Monday, 15 May 2017

crash!

I’ve established one wholly unwanted cycling record this winter: for the number of times I’ve come off my bike! After falling off three times the previous winter, which was itself a record—and all avoidable if I’d been paying attention—I went two better this year with five crashes. At least I can say that in none of these eight accidents did I hit my head, unlike the crashes that I had in three consecutive Decembers from 2010 to 2012, which resulted in Paula having to call the emergency services. At the time, I joked that it would be a sensible idea to avoid cycling altogether in December 2013, although in reality I set out to improve on my best monthly mileage total then instead (and succeeded).

Anyway, I thought that it might be worth taking a closer look at each of the five incidents to determine whether there are any lessons to be learned.

My first fall occurred on my first day out after returning to Hong Kong from my summer sojourn in the UK. Paula and I were out on the long and winding road, which at the time involved following key narrow paths in both directions. And one section of the route had become quite overgrown. I remember thinking that there were a few places where it was difficult to judge where the edge of the path was. Later, in a major lapse of concentration while riding along the same path in the opposite direction, I let my front wheel drop off the edge of the path, and once that had happened, I could not maintain my balance and toppled down the slope on the left:


I didn’t take a photograph at the time, and when we came back that way a week later, all the vegetation had been strimmed. I went over the left-hand edge just before the bend. I wasn’t hurt, but it was surprisingly difficult to get back on my feet because I was pinned by my bike—it would have been even harder without Paula being there to help. And the lesson here is obvious: keep your eyes on the path at all times.

The week before Christmas, I was returning to Fanling from a ride down south when I decided to try a new route that avoided some of the construction that has disrupted the main cycle track since it opened at the beginning of last year. There is a footbridge over the railway just south of Fanling, and there is a quiet dead-end road leading to it from the south. At the end of the road, there is a ramp, which appears to be seldom used now, leading up to the footbridge:


Pieces of plywood are often placed as you see them in the photo to cover waterlogged or muddy ground. The photo was taken some weeks after the event, and I believe that the piece of plywood on the left was in place at the bottom of the ramp when my front wheel went through it and caused me to lose control. Riding over such wooden patches is often unavoidable, but perhaps I should have got off and pushed given that I had to execute a tight turn to get onto the ramp. The irony is that a new access ramp has been added to the footbridge, so this one will never be used again, but the new ramp was still fenced off when I came this way and a cropper here.

Only a few days later, on Christmas Day, Paula went off to visit her family in town, as she always does on Sundays, and I went off to do my usual Sunday bike ride (The Final Frontier). I was riding along a narrow path linking a Drainage Services access road near the village of Tsung Yuen Ha with the road to Heung Yuen Wai, which is a dead end and therefore carries little traffic. As I was about to reach the latter road, I heard the sound of a motor vehicle and looked up to see whether I would need to stop. This wasn’t a good idea, because I was just at the point where there is a break in the path that can only be avoided by a detour off to the left. The next I knew, I’d not merely returned to the path but had gone over the edge of the path on the right. Keep your eyes on the path Dennis!

The next two photos were taken the following day, when I came this way with Paula. The first was taken from the road, looking back. The red arrow is where I went over the edge, and the second photo provides a closer look. I was unhurt, having landed in a large clump of elephant grass, but it must have taken at least 15 minutes for me to get myself and the bike back on the path. For a start, my leg was trapped between the frame and the handlebar of my bike, and there was nothing firm to lever against to extricate myself from my predicament. I sometimes think that irony follows me around like a magnet: the vehicle on the road ahead that had distracted my attention was a Fire Services rescue truck, which passed by without noticing a cyclist in the ditch!



I was lucky though! I took the following photo two months later, after a bush fire had destroyed the vegetation. Had I gone over the edge after the fire, it would have been a much more painful experience!


Despite clocking up a lot of mileage in the next four months, I managed to avoid any further mishaps until the weekend before last. The next photo shows the bottom of the ramp leading up to the footbridge over the Shek Sheung River, home of Buffalo Bill. We don’t usually come this way, but in the course of investigating where Bill might get to when we don’t see him for weeks, I’d discovered some interesting narrow paths that I wanted to show Paula.


We came down the ramp, and the idea was to execute a U-turn to the left. Ordinarily, I would swing wide, but I was aware of a cyclist coming the other way and tried to execute a tighter turn than was probably sensible. The broken surface in the foreground seems to have deflected my front wheel into an even tighter turn, and the next thing I knew I had a sore backside.

Two days ago, despite persistent rain, Paula and I managed an interesting bike ride of about 70km. Towards the end, Paula opted to head home by the shortest possible route, while I took a slightly longer way round to ensure that I would clock up 5,000km for this winter (in case I couldn’t get out again before I leave for the UK next weekend).

There are several places where a cyclist can cross Sha Tau Kok Road east of Fanling, but there is only one place where that is possible regardless of traffic: a footbridge. Now I did mention that it had been raining, but the bottom of the ramp is covered and would have been dry:


The problem was that my tyres were wet, and the illegally parked yellow truck forced me to take a much tighter turn onto the ramp than I otherwise would have done. I didn’t actually fall off, but as my tyres slid rightwards, my elbow slammed into the handrail on the left.

Ouch!

4 comments:

  1. Sorry about the prangs.5000 km is impressive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No need to feel sorry Mr Green. I have, hopefully, learned a few lessons as to my future conduct.

      Delete
  2. Time to take a break now ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. ...before I break something. Yes, I know.

      Delete

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