This article originally appeared in Issue 59.
I was feeling pretty good.The sun was shining, the trails were buff and I’d managed to nip out in the afternoon on a school day. I’d jumped on the bike for an hour’s spin, before resuming my work/family life balance; I’d cleaned a slippery rooty section that had been taunting me for weeks; I was an XC god and I looked the part in my new coordinated camo lid and shorts. Crashes never hurt as much as you think they should; at least not while they are in motion, and this one happened very quickly. I’m not sure if I went over the bars, or initiated a comedy tank slapper with arms and legs flying in all directions, like a Whizzer & Chips fight, but I’d bitten the dirt and I was hurting.
When I stack, I go through a list of checks to try and work out where I am, what happened and why, if I am such a riding god, why am I prostrate on the trail doing an impression of the bastard love-child of a beached whale and Barry Sheene?
Breathing OK, check; can feel and move my arms and legs, check; am not about to be squashed by other weekend trail centre warriors/farm vehicles, check; can get up and see what damage I’ve done to my bike; Aaaaaaarghhhhhh! Not check!
So I’m lying in the dirt and I can move my arms and legs OK. There is however an odd sensation at the top of my arm moving into my shoulder and when I try to put any weight on it to help myself up it smarts a bit. Bugger! I’m now beginning to think that I’m not going to sort this out on my own. If I wasn’t such a Billy no-mates and wasn’t effectively skiving off work to ride on my own, there would be a couple of mates to laugh at me, take embarrassing photos and perhaps help to pick me up and dust me off.
Thankfully, by the power of iPhone I was able to summon help in the shape of my wife who was able to find me in remarkably short time, despite my incomprehensible description of where I thought I was. She was also able to comfort, support and generally make me feel about 100 times better than I actually was before bundling me into the car and scooting me down to the local Accident and Emergency department (She could have driven a bit slower over those speed bumps though – couldn’t she?).
It is a cliché, but in my experience, the staff who work at the sharp end of our wonderful NHS are truly special.The receptionist who sorted me out with a nurse who could administer morphine, the doctor who explained in simple terms, which bits of me were broken and the porter who resisted the temptation to play dodgems with my trolley bed on the excursion to have my bits X-rayed, were all perfect professionals with incredible empathy and communication skills.
I’d managed to separate my acromioclavicular joint (the bit where the collar bone connects with the pointy bit of the top of the shoulder blade) Grade II, taken most of the skin off my right knee and upper shin and put a couple of deep gouges in my right elbow. I was battle scarred, but drugged up on cocodamol and having been treated in record time, my only real concerns were how much of the England – Algeria match I was going to miss and do chicks really dig scars?
And that’s usually how things pan out. These sorts of injuries are all too common amongst our brethren. The way we catapult ourselves down, through and over obstacles, on, off, or loosely attached to our bicycles is always going to lead to the types of accidents where bone and sinew are stretched or snapped. It’s what we do; it’s as much a part of our sport as procrastinating over the size of the rotor to fit on the front, eating Haribo and bitching about online bike shop stock control systems.
We know the risks we take when we saddle up. We accept that we might end up on our arse/head/shoulder, oozing the red stuff and having a ride in an ambulance or helicopter.The risk of having to be scraped up off the trail and glued back together is directly proportional to the amount of fun you can extract from it. And if there’s no fun in it, there’s no fun.
Conservative estimates by the consultant have put me off the bike for eight weeks. Dr Google says I could be doing gentle road rides in two, which leaves me with a couple of questions. Who is right, and just how miserable an experience is using a turbo trainer?