Oh yeah, so that happened.
At the time I was understandably preoccupied and so didn't get around to finishing my post about it, but back in August I finally did it - I crashed, and it was spectatcular.
I was reminded of this unfinished crash-post yesterday when I almost severed my finger with a pair of electric garden shears. As I contemplated the blood streaming down my arm I said to self "Well, that's the second finger on that hand totally stuffed now" which reminded me that I hadn't yet finished writing about the incident involving the first finger.
So early August we swapped out the tyres, the derailleur and the gear system on my beloved Jarifa electric bike. That day was a clusterfork in it's own right, we got to a certain stage of the installation of all these new things and then Sprocketman said in a spritely tone, "And now we just need to drop it off to Jake to finish the rest."
This was news to me, and certainly to Jake, because you need to book bike services several days in advance, it was past midday on a Saturday, Jake doesn't open Sundays and I needed to ride this to work on Monday.
What should have taken an hour or two took closer to five. I helped in the workshop, took a nap in the car, read a book, eventually Sprocketman and I went to an exhibition at the nearest museum, and came back and it still wasn't done. The workshop was closing around us and the bike mechanics were working by candlelight when the last forking cable was shoved into it's allocated space within the frame cavity and victory was declared. After many thanks and hugs and a case of beer we bought for the mechanics, we left.
After a few commutes I wanted to take the bike out and give it a proper, uninterrupted lash on a long bike path. I wanted to test the new brakes, the new gears, see how fast I could go when not inhibited by traffic and road rules.
After what was a good day of riding and getting to grips quite literally with the new gearing system, we headed homeward. Just like frisky young thoroughbreds who sense their stable in the distance, it's fair to say we were absolutely fanging it on the last stretch homeward. A miserable two kilometres from the end of the path on a corner descent there is a series of speed bumps, and you can get some quite good air under you as yourocket along. I was literally thinking about Peter Sagan's early career as a BMX rider when I hit the last bump, jumped, and landed really really badly. The bike wobbled, the tyres skidded in the loose grit and gravel to the side of the pathway, I braked but couldn't stop nor steer out of it. Later on my Garmin would tell me I was going 40 km/h at this time impact. This, then, was it.
I growled "No nonnononono" quite angrily, however my bike failed to respond to voice commands and as I brought my left arm up to shield my face I hit first the metal guardrail and then the metal fence behind it, compacting my shoulder painfully into my body. I can still hear the crunching noise. My left hand snagged on the fence and was twisted until yanked free as I continued on my merry way. The impact and the momentum spun me around and the guardrail smashed me along and under the jawline and Isweartogod it felt like my skull was being lifted off my neck, the thought flashed through my mind that this was what decapitation felt like. I really thought it was coming off at that second. I continued the spin, went over the guard-rail on my right side, hit the fence, bounced off again, this time flat onto my back back onto the pathway.
I couldn't move my legs, but I rolled myself over with my only weakly working limb, my right arm, and grabbed my legs and pulled them under me to try and sit up. I looked down. My left hand was crunched into a tiny fist with my fingers plaited at highly improbable angles. I couldn't understand why I couldn't feel specific injuries, until i realised my entire body was in shock and I couldn't feel specific injuries because everything hurt so much. And then I tried to move my left arm. i yelped a little bit right there, as the bones seemed to crunch under the surface, so I stopped doing that.
I used my right hand to unplait the fingers of my left and wiggled them. They moved rather sluggishly but that hurt too. I realised I was on a blind corner on a descent and was a pretty good target for the next cyclist who could be along at any minute now, so I tried to gather my legs again to stand, and fell over onto my other side This was not helpful.
Sprocketman who had been in the lead was now a good few hundred metres away, and I needed him back right now. My phone was god knows where, my bike and airhorn too far away to reach. I let out a huge Tarzan-like roar of pain and anger and hoped wherever he was by then, he'd hear and come back. I'm not saying birds stopped singing in the trees and prides of lions sought shelter, but it felt very very primal. And it felt good to get all that rage out.
Sure enough a minute later Sprocketman arrived on the scene and helped me off the path with a cheery "C'mon Hoogerland, walk it off."
This made me simultaneously laugh, wince in great pain, and vow to kill him at a later date.
He picked up my poor bike, noted I'd bent the carbon rods of my new pannier rail (thank you Tailfin for the replacement).
I looked over the side of the embankment at the sharp rocks and the fall to the concrete canal and thought I'd come out of this better than I might of.
I was truly worried I'd broken a collarbone, but I could feel everything else starting to come back, including the pain. But I could, very wobbly, now stand.
And you know what ? I had no choice but to get back on my bike and ride out of there, back to the car. I don't know how long the walk would have been, but i couldn't face it. We hoisted me into the saddle and I peddled back quite slowly, with an ow ow ow ow whenever i had to exert any more than basic levels of effort. I hadn't cried or snivelled, and I rode out of my crash. In that moment I felt a lot of empathy for the pro-riders who limp along after an accident to finish the stage.
Back to the car, had a drink, instantly threw up. Made it home, showered the blood and grit off, fell into bed. Lay there apparently with concussion, took few days off work, worked from home the rest of the week, saw a doctor, diagnosed with all sorts of things, the most annoying being the whiplash which took 3 months of treatment to really get on top of. The longest lasting was/is the bruise I still have on my inner leg, that's now on it's 17th week and still present. The weirdest was the third finger of my left hand. The nail polish was peeled off in a single intact sheet from my left index finger, and the nail was intact. The polish remained on my other fingers, holding together the crazy-paving that was the fingernails of the rest of my left-hand. Once I felt safe to remove that I was left with this curiously stunted finger, I seem to have compressed it, losing several millimetres in length of my nail bed and my finger overall. It no longer hurts, but it's definitely wonky and has a ski-jump angle to it now that is really quite noticeable.
Ah well. Frail and uncertain is the life of the professional hand model.
So, I have now crashed and lived to tell the tale. I ride a little slower on descents now, but apart from that, nothing has really changed. if I could go back in time and tell myself to take that corner more carefully I would, but only to avoid the ongoing nuisance that was the whiplash symptoms and its treatments. Everything else passes. Another fear faced.
What's the difference between a crash (as I persisted in calling this) and an accident ?
This is a point of contention between media and cycling advocates; and with good cause. An accident is when you are following all the rules, not speeding, driving to the conditions such as fog or rain, and generally being a good, law abiding person, when something happens to you that you didn't contribute to and couldn't have forseen. It couldn't have been helped.
A crash however, happens when you are breaking some rule or law, speeding, riding furiously whatever, and could reasonably foresee that something you are doing could lead to an incident or crash.
In my case, I was speeding, taking a corner too fast and jumping over speed humps. My poor decisions, and mostly my fault, with a nod of the head to the arsehole road engineer who placed speed humps on a descending corner of a bike path.
Writing an article and attributing a poor decision making process to an accident does no-one any favours, and leads to the view that these things can't be helped, let alone mitigated.
Yet look at the root cause; were they speeding ? Using a mobile phone, fiddling with the radio ? Been drinking ?
Every one of those are decisions, not accidents.
And back to my crash; to top it all off, we had to ride out past the crazy Magpie who had attacked us in the past, had in fact swooped us on the way into the ride.
Eugh. I was already in pain and quite stiff, so the thought of revving up to outfly this motherforking bird was not what I could deal with right now - but again, we had no choice.
We agreed to ride in parallel at a certain speed, and then as the Magpie swooped, to speed up and ride out of danger, leaving the Magpie having misjudged our speed and foiled yet again, bwah hah.
We agreed to do this. The Magpie however was not in on the plan.
We hit the down ramp quite quickly and I was actually enjoying myself a teeny bit, when we saw the shadow cross the sun, a harbinger of doom. "Go go go" I think I yelled, "Here it comes" yelled Sprocketman at the same time. We floored it. But I rode too fast, Sprocketman slightly too slow, and yes dear Reader, he took a Magpie in the face for me; greater love hath no man etc etc.
And you know, at the car as I was vomiting in a ladylike fashion into the gutter and Sprocketman was wiping the blood from the cut under his eye from the Magpie, I was thinking "I really do love my bike. I wonder when I can get my next ride in?"