Wednesday, 22 January 2014

As easy as falling off a bike?


Patched-up and back on the bike
You know when something is 'as easy as falling off a bike'? To be honest, it probably isn't. In my experience, very little is that easy. As a born again bicyclist I have turned toppling into an art form. I have fallen A-over-T so many times that I scarcely know which way is up.
 
The first few falls happened, rather embarrassingly, in exactly the same place and at roughly the same time of day. My early rides followed an eight mile circle from the house. I kept doing the same circuit until I no longer needed to have a lie down when I'd finished.
 
The majority of that route is on country lanes with just one part where the lanes meet an A-road onto which I needed to turn right. The problem was, reaching this road normally meant coming to a standstill, waiting for a gap in the traffic. And because I was turning right, I didn't have a kerb from which to push off when it was time to get going again. The half-pedal, half-scoot technique resulted, predictably, in a wobbly collapse.
 
On successive occasions the same group of women picked me up, dusted me down and saw me back on my bike. The third time it happened, they explained that they were on their way to the nearby pub: "Why don't you give up, love, and come for a drink with us?"
 
I was sorely tempted. In fact, I was sore all over.
 
My cycling partner is the most positive person I've met. She has been known to greet a near vertical climb with a delighted "Oh look, isn't this great? Think how brilliant it will be on the way back."
 
Angie has a similar approach to falling off a bike. As far as she's concerned, while you still have a pulse, there is a bright side deserving to be surveyed. Last year I took a tumble while out riding with her, having unwisely attempted to brake on a patch of loose gravel. Realising she could no longer hear me panting, she turned back and found me wedged under my bike at the side of the path.
 
"Oh gosh, weren't you lucky that the nettles were there?", she exclaimed.
 
Me, mystified and stinging: "In what sense is that lucky?"
 
"Well, they broke your fall!"
 
A repair job
Those and many other falls normally happened at low speed and left me shaken but unscathed. I finally came to grief just days before the London to Brighton ride last year.

Riding back from work I was pedalling as fast as my legs would spin, marvelling at the way that the wet road shone in the evening sunshine and singing a Queen song at the top of my voice. Stupidly, I forgot the sharp bend and only remembered that the shiny wet road would afford very little grip when I bounced across it sideways. 
 
I pushed my poor broken bicycle home, covered in mud and bleeding profusely. Hearing the sobs as I reached the garden gate my lovely husband took the bike, ran a bath and inspected the damage to see whether patching me up was going to be within the scope of our first aid kit. 
 
The mechanics at my local bike shop knew how hard I'd been training and pledged to get my bike roadworthy in time for the weekend. They worked on it while the shop was shut and true to their word, the bike was ready to ride. When we set off for London though, I still couldn't bend my leg past 45 degrees and was insisting that "It doesn't hurt very much at all."

I fell off at the London end of the ride, too. I'd been stuck, along with hundreds of other riders, at a busy junction. Each time the lights changed a few more cyclists would stream away, the rest of us inching our way forward.  Somehow, I'd ended up in the middle of the throng. No kerb again. So when it was my turn to creep forward once more, I fell sideways. It confused the hell out of the first aid marshal standing a few feet away on the pavement, to find that by the time he reached me, I was already bandaged.

This year I'm training for an even bigger challenge, the Ride London 100. I've chosen a sport to which I am manifestly unsuited and can't stop myself. Why do I do it? I have absolutely no idea. My only certainty is that I'll keep picking myself up, dusting myself down and getting back on the bike.

If found on the ground, please put me back on my bike.
 

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