So, there I was, flying through the air thinking ‘here we go again’ closely followed by ‘if I survive hitting the deck, I hope nothing runs me over’. Time stands still whilst a crash is happening but soon enough, I was lying face down on the A458. I was 200 metres away from my house having had my recently started Sunday ride brought to an abrupt halt by a little old lady in a Volkswagen. Again...
I’ve got a thing about being hit by little old ladies in little old cars whilst riding although to be fair, this is my first VW. I’m beginning to think it might be my fault, or maybe I did something terrible to old ladies in a past life. My brother had to fish me out of a hedge after being broadsided by a driver emerging from a T junction a few years back. Renault Clio. She said she was so unsettled by the crash she’d just caused; it was her sincere hope she wasn’t going to hit anything else on her onward journey. I shared her concern.
More recently a little old Spanish lady decided to turn right to get petrol at the same time I was riding past the filling station. Peugeot 206. She said it was ‘mucho calor’ and, yeah, perfectly understandable, paying attention to other road users when it’s warm is pretty challenging. Either way, Mallorcan tarmac tastes the same British tarmac – it’s just served warm.
I walked away from the first two with some missing skin, a collection of bruises and some bike scrapes. The latest instalment did involve a (short) lift home in a Shropshire ambulance and a bike that will only turn left. Well, it would only turn left if the wheels went round. Which they don’t.
I was fortunate to be helped off the road by a young lady who took charge of a situation very calmly (an ex fire fighter now in the armed services), a young man who witnessed the crash and stopped to help and give me his details, the cops and the ambulance staff. I’m extremely grateful for their care and attention.
If you ride long enough, this shit happens, a moment’s inattention from a driver and bang, down you go. I was lucky again – it you want to frame it like that – but it got me thinking about the value of healthy life and why I choose to spend a good chunk of it astride a bicycle.
Although it comes with obvious risks, stuff like this will not stop me, or you I suspect, from riding. It’s too important for my physical and mental health. I don’t ride a bike out of a determination to exercise my right as a road user. Self-righteous indignation is no protection against inattentive drivers and riding angry is no fun. it’s just cycling stops me from going bat shit and keeps the ravages of Mr Kipling's finest at bay.
Recent experiences have made me reflect on the place riding a bike has in my life. Instances of chewing tarmac aside, cycling gives me an enhanced quality of being, and training and racing gives me a sense of purpose and fulfilment. To some non-cyclists what we do may be no more than playing on a child’s toy dressed in a Lycra onesie, but for me it’s a fundamental part of my identity and psychologically important. Have you ever been prompted to think about what cycling means to you? Or is it just something you 'do'? I'd be interested to know.
Riding a bike outside makes me feel fully alive - in the elements you sense the environment and feel the work. It’s a real, not virtual, world and to me it’s all the more valuable for that. You can’t ride a bike without hurting a little although hopefully this is self-infected rather than in the gift of a little old lady in a little old car.
The moral of the story? I guess don't take your ability to ride a bike for granted. Value it, own it, nurture it and above all, enjoy it. And get insurance. And... bear in mind if you need a new bike, there's a long, long wait because there's nothing in stock!
If you've had your own experiences of bouncing down road unattached to your bike I'd like to hear about it, particularly if it's changed your attitude to riding or made you reflect on how riding effects your life.
Rich Smith bounces real good. He has coached the Great Britain Transplant Cycling team for over 10 years, is a British Cycling qualified Level 3 coach and a mature psychology student. He spent 30 years responding badly to people in authority in senior roles for Barclays, HSBC, British Waterways and National Grid Property before launching RideFast Coaching which is much more fun.
The ramblings of a cycling coach...