Rock: Mid-Trail, nasty misshapen lump, anchored grimly to a steep and loose descent. Requires avoidance or commitment.
Paper: “Fell off Bike“. Scrawled about four times across two hospitals. Appended with “significant abrasions to right side” and “elbow cut, bone in view”
Scissors: “This might sting a bit” says the child-Doctor in her bedside pre-laceration chat.
Post lurgey comes a desperate need to ride. After a week off, the trails are running super fast, so we’re on a speed mission. First descent dispatched in a blur of hip-jumps and mini doubles. Wheels off the ground, bike whooshing through spring-leaved trees, brain some distance behind.
Big grins, bullets dodged. Climb and climb but going well, eight days of not riding fails to spike the fitness balloon of three months solid effort. Feels good to be back in the hills, day fading, bike lights dancing in the twilight, so dry and so fast, going to be an epic.
“You go first“. Ego stroked, I go as hard as I dare, sketchy, it’s loose and my brain is still not calibrated for the speed, think about rock step, dither, engage fuck it gland, fail to get a line or a decent pop.
Bad stuff happens. Tankslapper briefly caught, thoughts of redemption founder on second rock, abandon bike calling “turtle” as over bar exit has me wrapping limbs to the inside. Cacophony of bike and rider smashing down the trail. Goes on far too long, roll, roll, roll, miss tree, momentum done, pain starts.
“Big one that, you okay” / “Grrr…yes…no..fuck dunno fuckfuckfuck that hurts“. Important stuff works, nothing broken, much scarred. Abrasions run to half a side and most of an elbow. An elbow that has the bone poking out. End of ride then, get up, sit down quickly, feel a bit odd. Babble a bit. Hurt a lot.
Push down steep section then back on bike. So slow, where did the confidence go? Back there in the dirt with some of my skin probably. Road home, can’t quite remember which shifter does what. Did I fall on my head? Might have asked the question more than once.
Driven to Ledbury hospital which is big, clean and open but entirely unpopulated by anyone qualified to stitch me up. No amount of pleading saves me from the ball-ache of Hereford A&E. Refuse further chauffeuring and head homewards with a woozy head full of irritation and angst.
I know the drill. Shower now saves pain later. Sticky Grit has adhesive properties of superglue. Some swearing but it gets done. Double Vodka with a Nurofen chaser. Carol – entirely unflappable as ever – takes over the driving. A&E full of drunks, police and heavily pregnant teenagers smoking endless tabs.
Wait, wait, wait. Bored, bored, bored. Sore as well. Relieved to have swapped bloody and sweaty attire for something cleaner and less gritty. Still small on pleasures, long on fuck all happening when phone alarms me that in five hours I need to leave for London.
Midnight comes, nobody else does for some time. Then it’s us, ten minutes of not much drama, no antibiotics, some brave little soldier action while staring anywhere where the needle isn’t.
Home, wine transfusion, three hours sleep, bastard alarm call, get up very slowly. Driving isn’t any fun. Neither is sitting on a train for three hours typing one handed.
Both infinitely preferable to tube buffeting and eight hours of gentle ridicule and more pain that I’m ever going to show. Someone carelessly knocks my elbow and the world goes fuzzy and soft for a few seconds.
More tube, hide in the corner hoping it’ll be over soon. Fall onto train and fall into bar. Grab a beer and a brace of painkillers. Worst is over. Bored of “aren’t you too old to be falling off bikes?” no point crafting a reply because they won’t understand, and I don’t care. But I’ll take occasional A&E thanks for asking.
Summary? Riding ragged and fast. It’s going to happen. Could’ve been a whole lot worse – arm, rib or collarbone. I’ll back off not because I want to, but because survival instinct will cut the speed. For a while. Let’s not hope too long. Going to be another week before I find out when the stitches come out.
But roadbikes are going to be fine. Ride to work Friday? I should bloody well think so, if I can attire myself in cycling clothing without excessive chaffing. Bikes you see, like the Hotel California – you can check out anytime you like but you can never leave.