuses on helmet wearing, it takes the debate away from the much needed improvements to road safety, driver responsibility, driving standards, infrastructure etc. 

(*not universally by any means. Some would still attribute crashes to the choice to wear a helmet and thus take more risk!)

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alansmurphy [746 posts] 2 months ago
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Thanks all, and agree very much with the comment above, I don't wear my helmet on my couple of mile commute (have more accidents) but always do on a 'proper' ride, less accidents but big ones!

My mates have took the piss about over confidence, rider error etc. One was dragging the brakes, fair play, the other wasn't. I think luck more than skill comes into it, not sure if something put me out of shape out of a corner but I suddenly found myself somewhere I didn't want to be with too much gas, maybe even no brakes would have been better at that point, locking the back wheel put me right up the creek though.

We had picked from a line in the hire shop and when we got there mine was the worst one, LaPierre whereas the mates got a Giant and a Trek. I had just began to make friends with it when it got me to the top - especially as it had a 32 whereas the others had a 30 on the back, then it baled on me! Bloody French piece of crap  3

Next years plan already involves a camper and our own bikes.

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bobinski [277 posts] 2 months ago
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Heal quickly!  I went up and down Ventoux a few weeks times a couple of weeks back.  Contrasting rides, one in 38 degrees and so v v hot, the other into cloud and mist and a fearsome headwind from Chalet Reynard. A necessarily slow descent on latter but on the hot day i overcooked a bend and saw trees rushing towards me. Or was it me towards them  1 I had my own disc braked bike though and was able to slow and gain control and continue. It was dry so i am sure a caliper brake would have been just fine. Just glad i wasnt riding a hire . I know many people are happy to do so but i wont now after a pretty scary  wet descent into Morzine from col de jou plane a few years back on a hired bike. 

We travelled  to Ventoux with La Vie en Velo and Angus who runs the company brough all our bikes over. Really nice guy and great knowledgeable company on our many rides.

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Shades [340 posts] 2 months ago
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Commiserations; I'm addicted to riding in France but always 'have a word with myself' ref getting carried away on descents.  Just had 2 weeks in the Lot valley and did some hills near Clermont (Pas de Peyrol, Mont Dore area).

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jaysa [16 posts] 1 month ago
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I'm glad you are ok-ish and admire the way you are putting on a brave face when you've taken a major hit.

Alpine cols require skills we don't really hone on UK roads and it's easy to find oneself cornering at unfamiliar speeds and failing to read bends and road surfaces early enough.

I'm fortunate in spending 3-4 weeks every year just climbing and descending cols, but always with my own bike, and the first few days I'm really cautious with descents until I get my eye in - even on cols I know well. I only start pushing descents hard in the second week.

If I had to use a hire bike, I'd dial it back on all descents for just this reason.

Anyone reading, please remember on hairpins that anything coming up will usually come over the centre of the road, sometimes all the way over - and long vehicles have no choice as it's the only way round. So be prepared to slow right down unless you can see the road approaching off to the side and are sure it's clear.

Hope you recover soon...

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Nixster [367 posts] 1 month ago
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Firstly - commiserations, hope you heal quickly and great to see you've still got your chin up.

Secondly - we must never mention this to my wife, okay? 

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CXR94Di2 [1723 posts] 1 month ago
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Having done two training rides up Ventoux via Bedoin and Malaucene with two simulators. I can see from the video the dangers of going a little too fast downhill. Get well soon

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alansmurphy [746 posts] 1 month ago
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Ha ha. First text to wife...

"Just in case, can you send me the policy number for the travel insurance I booked".

"I thought you were up that stupid mountain"

"I came down a bit and had a lie down".

Had lots of time to study the videos and I would like to think I usually corner quite well. There appears to be some superbike type leaning in some early videos - maybe I got over confident and thought I was indestructible.

My other thought comes from Top Gear when Janes May nearly got out of a Bugatti that was still going 70mph. Due to travelling at such speeds so easily his brain pretty much thought he had stopped. I think I was going north of 40mph when I knew I was in trouble but stupidly it didn't feel fast as I'd gone to no effort to be at that rate.

All compartmentalised, well we'll see next time I descend anything. I think it has taught me to knock it back a bit though, you're only ever a thorn, wet leaf, moments concentration away from disaster if we are being pessimistic. And what exactly am I trying to achieve at that speed.

Don't say fun or I might change my mind  1

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Flying Scot [965 posts] 1 month ago
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I dont think I fancy doing an epic descent on a hire bike to be honest, it would spoil it, I use hire bikes myself, but havent ever done any of the big name climbs on them.

As for continental brake levers, my bikes have always been laced that way, its always been the 'serious' way and other than some minor issues with British city hire bikes, its better all round and ideal for continental bikes.

Even back in the 50's (I am informed) in the handbuilt scene, the serious customer would have his or her brakes laced continental as a matter of course.