I’ve ridden some form of bicycle/tricycle as long as I remember. Probably was on a tricycle from around age 3, progressing to bicycle with stabilisers, then balancing all on my own.
At secondary school I had a racer, I don’t ever remember the brake blocks being changed, so how I used to stop is a mystery looking back on it now. During sixth form we suffered a house fire that was so hot it melted all the bicycles, so with the insurance payout I replaced my racer with a hybrid – Marin Sausalito. It had V-brakes – this was new technology at the time. They warned me in the shop that the brakes were extremely effective, it took me some time however to get used to how effective they were. I had several wobbles and nearly fell off from jamming the brakes on in the way I used to on my racer, discovering that if you did this you came to a very immediate stop.
After my first year at uni, back for the summer holidays I used to take the bicycle out most days for a ride. One of my regular routes was from Walthamstow to Chingford until you started to break out into the countryside and then I’d come back, same route; probably took around an hour. On this particular occasion it was a hot sunny day, I was cycling in a vest top and shorts, got to Chingford, turned round and started to make my way back. The traffic down the main shopping street was a little slow moving, so I was half peddling, half coasting, when a pedestrian stepped out of no where in the path of the car in front of me; the car duly slammed on its brakes. I did the same, forgetting about the effectiveness of my v-brakes. The bicycle came to an abrupt halt. Sadly I did not. I went over the handle bars, landed on the road, hit my head (was wearing a helmet). I got up feeling a bit dazed. Normally if I came off, I’d jump back on, pretend nothing had happened and cycle off quickly. This time however I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me, so hobbled my bicycle over to the kerb and sat down, trying to regain composure. A few seconds later a lady with her young daughter came rushing over to see if I was alright and offered me a drink of water. She told me her daughter had had a nasty accident the year before falling off her bicycle without a helmet on and badly cut her head. I wasn’t really sure whether I was alright or not, nothing particularly hurt, but I still felt dazed. A man from an office on the opposite side of the road then came over to see if I was alright and asked me to come and sit in the office rather than perched on the kerb, so we all trundled across to his office.
My bicycle was not rideable as the handle bars had somehow managed to do a 360 degree turn and were thoroughly tangled with the brake/gear cabling. The office man said he’d been on the phone and had just seen me fly horizontally past his window! They wanted to phone me an ambulance, but I didn’t feel in pain and couldn’t see any injury until they pointed out the grazing to my shoulder and knee, at which point I realised for some reason I wasn’t feeling any pain from those obvious injuries so agreed to the ambulance. Whilst at hospital my right arm began to swell and seize up and become painful, I could no longer straighten it, which was not too helpful as they needed it straight for the x-ray. This made the x-ray difficult to interpret and I was told I was ok and hadn’t broken anything.
A few days later I got a phone message to come to outpatients and when I got there to follow a coloured line to find the section I needed. The further I followed the line the more departments dropped away until I was left to arrive at the fracture clinic. After a long wait a doctor examined me and seemed concerned that I was studying music at uni. Eventually I asked whether it was broken to which the doctor replied yes! It took a good 6 weeks to heal and an awful lot of physiotherapy to get my arm working properly again. I then learned to use my brakes with more care, a gentler approach than slamming them on. Still have the same bike today, many, many years on. Still love cycling.