A couple of recent experiences have prompted me to consider the importance of being prepared for reasonably foreseeable eventualities.
The first situation involved a fellow cyclist crashing more or less in front of me on a cattle grid at the bottom of a fast descent. Roy (for that’s his name) was experiencing a lot of chest pain after the accident and was helicoptered off the fell (southern translation = hill) with suspected cracked ribs. In the event Roy’s injuries proved to be massive bruising all over the right side of his body and extensive abrasions and lacerations. The immediate cause was hard to establish because Roy’s a much more cautious descender than I and there was nothing unusual about his approach to the grid but it was a wet (and cold) day.
- The informal cycling rabble on the day in question numbered 13. No one in matching strip, a hotch potch of road bikes, tourers and mountain bikes but everyone wore a helmet. Roy is covered in gouges. I try not to alienate my avid readership but only a numpty doesn’t wear a helmet on a bike. So there.
- I’m a somewhat overweight and, let’s face it, unfit cyclist. This means I’m a slow climber. The knock-on effect of this is that I view descents as a chance to catch up and to gain momentum on the inevitable ascent to follow. I’m a dashing and sporting descender demonstrating considerable flair and machine control as I do so. The problem was that presented with the crash scene I couldn’t stop (ever tried braking or changing course on a bike on a cattle grid?). I missed one of the group by a layer of Lycra, if there had been oncoming traffic I’d probably have hit it. This gives me cause to review my descent policy. What’s the worst accident that could happen…?
- Emergency preparedness. Roy fell off directly in front of a cardiac nurse who immediately took control. Therefore only cycle in a group featuring qualified medical staff. In fact the key point was that several of us had mobile phones and what’s more, they were charged too. I carry mine in case of breakdown but they were vital in this situation.
- As a cool and attractive individual I cycle in all black strip (yes I know, I want my money back) but unusually in Lancashire it was raining (southern translation = water miraculously falling from the sky) so I had my day-glow jacket on. In fact when the chopper arrived the road looked like a Tellytubby convention which made us easy to find. This was just as well given that we were in an area sparsely populated only by odd looking people playing banjos.
Situation two involved sailing lessons on Windermere last week. OK so I capsized on day one, er… capsized on day two and um… might have fallen out of the boat while it was moored on the jetty on day three but I didn’t fall out whilst underway like my better half. But I was wearing a life jacket (and a wetsuit).
This isn’t rocket science of course – a fairly brisk mental risk assessment would reveal any of the hazards discussed above but the important step is to take these possibilities seriously and to take steps accordingly.