Here are my latest bike rides on Strava – click on one for more details…
A very good 50 mile ride yesterday with Douglas Beattie. We took the Drymen road to Carbeth, down the Cuilt Brae, and over to Lennoxtown to go over the Crow Road to Fintry. Then the horrible surface of the Carron Valley Road to Carron Bridge, up the Tak (through a flood at the bottom) and down to the Boathouse in Kilsyth for well deserved scones and cream tea! A gentle ride from there to Twechar and thence via Torrance to Bearsden completing our 50 miles. Along the way we met some interesting people – Paul at Carbeth walking with his lovely, friendly bull mastiff Zenden, and also his hawk Ruby who was eventually seen on top of a telegraph pole waiting for us to leave so that she could return to Paul’s glove. Lots of chat about dogs and how to drink whisky! Then, at the top of the Crow, we met Alec, 88 years young, who had run quite a few marathons (he says New York is the best, by the way, with great goodie bags!) and lots of other running. His athletic life showed in his healthy and fit demeanour! The only surprise of the day was not meeting Alex, Natalie or Andy of West Coast Velo at the Tak ma Doon car park! Altogether a great day out on bikes!
This is the easier side of the Tak, but there are some very steep little ramps, limited to 10-11%, which is a critical 2% or so less than the north side, where the steeper parts are also longer. On this side, however, there is plenty of less steep road where a rest can be taken, back in the saddle. I have been up a few times on my geared bike, and also single speed but only on 46/18, 69″ gear. i think that is a sensible maximum for me! There is a ford about half way (surprisingly there is a loch, not at the bottom but also half way up) and at the top the views from the car park viewpoint are all the way over to Grangemouth, the Forth Bridge and the new crossing. Very much worth the climb!!
This is the side of the climb I have probably done most often, and also quite a few times just up to the car park, about 1/2 way. It’s about 2.5 miles for the full climb. The car park is pretty much the finish of the Glasgow Green Cycle Club hill climb course; going for the full climb, for me, requires holding back a little to the car park as the steepest parts of the second half of the full climb are just after the car park, and after a short relief, again just after that. It flattens nearer the top (the whole hill is pretty much convex like an upturned pudding bowl) and I can spin up a 69″ gear quite nicely. Eminently do-able on my 46/18 fixed and single speed (69″), and also 46/17 73″). I chose 54″ for the last hill climb event (which turned out to be too low, I think) and did it in 8:38 (approximately to the car park) and with 69″ my best is just on 10 minutes. i would think a 62″ or 66″ gear might be best for me. The full climb is a little over 20 minutes for me. The thing that makes this climb a little easier, given its maximum steepness, is that there are flatter sections here and there where I can get back in the saddle for a bit!
Another climb I do frequently on my 46/18 single speed, a little longer than the south side of the Crow Road, and no car park half way up if a rest is needed! It’s about 3.5 miles, and I have also done it on 46/17, a 73″ gear. That demonstrated it is a little harder at its steepest points than the north side from Lennoxtown
I’m putting up several climbs around the Glasgow area, and this is the most difficult one so far. I’ve done it several times on a geared bike, but just once on my winter single speed. Tough! The red parts on the profile are 11-13%, just about my maximum for a gear of 46/18, 69″.
There are some interesting climbs around and near Glasgow. The Crow Road between Lennoxtown and Fintry (both directions), the Tak Ma Doon between Kilsyth and Carron Bridge, and a new one to me, Glen Fruin Road (the narrow one) from Faslane to Glen Fruin itself. Here it is! Those red parts are between 10% and 13%, only just about feasible on my 46/18 69″ single speed gear. I was standing on the pedals for the complete climb, about a mile.
Well, I suppose it had to happen. I did have a little off on the Velodrome last year when an old, apparently perished but visually OK front tubular skidded down the track, but this was my first road fall. Last year it was just a few bruises, but this time it’s a couple of broken ribs and a clavicle.
According to onlookers, I didn’t see a blue cord linking some road cones, and was dragged down by it. They also say I was unconscious for a few minutes, but I have no memory from deciding to avoid a car by entering a road work area (all my fault), enountering the retaining cord at the end of the roadworks, until being helped to my feet by the excellent paramedic who attended in his green and yellow 4WD.
What follows is an account of the various – er – impacts of falling off a bike. As one of the founders of Glasgow Green Cycle Club, Andy Dobinson says – Rule #1 for coping with bike falls is “don’t fall off”! Hence the title of this blog item. Also see my general polemical blog on helmets.
I was wearing a Kash helmet, very well fitting, no pressure points, with an adjuster strap at the back. As I was knocked out for a few minutes, the helmet has saved me from a lot worse. There is a scuff on its left side, but my only head symptoms are almost imperceptible. A VERY slight tender spot on the left temple, and a tender point below the lump on the back of my head – the occiput? – where the plastic strap adjuster is mounted.
I feel lucky but also vindicated in refusing to do the easy thing and cycle with no thought of the consequences of an accident as even a luminary like Chris Boardman feels is acceptable, refusing to wear a helmet on TV. Some say helmets are only of any benefit below 11mph because they are so lightly built. But much of our cycling is below that speed, even if you believe that limitation; abrasions would clearly be reduced at any speed; and in my view, any crumple zone that isn’t your head must be a good thing. I really can’t understand the mentality and motives of those who are against helmet and some higher visibility clothing (at night, at least for the latter) for cyclists.
Somehow the anti-helmet lobby seems to think that self protection and road design protection for cyclists is an either-or argument; that wearing helmets might reduce the pressure for better bike lanes, road furniture and all the rest. In my view, we could have both, and it’s up to an individual with common sense to do their best to protect themselves whatever else is done. Control what you can control.
We would not any longer argue against safety belts – and air bags – in cars, although once upon a time some did. There are those that argue that these car driver protection features make things worse for pedestrians, as drivers fear injuries to themselves less. But surely this isn’t a reason to withdraw them – any more than helmets deprecate the argument for better roads for cyclists – but it IS a reason to bite harder on careless, reckless and dangerous driving.
I wonder if some people are so caught up with increasing cycling take-up they feel that asking people to wear some protective gear is a turn-off for new entrants. My opinion is great, if they don’t want to use a bike because they will look silly, they are saving themselves and others a lot of potential problems! But then I don’t have commercial or PR reasons to drive up cycling numbers at any expense.
As nearly everyone does, who has occasion to be served by the NHS, they end up being incredibly grateful for its being there! Of course not everyone is satisfied with it, and that includes its own professionals and other workers in some cases, but to be scraped up off the road, assessed, put in a bed and get 48 hours of continuous personal attention, all at no cost “at the point of delivery”, as they say, is inspiring. It makes you WANT to get better not to let all that support down!
And my case is a small one. There is so much more on offer for more serious cases. I’m not aggressively political about the NHS – there are lots of right and wrong ways to organise and fund such a huge organisation – and a lot of people know a lot more about it than me, but the principle that our population is looked after this way has to remain. Some people can afford to pay – as they can for education, housing, travel and all the rest – and if they want to go elsewhere, so be it. But like me, the vast majority need a safety net, and the NHS is it! Tax and NI that pays for the NHS is differential – higher earners pay more – and is is always under review, so the model for funding can be adjusted. There is, under successive governments of all colours, private provision and contracts in the NHS (6% of NHS activity is by private provision I heard this morning from Philip Hammond), and if this, appropriately performance monitored like all Government contracts, is the best quality/cost solution, so be it. But free provision at the point of delivery must remain.
Incidentally, the food was basic, but with choices, and right for me given that I was getting no exercise. I liked the soups, the (usual for me) cereal breakfasts, juices and three choices of main course for dinner!
The good, the bad and the ugly
Or – the expected, the unexpected and the reality!
Expected: x-Rays showed broken bones, but the painkillers dealt with pain from their initial movement, and I was OK with dealing with the time it would take for them to heal! I was surprised that on the road, just after the accident, I managed to get up and get into the para-medic’s car, and then out again and into Ann’s car (she came because my bike wouldn’t go into the paramedic car, and when she got there he fastest way was for her to take me to the Hosptial (the old Southern General, the new South Glasgow University Hospital (SGUH).
Unexpected: I must have been protected initially by adrenaline release, because by the time I was moving from A&E to the acute assessment ward, I was feeling faint just sitting up, let alone standing up!
I was given oral morphine for pain relief, alternated with Codeine based Cocodamol; I do use Ibuprofen, but the hospital were initially reluctant owing to my historical asthma, but later on deemed it part of the painkiller regime. By the time I had to be rolled out of bed into a gurney for a second X-ray, I could hardly bear to move (11.45pm on the first day!) Then it turned out I was to wait a further 15 hours for that X-ray for comparison purposes, so the move to and fro had been abortive, but it reminded me how hard it was do do just simple things. I think I might have managed a short pee during that process, a rare event during my hospital stay!
That first day, I was, unprompted, thanked profusely by my surgical consultant for wearing a helmet. He had clearly seen a lot worse. I didn’t ask him to elaborate!
After getting home, the reality of the problem of having taken morphine and Cocodamol for two days set in. Accident on Monday lunchtime, home on Wednesday afternoon, conducted a Maths tutoring lesson on Thursday, plus another meeting on that topic. I felt great. But then on Friday, my digestive system decided it needed to make room for breakfast, and that was painful. And no room to speak of was made. All morning, various drugs and plugs to help out were administered. Friday was a difficult day! That evening, matters (!) eased a bit, and Saturday has been an improvement. More drugs and plugs Sunday!
So part of the reality of my accident wasn’t just the bone breaks, but the unexpected “bonus” of the side effects of the pain killers. Even thinking about sitting on a saddle sends a shudder down my spine to the affected area!
Looking at the injuries, and hearing eyewitness accounts, it seems I fell to the left, landed on the road near, or even on the kerb on my left side and back, plus caught the inside of my left armpit/shoulder on the handlebar stem, where the Garmin was mounted. That fell off, and the ONLY other bike damage was the usual scuff to the left edge of the saddle.
The bruising seems to indicate the left side fall too:
I had no tears to clothing, but then I always try to wear two layers, because then any friction is taken up between the two layers, not between one layer and my skin.
On this short trip I didn’t wear my Gore undershorts that I usually do, and as expected, the only slight “rash” was in that upper outer thigh area, on the left of course, where I only had one layer, but even then the cycling shorts didn’t tear. Elsewhere just bruising, no road rash.
A good deal of bruising appeared over my left clavicle, which might have broken at a 35 year old previous break, and it this I will need to have assessed in a couple of weeks.
No bruising to the head (slightly tender, but very slightly, in two places, but clearly the helmet has done its job. I picked it not by brand or price, but because of all those that Condor in London stocked, its inner shape matched my head the best.
There are NO pressure points, just an even fit all around. I think that’s very important. Just like shoes, and maybe especially ski boots, different manufacturers have a different default last, and it’s good to try out a lot to get the last that fits you!
Medium term rehabilitation
The received wisdom is that muscular strength from training starts to reduce after 3 days of no activity, but that cardio-vascular fitness is slower to decline – but of course DOES decline.
All my blood pressure tests, with pulse and oxygen saturation were fine, tested at least 6 times during my hospital stay. Mostly my pulse was at 55 resting, and BP near 120:80, and oxygen >96%.
I was on 2 litre per hour oxygen for a day or so, but didn’t need it after that:
In the case of rib fractures, with the reduced ability to breathe in fully, there is the issue that bronchial sounds at the base of the affected lung betray affected and reduced movement of air through the lungs. Painkillers are supposed to allow the victim to breathe more fully, and where possible to cough to help remove fluid from the affected lung, but this can be painful and difficult. I still have that six days later.
So return to my foregoing fitness, and reduced weight, is going to take time. At the moment I’m hoping we will be able to take bikes on holiday as planned and get miles in wherever we stop in the Motorhome.
The turbo will help before then, but at the moment, the relevant part of my anatomy doesn’t feel like sitting on a saddle!
Warm baths are fantastic, and this afternoon a jacuzzi is on the cards, so at present I’m just trying to keep comfortable in that way. A little swimming will help with some full body exercise in a supported environment. Walking the dog (Gandhi) has never been such a big part of my exercise regime!
I wasn’t planning any racing this year (!) but I would like to get back to what passes for full fitness for a 69 year old. I had been doing quite well!
Onwards and upwards!
I have heard all sorts of reasons why cycling helmets are unnecessary, undesirable or counter-productive. This article is a rebuttal of some of these extraordinary views.
Cushioning an impact
RATE of energy transfer is closely related to acceleration (hit by car) or deceleration (as car occupant); a change in velocity over a shorter distance is higher accel/decel. (Measured over time this would equivalently be a change in momentum, and so the impact is IMPULSIVE over time. Impulse analysis tends to be used for things like billiard ball collisions (you can draw the analogies yourself!) because the impact is pretty much instantaneous, at a point on the table, not over a distance. In such impacts, kinetic energy is not transferred perfectly (e.g. heat and sound consume some) but momentum is transferred.)
Grand Prix drivers like to have run off areas, and/or something equivalent to rubber tyres beyond that at the side of the track to increase the distance over which energy is transferred, thus reducing deceleration. But they still wear helmets for all the reasons argued in this article. Yes, the helmets are bigger and more robust, but the speeds are correspondingly much higher, and in general, helmets at the extreme are still designed to act like crumple zones (a painful analogy in this case) to increase that distance over which energy is transferred to the head.
Crumple zones and road rash
No helmet, and the crumple zone is one’s skull, at best, whether more or less than 11mph at impact. If the head hits the road, there is NO vertical distance over which energy is transferred other then the human crumple zone.
In terms of the horizontal “component of impact”, quite apart from all the abrasive “road rash” effects, there may well be rotational effects induced, and for this reason there is research into new helmet designs that are double layered to allow the helmet to rotate without rotating the brain stem, as, to some extent, human skin does!
Helmets for pedestrians?
Pedestrians are supposed to be separated by pavement kerbs and pedestrian crossings, and to a great extent are protected in that way by the law. Erefore to argue that cycling helmet wear is as ridiculous as asking pedestrians to adopt specialist walking wear is fallacious logic. Compare the protected pedestrian situation with the extraordinarily bad design of many bicycle lanes! Bike riders share the road much more intimately with vehicles than pedestrians as a matter of routine, so there is a compelling argument for SOME protection for riders as opposed to walkers.
Helmet wear might deter other improvements?
I of course agree cycling policy is due a major review with regard to making our roads and behaviour bike friendly, but this is not an either-or argument. To say that prudent cyclist behaviour will tend to transfer blame perceptions and reduce the willingness for other policy changes might or might not be the case, but why ask people to take more personal risks – might this be in the expectation that this might help the business case for change through higher cyclist injuries and deaths?!
Do we really need to go through the seat-belt controversy on bike helmets?
On the matter of organs hitting the human shell, skull or ribs or whatever, this is also a feature of seatbelt use, but no-one would argue nowadays we shouldn’t use seatbelts to ameliorate that effect as compared with hitting the interior of the car or its controls.
But a the time seat belts were being introduced, and being made compulsory, there were all sorts of arguments made against wearing em. People even pretended to wear them by draping them across the chest without fastening gem. Incidentally, this is why large cars are safer than small cars, irrespective of make; you are less likely to come into contact with roof or doors or other parts of the adjacent car shell, assuming seatbelt use. I guess airbags help reduce that differential.
Speaking of seatbelts and air bags, there is an argument made by some that safer drivers means less safe pedestrians (and presumably cyclists) because the driver suffers less consequences of an accident and so tends to drive more recklessly. Are we to argue seatbelts and airbags should not have been introduced owing to this psychological effect? I don’t think so. Ditto the argument re helmets and bike lanes etc.
Helmets are a sacrificial protection
A family friend’s child wearing a helmet ran into a tree on his bike and severely damaged his face and base of skull resulting to two consecutive maxilla-facial operations totalling 12 hours (and thankfully he made a good recovery minus an olfactory nerve). The surgeon was relatively elderly, commenting that this was lucky for the boy, because younger surgeons get much less practice at such injuries now that everyone wears seatbelts in cars – less windscreen / face impacts. In that incident, the helmet came off worst, but it was felt that it saved even further damage by absorbing some energy while being destroyed. This was a 12 year-old going downhill – somewhere in the region of 20mph maybe?
Helmets only work below 11 mph, so why bother?
I have heard this argument a few times. An analogy is with car accidents – most happen writhing 10 miles of the driver’s home. Not because the roads are more dangerous there (a logical nonsense to think so, think about it!) but because most drivers spend most time within that distance of their home.
Similarly for helmet use – in towns, and possibly elsewhere, most cyclists spend most of their time below 11 mph. So the argument that it’s not worth wearing helmets because of higher collision speeds is fallacious from that point of view. I would also argue that even if it is tru that helmets are unlikely to save injury above 11 mph, there are many collateral abrasions that can be ameliorated by a helmet. But any reasonable view is that the helmet is always likely to be of some benefit.
Helmets and the law
This article isn’t necessarily to argue for compulsory helmet use, but to argue that helmets (and light coloured visibility wear) should be used by all cyclists as a matter of common sense.
But common sense ain’t so common, and I would argue that if people can’t respond wi reasonable actions to protect themselves,mthe law has to step in. It’s just too disastrous for the individual and too expensive for society for people to cycle unprotected in contradiction to such common sense. So let’s encourage helmets to our friends and avoid the need for legislation.