Bike Smash #5
Oh you’re not looking at the road, I can see you’re going to hit me – boring. Over the bars, here’s the ground, this will hurt and mess me up for weeks – boring. Mrs 4×4 is out of her X5 screaming, ‘I’m sorry’ – boring. I’m bleeding – boring. Mrs 4×4’s excuses – boring. Mr Bike Shop sucking in his cheeks and saying, ‘they don’t make ’em like this anymore’ – boring. A&E, the moaning junkie with the broken arm and getting my face glued – boring. A big ol’ Value Meal of boring with a cheese tedium to go.
And yet I’ve eaten five of them in the space of three years. Crash #1 was by far and away the worst and the reason’s as boring as the hurt. No one smashed into me, instead I was so worried about work, I didn’t see the pothole, my foot slipped, hit the front tyre and I landed on my head. I wasn’t wearing a helmet.
I had a six hour wait in A&E to be told the tennis-ball sized lump on my head was mostly water, but proof of two things; I was an idiot for not wearing a helmet and I should start updating my CV and portfolio.
Crash #2 was like a pitch for a Matthew McConaughey movie; a pretty ad intern smashes into the back wheel of a copywriter. I’m no McConaughey (no, seriously), and I’m happily with awesome T, so I didn’t get her number, or give her a job in the agency I‘d just set up with my goofy mate played by Jason Lee. There was no marriage in the Hamptons. Just a bill for a bike rebuild that I paid for, talking of which…
Crash #3 is pretty simple to explain; I pick up my bike after the rebuild, ride on it five minutes before the back wheel falls off. Everything freezes and I tip over in a heap. If any crash was going to appear in the slam section of a skate video this would be the one. Twenty minutes later a cab delivers me back to the shop where I walk through the door, covered in blood demanding they fix the bike and pay for repairs to my laptop.
Crash #4 was a blink and miss it. I was at the lights in Whitehall, on my way to get my passport at Victoria. The lights changed, I set off and a woman on a Pashley darts across my path. I hit her and tumble over my handlebars, to land on my feet! She was okay, I was angry, but fine. Five minutes later I was locking my bike up outside the Passport Office like it never happened.
Why do I keep crashing? I don’t know. I don’t jump lights, I don’t ride at the side of the road, I pedal pretty slowly. Look at what happened: foot slip, a shunt, a wheel isn’t put in properly, someone drives in front of me, I get hit by a friggin’ 4×4. I don’t want to sound like a teenager, but why me?
I know loads of people who ride each day, just like me. Many don’t even wear helmets (although I wish they would). Some of them ride fixies with no brakes. How do they get away with it? It doesn’t matter, the problem lies with me and I think I’ve figured it out. Before I got my hands on my beloved Adorni racer, I rode a Marin mountain bike. At the time I lived in South London, and although the Elephant and Castle roundabout might look from the saddle like a swirling mass of moving steel, most of the roads south are straight and wide. Provided you can be seen and ride with purpose, you’re generally okay.
We’re not moving south, so I’m stuck with north London’s toffee hammer tarmac. But that got me thinking about my bike. Sat on the Adorni, my centre of gravity is high, I’m pitched forward over the head, the high top bar means I can’t get off quickly – there’s no room for error. Something goes wrong, I’m off, usually over the bars.
So I’ve been looking at other bikes. I like mountain bikes and in some ways they’re perfect for north London – big chunky tyres, suspension, low centre of gravity and an angled top tube. It’s harder to fall off and you have somewhere to go should anything go wrong.
But mountain bikes are complicated, over-engineered and heavy. So that leaves hybrids. But that’s like riding a Volvo. It’ll be Camper shoes next. So instead, I’m thinking of building a ride around a jump bike frame. The angles look good and I like the stripped back nature of the bike; it’s made to do jumps. There are just enough gears to get you up the hill. Question is, could you ride one to work?