Why It Pays To Look Where You Are Going When Riding A Bike

I’ve only ever had 3 stitches before.  These were inserted in my chin after randomly falling over the handlebars as a 8 or something year old on my cousins bike.  I was very brave and I even remember not crying as the doctor waved the thread in front of my eyes as if to taunt me about the pain he was about to inflict.  To be fair, I screamed like a baby at the time I crashed, but hey I was young and in my defence it bloody hurt.

And then it all went Pete Tong.  I’ve ridden thousands and thousands of miles on my road bikes since my first serious mount.  Other than the odd silly tumble into bushes and a few mandatory ‘prates-falls’ after failing to get out of my cleats, I had been pretty much unscathed.  That was until April 2013 when out on my mountain bike to get some fitness in for a forthcoming London to Paris ride I decided to not look where I was going on a dark country lane and I went once again over the handle bars.

To be fair, I was distracted by Andrew.  One of us had told a joke and I can’t really remember who or what it was about, but I do know I was looking around laughing with Andrew and therefore failed to notice the edge of the road looming.  If you take a look at the photo above you’ll see the back of the Water Works road work sigh.  I didn’t.  Well, not until my face was about an inch from it and at that point I wasn’t so interested in it’s appearance but what it felt like.  In a word – SLAP!

Now for the queazy amongst you I would suggest you stop reading at this point and skip the photos as this slap kind of chose it’s angles perfectly.  Sat on the edge of the verge, with a warm sensation running down my face (you are ahead of me aren’t you) I was a bit dazed, not confused, and feeling a bit silly.  It therefore took me by surprise that Graham and Andrew were a bit more shocked by the situation than I was, and I noticed a sense of drama around their attempts to stay calm and relaxed.  A bit like when you are trying to stop a child look at a cut on it’s knee by pointing at a cow in a field.  However, their attempts to shield me from the issue were short lived when Graham decided to shine his front light into my face as it was at this point I realised that I couldn’t close my left eye.

Not a good day to be a cyclist.
Not a good day to be a cyclist.
Fast forward to about three hours later and I was sat in a quiet empty room at Bristol Eye Hospital as a doctor carefully unravelled my second bandage of the night to examine the damage.  I’m sure he has had a lot of training in how to deal with these situations and this would have included a bed side manner.  However, I really really wish at that point he would have asked me to look out the window at an imaginary cow in a field but instead he said “well this is a right mess”.  I should point out I hadn’t seen my face at this point.

As this isn’t a diary I’ll save you an hour of your life and explain that my eyelid had been ripped off and was now hanging from the corner at the edge.  It resulted in a two hour operation and about 70 stitches (they said they lost count at 70).  Six months later I went back for corrective surgery and quite remarkably I have to say that my eye looks almost perfect.   I think if you take a moment to look through the photos and see how it looked through the period of crash – recovery you like me will appreciate how lucky I was not to lose and eye and perhaps more importantly how lucky we all are to have such talented people working in our NHS.


Ride safe people.  Ride safe.

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