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Taking a break from riding, the wrong way.

You'll remember from your youth the anecdotal story of the drunk guy who got hit by a car (every town had one), but was so drunk he didn’t realise, just bounced and got back up again and carried on walking, While this story is clearly a slight exaggeration it’s founded in truth, in that a person whose sense are impaired (and alcohol will do that folks) will be unable to react as quickly to impending danger as a fully functioning person. What this means is that the sober person would tense up prior to impact and would take the impact harder, and come off worse than the drunken chap.

Why do I start this piece by telling a story of alcohol and science? Well the logic also holds true that when about to crash a bike to go loose, just roll with it - literally - and don’t (whatever you do) put that arm down to cushion the blow of a high-speed impact. However, whilst this logic sounds good in theory, and we all know it in our heart of hearts, in reality it is a totally different kettle of fish!

But rewind, start a little earlier.

My daily commute takes me through Thursley, a quiet village complete with obligatory pub, a handful of roads and a cricket square. Like many villages near main roads it  has suffered from its exploitation in the past as a rat-run, with speed-bumps being the logical conclusion. As you exit the village you head toward the cover of trees as the road twists its way downhill.

The slope is nothing too extreme, the Garmin tells me everyday that its around 8-10%, but coming as it does with its twists, and after a downhill through the village, there’s normally a number beginning with either a 3 or a 4 on the km/hr screen.

I do, rather, I did, the hill twice a day, once in the morning on the commute and once in the evening to give me extra climbing practise, so I feel like I’m fairly comfortable with it, I’m aware of its nuances and bends, knowing as I do that I can take those initial turns with a 3 or 4 as the starting number.

Except. Not this time.

There’s no warning, nothing sets off the spider-sense, there’s no giveaway sign. Then time does this funny trick.

It speeds up, the senses heighten, and time seems to slow down at the same time.

It starts with the realisation that your front tyre has slipped out from in front of you, and you are heading towards the ground at a speed you would REALLY rather not be.

And for some reason, despite everything you know about the drunken man, everything you’ve ever heard on Eurosport, all that damn common sense you normally apply to every part of your life it’s all out the window and instinct kicks in and you stick your arm down, to cushion the fall - cushion. the . fall…. at 35km/hr

It’s the wrong decision.

You know this within a fraction of a second, something seems wrong in your shoulder. But you are too busy with the very conscious thought that you are super glad you’re wearing your helmet as first it strikes on the left, then you find yourself hitting the other side of your head on the ground (there’s an actual moment of cognition that you’ve turn a full spin as part of the impact “cool”). You feel the ground brush your face, nothing too severe, but enough to know that you’ve definitely lost a tooth!

And then comes the slide to a halt, metres from where you started.

First thing is to check your bike, it’s there, nothing having snapped off - thats good - closer inspection reveals many bad things, but that’s for later. Then clothing, oh dammit, you’ve shredded your new (3 rides old) Gabba jacket, and your tights, and your gloves, in fact the only thing that will survive the day will be the shoes and socks you are wearing #sadtimes. Then, and only then does the pain begin to register. But first you crawl to the side of the road, almost bouncing in shock. Then the realisation that you are totally winded as you fight for breath, the shock of the crack hitting you.

Once the breathing has returned you sit to the side of the road, helped there by the really helpful white-van-man who was first on-scene.

The pain is acute now, there is a good measure of road rash on the hip, the knees, the elbows are bleeding, but first there’s that shoulder again, and now the immediate shock of what has happened is over the body starts to shout, SHOUT, at you. Your tongue checks the mouth, there’s 2 teeth missing significant chunks - wifey is going to be very unhappy (and she was indeed!)

That shouting again, oh bugger, your arm has gone to feel the source of the pain, and it’s that collarbone that bore the brunt of the first impact, and it’s clearly not in the right position. It’s snapped like a crumpled chain stay, as your hand runs its way over it the fingers reveal a sorry story, and the very first thought is a bad one - tomorrow’s holiday ( a trip to Mt Ventoux no-less) is going to be cancelled, wifey is going to be really unhappy, and the kids will take it badly.

The ambulance soon arrives, and as soon as you start to move ou realise there’s more bad news, but it’s news you’ve had before; you’ve broken a rib - that explains why breathing is so painfull. This compounds the hospital ride gloom further, Dowsett was back on his turbo with 3 days of breaking his collarbone, but a broken rib will mean a much bigger lay-off than that. Transcontinental training, which started so well with a successful Rapha Festive 500, has come to a very abrupt pause, certainly less than ideal.

Hospital X-rays reveal 2 broken bones, it’s funny how the body knows these things already, the prescription is painkillers and rest. No riding on the road for 6 weeks - #supersadtimes

Conversations are had, kids are told - there are tears - but plans are made to get back on the bike asap, despite the pain, it’s absolutely worth the sleepless nights and the cracking coughs

Bonne route!

p.s - bit of a plug here….further inspection revealed significant damage to frame, components, and attire. My insurers BikmoPlus sorted it and the cash to cover it all was with me within 6 days from crash! Thanks guys.

12 comments

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darrenleroy [337 posts] 4 years ago
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Did you go on holiday with the family, though?

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Colin Peyresourde [1846 posts] 4 years ago
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Get well soon. It is important to get moving as soon as you can with these things. But don't put your collarbone under too much stress. It needs a little time to knit.

I went down earlier this year, front wheel went, and for almost 'inexplicable' reasons. It's annoying not to have the certainty that you did 'x' or 'y' as you can then plan to address the issue. In my case I think it was a combination of wet leaves, smooth pavement (duel use before people say) and mountain bike tyres on the first rain for a while....but can't be sure.

Still got your RAB timing sticker on your helmet I see.

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themartincox [553 posts] 4 years ago
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In May, had to be postponed due to huge quantities of pain and a complete inability to sit in a car for 800 miles!

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2 Wheeled Idiot [432 posts] 4 years ago
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That's super unlucky, hope you get better quickly and there's no further complications  2
I too crashed earlier this year when my front wheel inexplicably slid out on a corner I've done 100's of times....it sucked to come down at 40kph but I managed to walk away with no broken bones
I did however shatter a shifter so a new 105 groupset was ordered

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themartincox [553 posts] 4 years ago
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Healing is coming along, docs and physio seem happy, wifey is happy because I can hold plates (ergo I can do the washing up again) . we repair well, if not inelegantly!

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Simon E [3887 posts] 4 years ago
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Bad luck Martin.

Glad to hear that you're OK enough to wash the dishes and type the blog, and will mend.

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pete666 [18 posts] 4 years ago
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That does seem to be bad luck Martin. Hope you are mended soon.
Makes me feel so lucky to have had nothing worse than severe bruising even when I was hit by a car. I did break their windscreen with the impact! Despite nearing 50 I still bounce!

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alotronic [645 posts] 4 years ago
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Ohhh, good writing - I felt that! Bad luck and hope you are on the mend soon.

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PRINCIPIA PHIL [59 posts] 4 years ago
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I can empathise, nursing a broken clavicle myself (the second time on the same side! - injury free for 27 years and then 2 breaks in 9 months). I also punctured my left lung for good measure and have been told it'll take 6 to 9 MONTHS to heal, and just as the weather is starting to pick up....
Will have to get the turbo trainer going again, a very poor substitute for riding on the road. Just as well i had my lid on too as i wouldn't want the damage that was done to my helmet transferred to my head.

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petertaylor123 [30 posts] 4 years ago
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I dont undersand how someone can read your blog, look at your helmet picture and STILL think;
"Yeh, I'll be far safer riding without my helmet!"
How many more teeth and how much more of your face would you have lost, if you weren't wearing it?

Glad you are recovering though. Fingers crossed you heal well and speedily and get get back to riding!

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Paul J [966 posts] 4 years ago
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Petertaylor, the best evidence I'm aware suggests that while helmets do help a little with head injuries, facial (and neck) injuries are increased. Not sure why that would be.

However, it means you can't say he'd have lost fewer teeth with a helmet, or lost more without.

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fukawitribe [2947 posts] 4 years ago
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Paul J wrote:

Petertaylor, the best evidence I'm aware suggests that while helmets do help a little with head injuries, facial (and neck) injuries are increased. Not sure why that would be.

Yeah that is weird about the facial injuries - neck i've heard anecdotally that it might occur and seems to be plausible from a physics point of view. I've also had a personal experience that might match (difficult to say due to lack of comparison), but facial ? That's really odd... any links or references ?