Cycling Crash! (24th April 2009)
Was trying to find Tundry Pond. You reach it by using a humpback bridge to cross Basingstoke Canal to the West of where I live. But I couldn’t remember where the bridge was.
Went to the wharf past Crookham Village, where there’s a banner-size tourist map. The towpath seemed closest to the pond after the Barley Mow Bridge. So I took the roads to there, joined the canal by the slipway and continued.
After going a long, long way I found the terrain less and less familiar. Eventually I went under a long, flat-arched concrete bridge with new-looking brick walls and towpath. This was clearly to far. I had missed the pond.
After a swig from my drinks bottle I turned around and headed home. The towpath was relatively busy but surprisingly few people are there any one time. Compared to most pavements it’s virtually deserted. Makes for a peaceful and reflective route.
I noticed a steep cutting several metres back from the towpath. It was well worn, so evidently people scramble up and down it. In retrospect I’m pretty sure they do this on foot.
The left half was like a steepening ridge and I would scamper up it on foot with pleasing agility. But the right was an almost sheer droop with some evil roots across it in places.
I tried riding my bike up the left part. Got about ¾ of the way up first try! After several more tries this seemed to be beginner’s luck. But I had one last go and equalled my personal best. With this I was satisified. I had proved to myself that my initial success was repeatable.
Carrying my bicycle to the top was somewhat challenging. I picked my footing carefully and managed it without slipping. Emboldened by this sequence of victories, I scoped out the right side.
It was steep. Oh boy, was it steep. Pretty high, too. In fact, it was just about enough of both to trigger that part of your brain which says: “Erm, you aren’t seriously thinking about doing that, are you?”
Well, I was. I considered sliding down it on foot. But something told me that if you’re gonna take a risk, you might as well make it a good’un. I now conclude that my balls were bigger than my brain at this moment.
I noticed a gap in the undergrowth approaching the lip of the drop. My outweighed brain figured this was from people cycling down it. So I lined myself up, psyched myself up and set my ride pedal up.
I pushed off and crawled towards the lip. As the front tyre went over I lifed off the saddle, straightened my arms and pushed my torso towards the rear of the bike. There was no turning back.
As the rear rolled over the lip, the bike pointed down the face of the drop. This was my first “uh-oh” moment because I was vertical. Yes, vertical!
You may be aware the gravity on Earth causes objects with mass to increase their downward speed by 10 metres per second each second. In layman’s terms, it makes flicking snot from a twangy stick look like a glacier taking a nap.
So as I plummeted down this drop, I had my second “uh-oh” moment. Longer and louder than the first. Indeed, it sort of blurred into the next one…
As the slope began to level out, I realised my feet had left the pedals and my rear wheel seemed to have left the ground. I slammed onto the frame of the bike, just behind the handlebars. Thankfully my male instincts jerked my pelvis over to the right, saving the things which had gotten me into this situation.
The rear wheel slammed back to the ground but I was now sat on the frame. My bicycle was, in effect, a unicycle without pedals. I don’t even know how to ride a unicycle with pedals.
I was really zipping along and the canal was barely 10 metres away. My offset position on the bike had made it lean to the left. It was veering towards a small tree. I was completely out of control. This was my third “uh-oh” moment.
Now on the flat, the surface changed from bare, dry earth into loose leaf cover. I was instinctively trying to steer left to get upright, so I could transfer my weight and brake to a controlled stop. But the front tyre had other ideas. It lost grip and slid out from under me, just like when they lose the front in MotoGP.
My left leg was now grinding across the ground, carrying much of my weight and that of the frame. My left hand was gripping the handlebar for dear life, which meant the end of the bar took the brunt of the force there. The front wheel was being tugged around by the handlebars but due to my forward position, this was forcing the rear of the tyre into the back of my lower right leg.
Suffice to say, there was a lot of speed and friction affecting me. What seemed like a long time later, I ground to a halt.
My left leg was sore. But the join between my left leg and my body was a really searing with pain.
I pushed the bike off me and lay on my back, eyes closed, legs bent at the knee. Just like a Tour de France rider after a bad fall. This seems to be the instinctive position of any cyclist who just got pwned by Physics.
After a solid couple of minutes, I realised no bones were broken. A casual observer might approximate the position I hobbled into as “standing”.
My left calve was scratched up like crazy. Using some of my drinks water, I washed off the worst of the dirt and blood. Also pulled some leaves out of my hair. I guess they were from the laying rather than the crashing.
Some mud was packed hard into my left brake lever, so I picked that out. It was an excuse to avoid moving around.
If you’ve ever seen Jackass or shows of that ilk, you’ll know the “grey man” look of a performer who just got hurt worse than they expected. It’s a strange mixture of:
- adrenaline come-down as the physical exertion is over;
- you’re just starting to get a dopamine buzz from surviving it relatively intact;
- embarrassment of having insufficient skill or forethought;
- dread at how badly it might have gone;
- relief that you can stand up (approximately);
- and that part of your brain you ignored is now jumping up and down, shouting: “I TOLD YOU SO!”
Tail Between Legs
After a while the throbbing started to become bearable. I started wondering how to stick the landing. Stop on the lip? Lean back further? Hold the back brake?
(I can only equate this to Stockholm Syndrome. Like I was in love with the object which dominated me.)
Luckily my brain was now distinctly the bigger of the relevant organs. So I rode home. Gingerly.