Two weeks ago I got up prepared for the longest most challenging training ride that I had done to date. 45 miles across the North Downs in a loop. The cycle started slowly it was taking a while to get into the groove of it this time, I am not sure why but it was probably the upcoming trepidation of having to go over the downs for the first time. I knew the uphill was steep and I was really looking forward to getting to the top and coming down the other side.
As I started the climb, and sequentially changing gears, my chain came off, This is not a new thing but its tedious and irritating particularly when you are trying to keep moving going uphill. I stopped, sorted it and then got back on feeling like I was making some good progress.
At the top, Newlands Corner, I was relieved that the next bit was downhill and started heading down genuinely smiling and happy to not be going uphill anymore I began to realise I was going way too fast and I basically got scared. I know this road well and I know its steep but as it got steeper I got faster and even short grips of the brake were not helping so I panicked and squeezed too hard with the bike now out of control.
I knew I was going to crash, there was no avoiding it, it was just how bad it was going to be. I was on the A25 a fast, and at this point, narrow, steep and busy road I knew if I fell into the road at this speed (27 mph) I would be in trouble so my only option was to hope by hitting the high sided hedge it would take some of the speed out beforehand.
It all went a bit blurry, not because I hit my head (because I didn’t) but because it went so fast. That split second decision was probably the best decision I could have chosen (aside from not having panicked so much in the first place). I did end up in the road having gone via the hedge, fallen off the bike landing on my elbow and skidding down the road on my elbow and my thigh now looking up at oncoming traffic which had now stopped (on both sides).
I picked myself up, shaken and realised my arm was bleeding pretty badly. The passenger from the car on my side of the road running towards me; was I ok, did I need her to call anyone, did I want some tissues (for the arm). All very nice I politely said yes to the tissues and told her I was fine (I lied at this point but I just wanted to get off the road) told the other lady who also stopped I was fine and the road started to clear. A few cars back was a big truck and he put his hazards on and stopped, worried that I would get squished as I was stuck on the side of the road that didn’t have a pavement he carried my bike (which aside from the sodding chain coming off again and the handle bars getting twisted around was of course fine) and ushered me onto the other side of the road checking if I needed him to call anyone to which I said no.
I then sat on the verge / pavement holding my now aching arm for a while. I had some water, I ate the double decker that I had squished when I had fallen on it and I cried. All I wanted to do was get home but it just so happened I picked a weekend for this ride when no one was closeby. After a while I pulled myself together and manged with 1 arm to put my chain back on and I walked slowly up the footpath back to the top.
I knew the bike was fine and I didn’t really want to cycle but I also wanted to get home and so I thought I needed to try. The problem was I was still on a hill and now the thought of any descent was filling me with fear.
Needless to say, adrenaline, pain or whatever, did get me home at a pace most tortoises would have been able to beat. I couldn’t see the damage to my elbow very easily so I took a picture of it when I got home – my first road tattoo.
After cleaning myself up the rest of the day I lay feeling sorry for myself as I watched an entire boxset of Red Oaks on Amazon with my whole body aching, particularly my arm. for the next day or so everyone I saw told me I should go and get it checked out, it was very swollen and could be fractured. Reluctantly, convinced it wasn’t broken but after a day of hand shaking at a conference on the Monday which was literally killing me, I went to the Minor Injuries clinic and they checked it over and gave it the all clear, no break just badly bruised.
I got back on the bike 5 days after the accident. I wanted to do my nice 10mile route after work just to try and build myself back into it. I did however omit the larger of the two hills at the start in the hope that a) it would be easier and b) the quieter more tucked away smaller one would mean that if I did panic / fall then hardly anyone would see.
I came back from that ride having panicked at every single downhill and hating every second of it. 10 days later I am still panicking going downhill and relishing the uphills and as such it has become clear that for that and for a few other reasons I need to change my challenge slightly. Well actually quite a lot.
The C2C is a national cycle route, there was no event I was joining and to do that in 3 weeks time (and for many logistical reasons it has to be then) is I think too much of a challenge even for me right now. I admit to perhaps biting off more than I can chew with that one. I will do it but it will need to be at a later date.
I will instead be taking a flatter route closer to home but again ending up where Challenge 1 did, Brighton but this time twice. No its not London to Brighton this time but from where I live in Surrey to Brighton taking in the Downslink cycle route which runs along the old Guildford to Horsham disused railway. A purpose built and flat cycle route which doesn’t go over the downs but through a cutting near Shoreham before turning left along the seafront to Brighton pier.
However I have also decided that there and back isn’t long enough, it needed to be equivalent or longer to the C2C so I have decided to go There and Back Again, Again. In total this will then be ~170 miles, solo, in under 24 hours.
I hope those who have been so supportive in kindness, words, donations are not disappointed with this decision but I am excited to still get out on the bike and do a challenge on it (although I will be pleased not to get on the bike for a while after).
The challenge will take place 16th, 17th or 18th August depending on the weather.
let’s do this