lightning crashes

 

Sometimes, I write about products that work well (like the Surly Tuggnut or Schwalbe Kojak tyres).

Sometimes, I write about things that go wrong (like when I dropped my Troll before it was even built).

Sometimes, I write about bike rides I’ve been on; some have been great (like the Diggle Jiggle) and some have been not so great (like the White Peak Loop).

Sometimes, I just get a man in to do the pesky writing for me.

In any event, I’ve always tried to stay away from controversy and I hope I don’t ever come across with a holier-than-thou attitude. After all, everyone is entitled to their own opinion (no matter how wrong they may be). There is, however, one area of cycling life where I am fiercly opinionated and that is safety.

You may recall I was recently quite shook up by a near miss a good friend had on the road; his bike was completely toast but happily, he suffered nothing worse than a badly cut face and badly bruised pride. The cause of said crash isn’t completely clear but the fault certainly lies with the cyclist on this occasion.

So yes, we do make mistakes. And yes, we admit to them.

Listening to the radio one morning this week as I snaffled my eggs, I was horrified to hear that the sideburn wearing British Cycling legend that is Bradley Wiggins wouldn’t be appearing as Chris Evans’s guest as he’d been knocked off his bike the day before. With little information other than he was recovering in hospital with minor injuries ringing in my ears, I threw my leg over the Troll and took off for my daily 7.5 mile (each way) commute into Manchester.

Ask any regular cyclist and they’ll no doubt regale you with 1) tales of incident free rides, 2) near misses with idiotic homicidal drivers and 3) (not all will admit to this last one) self inflicted crashes brought about by a moment of stupidity or simple lapse in concentration; I’m sorry to report that my ride in to work that very same day was brought to you by option 2.

About a mile out of Manchester City Centre on the dual carriageway A62 Oldham Road, I was in the middle of the inside lane blowing through some traffic lights (yes, they were on green) with an articulated lorry shadowing me in the lane to my right. Parked in a bus stop to the left (and the reason I was in the middle of the lane) was a large white van displaying learner driver plates.

Thinking nothing much of it, I changed up a gear and pushed on pacing the truck at around 25mph. At the very moment I’d satisfied myself the truck driver had seen me and was going to stay in his lane, I saw the driver of the large van drop the hammer and, without looking or indicating, pull out into my lane.

I don’t think I managed to form any real words but whatever noise I was making was loud enough to make the van driver look out of his window just in time to see me getting squeezed closer and closer to the truck and the trailer wheels which were about to make me into a Troll kebab.

Somehow, I managed to stay upright and a few hundred metres down the road, I pulled up to have a quiet chat with the van driver who was suspiciously hanging well back. Eventually, he decided I wasn’t going away and, with the fear of god in his eyes, rolled down the window. And that’s when I saw it.

Carefully embroided on the chest of what was unmistakably a stab vest was “Greater Manchester Police”.

“What the hell was that?”, I asked.

“WELL?”

“I… I… have no comment I wish to make at this time…”

Addressing a less shellshocked officer in the passenger seat I rhetorically asked “This is a Police vehicle? Under instruction? Are you being serious?”; the slow, resigned nods from the instructor told me this young officer’s professional driving career was already over so I decided not to press the issue any further save for a few choice parting phrases including “astonished” and “disappointed”.

That evening, even closer to work, I was nearly t-boned by a woman in a van to whom checking her hair in the mirror was more important than checking the road she was pulling into. Unlike the young officer, she was more than happy to comment with several choice phrases I shan’t repeat here and several finger gestures you can no doubt imagine.

So, she nearly kills me but I’m in the wrong for telling her to look where she’s going… Seriously?

The next day and I’m almost all the way home; literally within 200m of my house with all 700 lumens of my front lights shining into the face of another driver who decided it was perfectly acceptable to pull out in front of me.

What astonished me most about this one was the sheer impossibility that he couldn’t have seen me. Unless, like our blonde haired friend from earlier, he was too f-ing busy looking at something else to even bother checking for other road users.

Somewhat unsurprisingly, I wasn’t feeling in the least bit charitable so I gave him all kinds of hell despite the pathetic ‘sorry mate, I didn’t see you’ look he painted on his face. Lucky he drove away when I told him to really; I’m not sure what would’ve happened if he’d tried arguing he was in the right…

 

Now, Wiggo and Co. have undoubtedly done the sport and recreation of cycling a great service this year with so much success in the Olympics, the Tour de France and other events with the resulting publicity. There are certainly more people enjoying cycling and organisations such as Sky, British Cycling and Sustrans are certainly playing a big part in making that happen.

I read today that the woman who allegedly knocked Wiggo off his bike voluntarily went to the police who promptly reported her for summons although there is an ongoing investigation into the crash. Naturally, I wait for the full details to come out but it would in itially appear that the driver was at least partially at fault.

The silver lining I’m hoping for here is that Wiggo can do cycling another great service as a result of this crash. Will this raise awareness amongst cyclists and drivers alike that accidents are all too easy to cause (on both sides) and oh so easy to avoid? Will the courts decide to make an example of this case? Will Wiggo come out and openly criticise the driver’s actions? Or, is the story not as it first appears and was Wiggo at fault? Are we to listen to the tabloids and believe the crash was caused by the shaving off of the world’s most famous sideburns?

Whatever happens, the few of you I’m able to reach (whether you’re a cyclist, a driver or both), please please please remember:

Open your eyes and look, open your ears and listen.

Advertisements

next to me

 

With plenty of time to get all arty atop the hill of death, it’s fair to say that Geordie Clarke is considerably stronger and faster than I am. I keep trying to blame it on me riding a heavier bike or being tired from doing something or other the day before or whatever but, if I’m honest, I’m just fat and he’s just not.

Now, despite my considerable weight (dis)advantage and GC’s penchant for torturing me on the longest, steepest climbs we can find, he always has been and shall probably always remain my cycling buddy of choice.

With Geordie visiting for the extra long jubilee bank holiday weekend, there was nothing for it but to organise a weekend of cycling. Starting out with a little pootling around Manchester on the Saturday (with the obligatory visit to the bike shop, of course) we signed up for a Sky Ride Local event on the Sunday. Completely outnumbered by the ride leaders, we were in for some more pootling, lots and lots of rain, drivetrains full of sand and a nice cup of coffee at Manchester’s Velodrome.

Whilst it wasn’t really a challenge for us, I really quite enjoyed our little ride out in the countryside. If you’re new to cycling, want to build up to bigger mileage, explore your local area or just meet new people, I reckon you could do a lot worse than sign up and have a go! It’s free, the ride leaders take care of your safety during the ride, they’re just about everywhere these days and there are routes to suit just about every ability level. Oh, and you’ll even get a free hi-viz Sky Ride top just for turning up! We declined, incidentally, which nobody minded.

The main event for the weekend was really the Great Manchester Cycle on the bank holiday Monday which I’d signed us up for ages ago. Despite Geordie’s protestations, I signed us up for the middle distance of a mere 26 miles; with the journey to the start and back, it came out at roughly 40 miles for the day which I thought would be plenty.

Of course, these things never really go according to plan… A mile or so from home and I noticed my crank arm was loose; probably because I hadn’t tightened it down properly! Happily, there was a man with a rather impressive 8mm allen wrench and a builder’s bum on hand at the start of the ride who leaned on my cranks and got me going again.

The ride itself was lots of fun! The organisers had done a great job of getting so many people safely onto and around the course of closed public roads which included a section of Mancunian Way – how often do you get to cycle on a closed motorway?

Once all the queuing was done (and there was plenty of it to do), we set about storming around the course, scalping as many serious looking roadies as possible. There’s something really special about the incredulous look you only get from beating everything in sight with a big old ridiculous Troll!

The first 5 miles flew by along with several team replica jerseys struggling on the most minor of inclines. Getting down in the drops and chasing onto Geordie’s wheel, I starting getting really comfortable with the odd looking riding position I have and before I knew it, we were rolling across the bridge at Salford Quays.

A short stretch later and I was being refused entry to the feed station with a reluctant promise that we could go in on the next lap. Heading back to the start / finish line at the Manchester City ground, we passed by the Manchester Utd ground, scalped more roadies on Mancunian Way and dropped back down into the city for lap 2.

Enjoying the random applause from people lining the streets, I almost wiped out by running into the back of a slow moving group taking up the entire width of the road; Geordie, being all small and slinky, had somehow managed to find a gap and was fast getting away from me… git.

Getting ‘stuck’ once more behind a group of lycra clad girls, I eventually found a way through and, once again, we passed through Salford and the feed station was looming. Having paid my entrance fee, I was as sure as hell going to bag my free munchies even though I really didn’t need anything.

Carefully ignoring the box of jelly babies and haribo, we both made a bee-line for the girl with long, flowing red hair and a tray of jaffa cakes. Flirting out of the way, we each pocketed a couple of bananas and I nommed a chocolaty – fudgy muesli bar and we set off again.

Relaxing the pace a little, we kept leapfrogging 2 separate pairs of guys but we beat them in the end. In the final stages, I got stuck once again and there was nothing to do but take a free tow from a rather nice lady in grey shorts… and, all too soon it was all over.

We picked up our goody bags at the end and rode home. Geordie wanted to ride up the hill of death to get some more miles in but the higher than normal pace and the beer from the night before was starting to tell on my thighs so 40ish miles for the day it was.

As some kind of consolation prize, I caved in and let Geordie punish me up the hill of death before I dropped him off at the train station. Being on the Troll, I decided to ride home via a stretch of NCN route 66 along the Rochdale canal; the surface is quite good overall but appalling in places – a good test for the Troll and probably my new commuting route. I feel a future post coming on about cycling on the canal network…

Anyway, all in all, I reckon I racked up about 120 miles over the weekend which is probably much less than Geordie wanted to ride but I had a blast all the same.

Oh, head over to http://www.greatcycle.org/Photos/Default.aspx and search for my rider number 4592 and you can see a few action shots and even a short video of me on the ride. Keep an eye out for me pulling my Salford face on the bridge!