It's autumn in Blighty, as you may have noticed, which means it's spring in Australia and to many cyclists Down Under that means one thing: it's magpie attack season, as this video shows.
Trent Nicholson caught the bird in action on his rear-facing camera in Shellharbour New South Wales as it repeatedly swooped at him.
He says: "For most of the year magpies are fascinating and endearing native birds. However, during breeding, a small percentage of them can be aggressive, swooping at passers-by in their territory."
Despite their roughly similar size and colouring, Australian magpies (Cracticus tibicen) are not closely related to the Eurasian bird of the same name (Pica pica).
They're very common in urban and suburban Australia, which means it's a good job only about nine percent of them become aggressive during nesting season, otherwise riding a bike there would be like an Alfred Hitchcock movie.
According to Wikipedia, almost all attacking birds (around 99%) are male, and they are generally known to attack pedestrians at around 50m (150ft) from their nest, and cyclists at around 100m (300ft). Attacks begin as the eggs hatch, increase in frequency and severity as the chicks grow, and tail off as the chicks leave the nest.
Being attacked by a magpie is pretty scary, to say the least. They tend to come at you from behind, so the first you know of it is when you feel wing-beats and hear the sharp 'clack' of a beak closing near your ear, or if you're unlucky, on it. I was swooped a few times when I lived in Sydney and I did pretty much the only thing you can do: change commuting route for a few weeks.
There have been reports of cyclists being injured after swerving when attacked, and in 2010 a 12-year-old boy was killed in traffic while trying to evade a swooping magpie. You might think Australia's helmet law would provide some compulsory protection, but magpies go for the sides of the head and sometimes the face and eyes - people have lost the sight in an eye as a result of a magpie attack. A helmet is therefore as effective against the bird as it is if you get hit by a truck.
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.