I’d been rather looking forward to this ride. I’ve ridden the Friday Night Ride to the Coast (FNRttC) to Brighton a couple of times, Bognor Regis and Whitstable, but never to Southend. It should have been pretty easy going as it’s both a short and flat route. The recent weather had also been quite promising so perhaps we’d have a nice dry ride. However, most of my hopes were dashed, aside from returning home with no mechanicals – that much worked out for me!
I managed to get a couple of hours rest after work, then surfaced about 20:00 to eat and get ready to go. By 22:00 the rain had started falling. The forecast said that there should be minimal rain between midnight and 7 am, but I decided to wear my waterproofs and long finger gloves in case it persisted. In my pockets I had some energy food, phone (which I was going to mount on my handlebars, but decided not to due to the rain), some money and debit card in a plastic ziplock bag and short finger gloves for later. I slapped a Race Blade over by back wheel as the roads were very clearly going to be rather wet.
The rain had stopped by the time I left the house, but started again almost immediately, continuing right across Richmond Park and up through Barnes to Hammersmith. It eased off again as I continued to Hyde Park Corner where a number of FNRttCers were already congregated. More started to arrive and everyone huddled under the Wellington Arch as the rain started again. Things were already not going too well. A number of people had called up to say that they were going to be late with transport issues or punctures. One of our regulars and most experienced Tail-End-Charlies (TECs) managed to sustain two punctures on the way to Hyde Park Corner and in the end never made it, despite us not getting away until 00:25. One of my old university friends, Alessandra, did make it along though. I hadn’t seen her for a few years, so it was nice to meet up. She, like me, was keen to make a decent go of this ride and cycle the return leg, pushing the total distance to somewhere near 200 km.
We set off in the rain past Buckingham Palace and Westminster then along the Embankment. We continued through the city and into east London, stopping and regrouping riders every few miles. The rain stopped but the roads were still very wet. We kept heading towards our half way stop at the Junction 31 Services in Thurrock, progressing fairly smoothly. However, there had already been a number of punctures keeping the TECs, Charlotte and Julian, busy at the tail end of the ride.
Rather than spending my time going up and down the group on way finding duties as I usually do, I rode with Alessandra. It was her first FNRttC, but she is by no means a novice cyclist. In fact, I think she was finding it a bit slow going. There are far more traffic lights and intersections to negotiate on the Southend route than there are on some of the other routes, so the opportunities to ride for nice long uninterrupted stretches are limited. It was nice to catch up with her and we had plenty to chat about along the way. We were riding side by side about two miles from Junction 31 when we heard a call of “Easy” being passed back from the front of the pack and everyone in front of us slowed down very suddenly. We passed back the call and and applied the brakes, but unfortunately someone behind me didn’t. I was ploughed into from behind with quite a force which sent me flying forward and I landed on the road on my right side with another bike coming to rest on top of me.
I once had an accident in which I realised a collision was about to take place and had a split second to prepare myself for it – not much, but knowing what’s about to happen sometimes allows for a slight readiness. Getting hit from behind was a complete surprise and there was nothing I could do as I lunged forward and hit the deck. Someone pulled the other bike off of me and I got up slowly, my predominant concern being for my bike. I’d just been off it for three weeks fixing it up and that last thing I wanted now was to have to fix it up again. Then I concentrated on myself for a few moments. Sore knee, sore hip, sore arm. My head didn’t hurt but I rubbed a hand over my helmet anyway to see if I could feel any cracks. My arm was hurting the most though, just below the elbow. There were no problems bending it, my wrist or my fingers, so that was a good sign. I was a bit shaken up though, lost for words, I wasn’t really sure what to say or do next. Alessandra and Ian, one of the guys I rode back to London with after the Brighton ride in March, helped me to check the bike over quickly. The wheels were running true, headset was straight and solid. Simon, the ride leader, rode past and asked it I needed an ambulance, but I said no. I was shaking quite a lot, but managed to get on the bike and ride with Ian and Alessandra the remaining couple of miles to Junction 31. The shaking reduced a bit as we went, but my right arm was hurting and I couldn’t put much pressure on it. I rode most of the way one-handed.
I got a cup of coffee and a sandwich and Alessandra got me a bag of ice to put my arm on. My hand and fingers were a little numb and tingly, so I think I’d hit a nerve as well. I started feeling a bit better, or at least I thought I did. In hindsight, I was actually very jittery and was being propped by a hit of post-crash adrenaline. At the time I was thinking that I should be able to push through to Southend, but take the train home rather than ride. That turned out to be over-optimistic. Once I’d finished eating, taken the arm off ice, had it strapped up and then visited the bathroom, I sat down with no real activity to keep me occupied. At that point I quite suddenly started to feel a bit funny. My friend Rachael, who had been helping me out, saw the colour drain from my face and asked if I wanted to lie down. I said no, but then very quickly changed my mind as I started to feel faint and my head started spinning. I felt like I wanted to throw up and pass out simultaneously, so Rach took me over to a corner to lie down with my feet up. The adrenaline had worn off and shock was setting in. I started shivering and didn’t start feeling any better after a little while so Simon called an ambulance to come and check me out, just in case.
I spent a while in the ambulance with the paramedics, and started to feel slightly better after a while, but still very fragile. They determined that I had no obvious injuries, other than the scrapes and knocks that I’d already identified, but they left it up to me to decide whether or not I wanted them to drop me at the hospital for an x-ray on my arm. As I could still move all of the joints in my arm and hand I decided not to. I was feeling sore and sick and didn’t want to be sitting in a hospital in Essex when I would be much more comfortable at home.
The rest of the group had departed Junction 31. Simon had waited to make sure that myself and my bike would be looked after whatever the outcome of the paramedics’ visit. Cathy had also stayed behind to see that I was ok, leaving Rachael to ride the rest of the way to Southend solo on the tandem. Simon called a taxi which picked up the three of us, my bike and Simon’s bike. We headed back to Kingston via the Dartford Bridge, M25, Chessington and Surbiton and I got home about 7 am. Simon was very good, giving my wife a call shortly before we arrived to let her know what to expect.
I got home, still not fully out of shock, but starting to feel a bit better. The lack of sleep and having been a bit wet and cold hadn’t helped much. I lay down in bed and my wife brought me a cup of tea. My little girl was lovely and sat next to me stroking my head gently. She’s so wonderful. I think she was a little shaken by the situation too as after I had dropped off to sleep she had been recounting what had happened, making a few assumptions as she went: “Another cyclist rode on top of my daddy”; “My daddy cried and cried and cried”; “My daddy needs a wheelchair now”. It’s touching to know that my little darling was so concerned, but young minds can so easily imagine up the worst. She was corrected though, and reassured that everything was ok and that I would be feeling better soon. I have such a lovely family!
I got a few hours sleep and then got up for a while. I was mostly just achy, but my elbow was a bit more sore. Having put it on ice had certainly helped prevent swelling. The whole arm was achy now though, including the upper arm which hadn’t bothered me earlier. Just under the tip of the elbow was a very tender spot, not very big but with a sharper pain when touched. I suspect that I’ve chipped a bone in there, but it doesn’t appear to be serious. I can still move the elbow easily enough.
I had a quite sedate weekend after that. Back to work today and I have some scrapes and bruises and I’m keeping my arm strapped up for the moment, but I’m alright. If the suspected chip of bone is still bothering me in a few days then I’ll have to decide whether or not to see a doctor about it, but in my experience there’s not much that can be done about that sort of thing. I’m sticking with the more upright Brompton for a few days until I can put a bit more pressure on my arm. Then it’s back to recouping my fitness. Again.
So it wasn’t such a successful ride for me and I only got to see Alessandra for the first half of it after having dragged her out for the night. But I’m still a big fan of the Friday Night Ride to the Coast and will be back for more. They are well organised social rides with a nice bunch of people, and I think this is only the second crash they’ve had in about five years, so they have a pretty good safety record. The next ride is to Whitstable at the end of May. I don’t think I’ll be able to make the next one as I’ll be overseas, but I’ll post the ride details soon for any of you who are keen to take part. Don’t let my experience en route to Southend put you off!
Thanks to everyone who came on the ride, helped me out after the crash or has wished me well!
A few extras from the Southend ride:
YouTube video by Andy Allsopp:
A few Photos by deckertim
GPS map of the route from redfalo