Ever had one of those moments when life grabs you by the lapels and shouts “Wake Up!” right in your face, spraying you with flecks of a tuna sandwich in the process just to add some additional gut wrenching revulsion?
The Wiggle Wild Edric 2012 presented me with one such moment. Having thoroughly enjoyed the high road over the top of Long Mynd, there followed a speedy descent, winding down the hillside to clearer air beneath the mist. The road surface was generally good, and a steady stream of riders snaked down the hill at 35-40mph.
Out of the comfort zone, and thank goodness for adrenal glands.
You can be cruising one minute, aware of your surroundings but in a kind of autopilot state. You’ve been in similar situations hundreds of times, and know what to expect.
It’s familiar, it’s safe, it’s predictable. And then the rattlesnake bites.
20 metres in front of me, I somehow picked up that something that wasn’t quite right, and in less than a second it was clear that we’d detached from normality. A rider had left the tarmac, and was trying desperately to retain control of his bike through the gravel, mud and grass of the verge. He threw some odd shapes in his fight with gravity before caving in to the inevitable and slamming into the earth.
This isn’t supposed to happen.
Several milligrams of adrenaline please.
Evasive action may be required.
As he slid headfirst through the grass and ferns, his bike somehow leapt two to three metres up into the air, and back towards the centre of the road, directly in the path of the riders immediately behind, who had slowed to about 30 mph, having instinctively hit the brakes. I’m a little further behind, watching it all happen in slow motion, my adrenaline fuelled eyes transformed into an expensive 1200 frames per second slow-mo camera, like the ones Attenborough used to make movies of sharks leaping out of the ocean with seals in their jaws.
Bit more adrenaline please, I’m probably going to have to do something superhuman to get out of this one.
The bike seemed to rotate, suspended in the air as though on invisible strings, threatening to drop dead at any second onto the riders who skidded towards and underneath it, no doubt cursing the momentum they’d built up, and trying to rapidly scrub their speed in a desperate fight with Newtonian laws of motion.
Force = mass x acceleration.
Yeah, and that flying bike’s going to wipe us all out.
The bike landed smack in the middle of the road, and thankfully stopped dead. Had it continued to skitter across the road it would, no doubt about it, have caused at least two more riders to come off. As it happened, some butt-clenching braking, skidding and excellent bike handling saw them swerve safely around the bike.
Heart rates on a descent have never been so high.
Being further back, I had slightly more time to react and thanks to the skill of those in front, was able to negotiate a line in a slightly more calculated fashion. As I flew past the fallen bike, it’s rider had sat up, head in hands, his helmet full of grass and ferns making him look like some sort of fancy dress mashup of a cyclist and a camouflaged sniper.
Another pack further behind had time to slow down properly and ask if he was ok. We heard later he’d been taken to hospital and needed minor surgery on his elbow. I believe @kilotogo commented that he’d touched wheels with another rider, implying this was the cause of the accident. Hope he makes a full recovery.
The adrenaline which no doubt improved our chances of escaping unscathed, left us a bit shaky for an hour or so afterwards, and you cannot help but reevaluate your sense of safety and the things you take for granted.
Be careful out there folks.