Hit the ground riding

Since I got my first bike in a decade last summer, I’ve ridden well over 3,000 miles, far more than I have ever ridden in all my life before now. Over 1,200 of those miles have been ridden since I got my second new bike at the end of this July. So it’s pretty remarkable that I’ve managed to avoid having to be rescued by my wife and the car thus far, either through mechanical failure or accident or injury. Doubly remarkable when one considers that I know next to nothing about bicycle maintenance.

Until Sunday morning, that is.

My troublesome left shoulder flared up again a little the weekend before last, but then, thanks in part to diligently sticking to my physio regime, it improved dramatically on Wednesday and Thursday, and so I went out for a 25-miler on Friday after work, and felt, for the first time in several weeks, like I’d completely recovered. I followed this up with a 32-miler on Saturday morning, heading down to Dawlish and then back via Haldon Hill, capping a 1:59 mile on the descent (and twigging, late, that the road you come down is always going to be near as damnit 100% car-free, because it’s been made redundant, and a dead-end, by the A38 to Plymouth). It was hard work dragging up to the top of the hill after a cold 7am start and with legs stiff from the previous afternoon, but the descent was worth it.

Feeling chipper, and wanting to sail past the 300 mile mark for October so far in order to give myself a chance of hitting 400 by month’s end, I went out yesterday morning, too, a little later and a little warmer than on Saturday, but the sky a touch darker and more overcast. I battled against the wind down the east side of the estuary to Lympstone, and then turned north up Strawberry Hill, crossing the A376 and then taking Harefield Road, Tedstone Lane, and then Stony Lane for a long slow climb to the B3180, which I used to get some speed up and fly over the top of Woodbury Common and Aylesbeare Common, crossing over the A3052 at the Halfway Inn, and then forking north-west down Village Lane into Aylesbeare itself.

In Aylesbeare itself I hit a patch of impacted cowpat on the road at exactly the same time as a gust of wind hit me, just before turning west down Marwood Lane for the fast downhill homestretch to the airport. And then I hit the tarmac, hard, on my right-hand-side, at about 15mph. My head bounced gently off the road as my right thigh and shoulder took the bulk of the impact. My first thought was “my riding clothes are going to be ruined”. My second thought was to pause my GPS tracking so as not to lower my average speed as I lay on my back in the middle of the village. My third thought was that it was going to hurt in the morning. My fourth thought was that I should change to my winter tyres before going out again. My fifth thought was that I might need a lift home. My sixth thought was that it was stupid and ironic that I’d got over my left shoulder only to mash my right one into tarmac. Your brain does odd things when you come off your bicycle.

After a moment or two supine on the country lane, I got up, dusted myself down, was pleased to see my touring shorts, ¾ knicks, jacket, jersey and arm-warmers were all in one piece (if a little soiled), and was equally glad to see that my bike had suffered only minor scratches to the right pedal and gear-shifter. The gears seemed fine, the brakes too, and the wheels spun. The hoods were twisted out of alignment but were still usable. So I got back on, clipped in my cleats, reached forward, and felt my shoulder complain at me. I rang Emma and arranged a rescue from the airport, two miles away and downhill. I coasted those two miles one-handed, and stood on a grass verge for fifteen minutes while Em drove out from our house to save me.

Nearly 36 hours later, my whole body aches, especially my right shoulder. My neck aches. My hip and ankles are sore. I had an enormous egg-shaped lump on my left ankle which hadn’t even hurt initially and only revealed itself to me when I took my socks off at home. I’ve been dosing up with ibuprofen again, and will have a bath later tonight to try and make the evolving ache less awful in the morning.

But that’s it. My first proper bicycle crash as an adult. My first rescue in over 3,000 miles of pedaling. I lived, and I’m fine. I got home to news of Marco Simoncelli’s fate, and felt my aches and bruises and grazes put firmly into perspective. I’ll ride again, if not for a little while, and tentatively at first. Marco wont.

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