So my holiday plans have gone awry. On the plus side, I guess I’m now a real cyclist. Most of my first day’s ride was very nice; I left Marrickville and headed through Pyrmont and across the bridge, exchanging occasional greetings with other cyclists who asked where I was going. I took part in my first cycle-traffic jam as I reached the north side of the Harbour Bridge, and then traveled through the lower north shore, across the spit bridge and up to Palm Beach via the coast. Instead of riding down to Manly, as I’ve done previously, I rode along bike paths through Seaforth and Balgowlah, discovering a beautiful little dam on Burnt Bridge Creek.
It took me about 4 hours to get to Palm beach and, after waiting for most of another for the next ferry, I set off from Ettalong towards Kincumber. The bridge over Brisbane Water on Maitland Bay Road (that’s a link to Google Streetview), has a reasonable shoulder for cyclists, but the traffic was reasonably fast-paced and I wasn’t feeling comfortable sitting too far out from the side of the road. Unfortunately, I hadn’t paid enough attention to the fact that the low-rider panniers were at the same height as the concrete holding the bridge railings. It’s hard to reconstruct the events, but my best guess is that a wind gust from a passing car pulled me to the right and I then over-corrected to the left. At any rate, the result was that the left pannier came in contact with the concrete and that side of the bike stopped moving. As the handlebars twisted (I must have been traveling more than 20km/h) I went over the front and landed on my right wrist.
I immediately jumped up – luckily I landed mostly in the bike lane – and set the bike upright and got back on so that I could get across the bridge to somewhere to where I could assess the damage. It was quickly obvious that firstly I could not put much pressure on the right arm, and secondly that the brake lever on that side was twisted down and in. The bar also appeared to be slightly bent upwards overall. As far as I could tell I was merely bruised and scraped. The right knee had a nasty gash, as did the left thigh; my left glove was shredded and I had a couple of scrapes on it. Since I was only about 15km from my destination I rode one-handed for most of the way. There was one hill that I had to walk up as I couldn’t generate any upper body power without the use of both arms.
When I reached the home of my mother’s friend, we cleaned up my hands and legs and I again tested for arm mobility and decided that I had a decent range of movement that was consistent with being merely bruised; I knew I couldn’t carry on with the bike as it was – a new set of bars was needed, and I wasn’t sure how I would pull up after a shower and a good night’s sleep either. I took up the offer to be driven back to Sydney in the morning and rested for the rest of the day.
After dropping the bike off at the shop, I went to the doctor and he decided that the elbow wasn’t moving as well as it should so he sent me for X-rays. His suspicion was that my radius has pushed back into the elbow joint and fractured at the head; the X-ray confirmed this and now I join the ranks of those cyclists with broken bones. As I said, maybe that makes me a proper cyclist now – a title I could easily pass up 🙂 At least I now have some limited understanding of what people like Tyler Hamilton go through (he rode most of the 2003 TdF with a fractured collarbone).
I’ve been told to rest and ice the area for a few days and then start physiotherapy so that I can regain full joint mobility. I don’t expect to be back on the bike (after it has been repaired) for a few weeks at least. That means my holidays will now be spent reading instead of riding. That’ll be nice too – I have a big backlog of books and I haven’t had a proper break from work etc. in which I can immerse myself in a good book. There’s always next year for a decent cycling trip.
By the way, here’s the route I took: