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Richard Branson claims “body armour is a must” for cyclists after latest crash

The billionaire business magnate also revealed that he’s been “holding the handlebars wrong when going downhill” after a recent collision with a pothole left him with a haematoma on his hip and a “nasty cut elbow”

Richard Branson has claimed that “body armour is a must” for cyclists, after the billionaire businessman crashed “hard” while cycling in the British Virgin Islands recently, leaving him with a haematoma on his hip and a nasty elbow graze.

Earlier this week, the Virgin Group co-founder – no stranger to a heavy cycling crash – posted on Instagram that he took “quite a big tumble” after hitting a pothole during a ride on Virgin Gorda, “resulting in another hematoma on my hip and a nasty cut elbow, but amazingly nothing broken”.

“I’m counting myself very lucky, and thankful for keeping myself active and healthy. After all, the brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all!” the 73-year-old wrote.

Richard Branson cycling crash (Instagram)

> Richard Branson bloodied by cycling crash after hitting pothole and falling "hard"

And then, in a rather unexpected turn of events, an email from Virgin landed in road.cc’s inbox on Tuesday evening, containing an expanded edition of Branson’s reflections on his latest spill, along with “some safety tips for fellow cyclists”.

“A few things I’ve learnt since my cycling accident, thanks to my trainer Kat for the help,” the British business mogul wrote.

“Elbow and hip body armour is a must. Quite a few people over the years have asked me if I had to wear chainmail when I was knighted. Thankfully I didn’t, and cycling armour is a whole lot less clunky!”

He continued: “It turns out I’ve been holding the handlebars wrong when going downhill! I was holding my fingers and thumbs on top of the handle, so when I hit the pothole, I bounced right off.

“Hold your thumb firmly around the handlebar for the best possible grip. I’ve realised that a lot of cyclists (dyspraxic or not) don’t know this, which is why I’m posting about it.

“Anyway, time to get back on the bike. I had a wonderful ride today with a bunch of the team on Necker – accident free!”

Branson’s tips were also accompanied by another Instagram post, in which the 73-year-old, along with personal trainer Kat, can be seen sporting his newly acquired elbow and hip pads, as well as a useful illustration of where he believes he was going wrong with his hand placement on the bars.

> Sir Richard Branson hospitalised after “colossal” bike crash

This week’s surprise edition of ‘cycling safety tips with Richard Branson’ isn’t the first time, however, that the businessman and knight of the realm has responded to a bike crash by offering some clothing advice to his fellow cyclists.

In 2021 he was hospitalised due to another “colossal” crash while taking part in an event on one of the Caribbean islands, after the gears on his bike apparently failed.

Sir Richard Branson (picture credit Strive Challenge).PNG

Describing the crash, which also brought down fellow cyclist Felix Stellmaszek, Branson said at the time: “We both fell off our bikes and our heads and bodies slammed into the concrete road. There is no question that wearing helmets saved our lives – not the first time that has been the case.”

Branson also advocated strongly for helmets – even suggesting the potential for face-protecting equipment for cyclists – after yet another spill in 2016, which saw the billionaire hit a speed bump during a nighttime training ride in the British Virgin Islands, fracturing his cheek and leaving his bike “completely destroyed” when it flew off the side of a cliff.

Sir Richard Branson after bike crash (image from Virgin.com).jpg

“The next thing I knew, I was being hurled over the handlebars and my life was literally flashing before my eyes,” he said.

“I really thought I was going to die. I went flying head-first towards the concrete road, but fortunately my shoulder and cheek took the brunt of the impact, and I was wearing a helmet that saved my life (however, perhaps they should build bike helmets that protect the side of the face too – does anyone know of one?).”

> Why is Dan Walker’s claim that a bike helmet saved his life so controversial?

Of course, Branson isn’t the first well-known figure to promote the use of helmets and other cycling safety gear in the wake of a nasty crash.

In February last year, Channel 5 presenter Dan Walker, somewhat unwittingly, attracted a social media backlash after claiming that a helmet “saved my life” when a motorist veered across into his lane on a busy roundabout in Sheffield, clipping him from behind, and sending him clattering to the ground.

Walker, who was left with a bloodied and bruised face following the collision, claimed on Twitter that a police officer and paramedics who attended the scene told him that he wouldn’t be here now if it weren’t for his helmet, a revelation that prompted Walker to inform his social media followers to “get one on your head” when riding their bikes.

That arguably innocuous comment, made on the same day he suffered a serious crash, prompted some severe criticism from cyclists who felt that Walker’s emphasis on his helmet detracted from the dangerous driving that led to the collision and that, by urging others to wear helmets, he was “doing the heavy lifting for militant drivers” – a backlash the former BBC Breakfast host responded to in an article for the Sunday Times, in which he urged his fellow cyclists: “Don’t be a helmet. Wear a helmet”.

Ryan joined road.cc in December 2021 and since then has kept the site’s readers and listeners informed and enthralled (well at least occasionally) on news, the live blog, and the road.cc Podcast. After boarding a wrong bus at the world championships and ruining a good pair of jeans at the cyclocross, he now serves as road.cc’s senior news writer. Before his foray into cycling journalism, he wallowed in the equally pitiless world of academia, where he wrote a book about Victorian politics and droned on about cycling and bikes to classes of bored students (while taking every chance he could get to talk about cycling in print or on the radio). He can be found riding his bike very slowly around the narrow, scenic country lanes of Co. Down.

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50 comments

Avatar
brooksby | 2 months ago
0 likes

Eben Weiss has covered this in a blog post:

https://bikesnobnyc.com/2024/02/16/get-a-grip/

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Blackthorne | 2 months ago
2 likes

1. Glad he is only bruised and scraped up and seriously hurt. 
2. helmets prevent catastrophic head injury

3. the overspeculating sour grapes in this comment section should recognize that anyone who chooses to ride a bike for the fun of it in spite of repeatedly falling off is something to be admired, not ridiculed, regardless of the opinions you have about his bank account. 

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don simon fbpe | 2 months ago
2 likes

https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&q=ear+defenders the only thing that you need, you'll never have to listen to the inane mumblings of this prick again.

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andystow | 2 months ago
3 likes

I'd make fun of him, but I've had some pretty dumb crashes going too fast on gravel. Hoping I've finally learned from it.

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wtjs replied to andystow | 2 months ago
4 likes

I'd make fun of him...

I think we're only making fun of the idea that you don't have to bother with grasping all the way round the bar or the shifter until somebody tells you it's not the right way to do it. I feel I know my usual-suspect fellow mockers well enough to say that even we aren't revelling in his injuries- we can all see similar things happening to us at the impulse of psycho-drivers deciding to run us down maliciously knowing that it's only  risking a suspended sentence.

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Car Delenda Est replied to wtjs | 2 months ago
3 likes

I'm making fun of him because he's Richard Branson and he hurt himself (without permanent injuries.)

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brooksby replied to andystow | 2 months ago
1 like

I honestly mean no offence by this, andy, but has anyone ever said you look like Michael Palin cosplaying as Bradley Wiggins…? 

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andystow replied to brooksby | 2 months ago
3 likes

brooksby wrote:

I honestly mean no offence by this, andy, but has anyone ever said you look like Michael Palin cosplaying as Bradley Wiggins…? 

That one has not come up. Perhaps because over 99% of the people within 1000 miles of me couldn't tell you who those two are.

Oddly, one time at a bar a stranger said to me, totally unprompted, "dude, you look English as fuck." I have no detectable British accent.

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brooksby replied to andystow | 2 months ago
1 like

andystow wrote:

brooksby wrote:

I honestly mean no offence by this, andy, but has anyone ever said you look like Michael Palin cosplaying as Bradley Wiggins…? 

That one has not come up. Perhaps because over 99% of the people within 1000 miles of me couldn't tell you who those two are.

Oddly, one time at a bar a stranger said to me, totally unprompted, "dude, you look English as fuck." I have no detectable British accent.

yes

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Bigtwin | 2 months ago
0 likes

This is just another of the non-sensical things we do as cyclists.  I wouldn’t dream of riding my motorbike without my protective head to toe gear on, even though on local journeys I’m often going no faster than when I cycle, in lycra, and am a lot more visible, with better brakes and acceleration .  And my mesh rash vest I wear underneath my top layer would be fine for cycling in, with hugely improved protection.

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Sredlums replied to Bigtwin | 2 months ago
2 likes

It's not non-sensical at all.
People tend to weigh the risks of what they do, against the costs/discomfort/impracticallity of protection. 
On a bicycle you wear a helmet, just like you wear safety belts in a car, because - despite the chance of something happening might not be huge percentage wise - IF something really bad happens the results can be disastrous.
Likewise, one generally doesn't wear full body protection on a bike ride, or chainmail gloves while preparing dinner, or safety shoes when going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Because yes, you can fall, cut your finger, or bump your toe on the edge of the bed, but generally that doesn't happen all too often, and if it does you'll survive just fine most of the times.

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BrianP replied to Sredlums | 2 months ago
0 likes

Correct. Treat bike helmets like car seatbelts. You might never need it. But, if you ever are in a crash, a helmet MIGHT WELL make a huge difference.

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wycombewheeler replied to Sredlums | 2 months ago
5 likes

Sredlums wrote:

It's not non-sensical at all.
People tend to weigh the risks of what they do, against the costs/discomfort/impracticallity of protection. 
On a bicycle you wear a helmet, just like you wear safety belts in a car, because - despite the chance of something happening might not be huge percentage wise - IF something really bad happens the results can be disastrous.
Likewise, one generally doesn't wear full body protection on a bike ride, or chainmail gloves while preparing dinner, or safety shoes when going to the toilet in the middle of the night. Because yes, you can fall, cut your finger, or bump your toe on the edge of the bed, but generally that doesn't happen all too often, and if it does you'll survive just fine most of the times.

the results can be equally bad if a pedestrian is hit by a car (or a cyclist) yet no one weighs that risk similarly to cycling.

The majority of head injuries in the UK are from car occupants, but we don't see a campaign to put helmets on car drivers. I think a similar approach is justified -

Motor sport - wear a helmet

sport cycling = helmets,

Regular driving - not required.

Utility cycling =not required

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Sredlums replied to wycombewheeler | 2 months ago
1 like

I agree, I didn't word that very carefully.
With 'on a bicycle' I meant road bike, mtb, bmx, gravel etc. I don't wear a helmet for non-sports cycling, and I certainly don't belong to the helmet lobby for city cycling.

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Simon E replied to Bigtwin | 2 months ago
2 likes

Bigtwin wrote:

I wouldn’t dream of riding my motorbike without my protective head to toe gear on, even though on local journeys I’m often going no faster than when I cycle

So you'll wear leathers on your bicycle? Good luck with that.

And I guess you must already wear some form of head protection in the car, as travelling in one carries the risk of head injuries. You'd be a fool not to, surely!

I've ridden a motorbike to pop to see friends at low speed in a t-shirt. I can't say I'd want to go far, and definitely not ride fast, but I don't consider riding a bicycle at an average of 15-20 mph even remotely like riding a motorbike. But each to their own, I guess.

Perhaps Branson is somewhat accident-prone. He did admit that he was holding the bars incorrectly. But he's wrong that a firm grip is the answer. It isn't. Will he apply the same logic if he falls off a rope walk, a bouldering wall, a stepladder, a fairground ride, a surfboard or he slips on ice? (though as an extremely wealthy tax exile he can surely choose to avoid the UK in winter).

And perhaps we should villify all the people who arrive in A&E with 'self-inflicted' injuries because they apparently didn't wear body armour for every imaginable activity or journey. Once the NHS is privatised the company can charge extra for injuries caused by certain types of activities; and use the idea of contributory negligence because you didn't wear the correct type and number of items of safety clothing to cycle to the shops. And if you think that's preposterous then you only have to look at countries with private healthcare to see what happens...

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Bigtwin replied to Simon E | 2 months ago
0 likes

Yes.  That’s exactly what I said.  Wear leathers on a pushbike.  In your case, I’d not bother with the helmet either.

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Sredlums replied to Bigtwin | 2 months ago
1 like

Why do you call a bicycle a 'pushbike'?

Is it because you are dumb, or because you desperately want to show your disdain for bicycles, even if it maks you look dumb?

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marmotte27 replied to Sredlums | 2 months ago
2 likes

Comparing helmets (no proven safety benefit) to seatbelts (clearly proven safety benefit) doesn't make you look very smart either. You're Dumb and Dumber...

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qwerty360 replied to marmotte27 | 2 months ago
2 likes
marmotte27 wrote:

Comparing helmets (no proven safety benefit) to seatbelts (clearly proven safety benefit) doesn't make you look very smart either. You're Dumb and Dumber...

Would argue it should be no **consistently** proven safety benefit.

There is also the arguement that loads of other activities have a much higher risk of head injuries than road cycling where suggesting helmets be used would be regarded as insane...

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hawkinspeter replied to qwerty360 | 2 months ago
4 likes

qwerty360 wrote:

Would argue it should be no **consistently** proven safety benefit. There is also the arguement that loads of other activities have a much higher risk of head injuries than road cycling where suggesting helmets be used would be regarded as insane...

You can have my ladder/stairs/shower helmets when you pry them out of my cold, dead paws

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 2 months ago
3 likes

Trees are a dangerous environment though, people fall out of them, they fall on people...

Whereas our roads are obviously made for motor vehicles so if you use them outside of one without your anti-accidental-collision suit* it's your own choice to endanger yourself.

* May not prevent, or indeed protect against collisions.  This product is designed for making the bits easier to clean up after.

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hawkinspeter replied to chrisonabike | 2 months ago
3 likes

chrisonabike wrote:

Trees are a dangerous environment though, people fall out of them, they fall on people...

Whereas our roads are obviously made for motor vehicles so if you use them outside of one without your anti-accidental-collision suit* it's your own choice to endanger yourself.

* May not prevent, or indeed protect against collisions.  This product is designed for making the bits easier to clean up after.

Yeah, tree helmets don't muck around

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Sredlums replied to marmotte27 | 2 months ago
0 likes

Learn to read better.
I never said anything about the actual protective quality of helmets. For what it's worth, I am very much in the 'don't wear a helmet for normal city cycling' camp. I also take claims companies like MIPS make with a very big grain of salt. I do think it's smart to wear one if you use your bike for sports. Not because of any claims, but just because of common sense and own experiences. Even if it doesn't do all the things brands claim, I'd still rather hit the ground, or a rock or a tree with a helmet between those things and my head than without one.
Anyway, what I did say is that there is the same logic behind the choice to wear a helmet on a bike as there is behind the choice to wear a seatbelt in a car: chances are small, but consequences would be big, inconvieniance is acceptable → yes to protection.

Also, one can not be both dumb and dumber.

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quiff replied to Sredlums | 2 months ago
1 like

Sredlums wrote:

Learn to read better...
Also, one can not be both dumb and dumber.

Pretty sure (but happy to be corrected) that marmotte was suggesting that one of you and BigTwin is dumb; the other dumber. Clarifying, not endorsing this message. 

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Simon E replied to Bigtwin | 2 months ago
3 likes

Bigtwin wrote:

Yes.  That’s exactly what I said.  Wear leathers on a pushbike.  In your case, I’d not bother with the helmet either.

I don't, most of the time.

And I don't need preachy helmet nazis and their pathetic 'common sense' telling me what to wear.

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hawkinspeter replied to Simon E | 2 months ago
4 likes

Simon E wrote:

I don't, most of the time.

And I don't need preachy helmet nazis and their pathetic 'common sense' telling me what to wear.

The helmet preachers are what really snaps my cranks.

I almost always wear a helmet nowadays (on a bike, anyways), but it just rubs my fur up the wrong way when internet commenters are so eager to cast blame on any helmetless cyclist and pronounce them as "idiots". I think they get a smug feeling of satisfaction as they can insult riders and berate them with their superior knowledge ("I crashed and the helmet split in half, so it saved my life").

It's basically victim blaming, but hiding it within a "cyclists have to take some responsibility for their own safety".

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wycombewheeler replied to Simon E | 2 months ago
4 likes

stonojnr wrote:

does he just lean into corners to steer??

Don't we all? If you think you are turning the bars left to go left and right to go right you are mistaken. That action only holds true manouvreing at low speeds, and even then the turn normally starts with a minor counter steer to get the body off balance, there's a great clip on U tube of a bike rigged so the bars can only turn one way. Turns out it is impossible to ride in a circle in either direction.

Simon E wrote:

And I guess you must already wear some form of head protection in the car, as travelling in one carries the risk of head injuries.

Lower risk than cycling though, unlike walking which apparently carries a higher risk per km than cycling.

Walk 5km to work in a helmet and you will be labelled a paranoid crazy, cycle the same distance without one and you are recklessly putting yourself in danger and a burden on the NHS.

I only wear a lid now on off road rides (obvious reasons), group rides (risk of touching wheels increases risk of falling) and long rides (risk compounded by distance)

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Hirsute | 2 months ago
2 likes

Is he going to sue his personal trainer ?!

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Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
10 likes

Not realising that you won't have a secure grip if you keep your thumbs on the top of the bars really falls into the "can't be trusted to sit the right way round on the lavatory" category, doesn't it?

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wycombewheeler replied to Rendel Harris | 2 months ago
6 likes

Rendel Harris wrote:

Not realising that you won't have a secure grip if you keep your thumbs on the top of the bars really falls into the "can't be trusted to sit the right way round on the lavatory" category, doesn't it?

certainly falls into the category of "shouldn't be trusted with metal cutlery"

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