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Recovering from a crash - reflections by Toni Bassett Featured

The beauty of cycling is that you’re constantly moving forwards

Sadly, cyclists are not immune to the carelessness of motorists. The deeper I find myself within this community, the more people I encounter who have had accidents caused by motorists, myself included.

Last September, barely a month old Condor, I was hit by a car in the centre of Oxford whilst riding my town bike. The car in question pulled out from a side road on the left without even looking in my direction. The last thing I remember was moving out of the cycle lane and into the road to be more visible to the driver, alas they never looked in my direction (as it turns out they were a tourist used to driving on the opposite side). My next memory after that was of the John Radcliffe... some 48 hours later!


I came away with a month long concussion, a nasty broken finger and the usual array of head to toe road rash. Four weeks of absolute rest, followed by three weeks of light turbo training and I was rearing to ride outside again, but my confidence was at an all time low and the first few months back out on the road were a challenge. I’m not going to write an essay on how to deal with roadside panic attacks however much I regard myself as a pro, but I will share with you the things that helped me get back out there.

Find a ride buddy; someone you can ride with, talk to and share the positive (as well as the inevitable bad). I found that ‘Monday Club’ and the support of fellow Condor Kristen invaluable to getting back out on the road and building my confidence. In all honesty I could reel off a list of Condors that have helped me on this journey (thank you all, you know who you are).

Choose your ride time wisely; avoiding busier times on the road like the school run/rush hour, try to ride outside of busy times such as weekends or the middle of the day mid week. Avoiding these busier times means less cars which usually makes for a more positive ride.

Use familiar roads/Have a ‘safe’ route; ride roads you know and that are quieter, design routes that have options to cut it short, have a route that you can always rely on to be those things. For me that was heading out West, which I now know so well I can tell you where all the pot holes are and when the old ones were last filled in!

Try to get out solo; this was a very personal one, I know some people don’t like riding solo but for me it’s where I started and offered a freedom to ride where/when I wanted. Solo riding during times of low confidence can be great in that you can take as much time as you need (even if that means having a cry down the phone in a lay-by) and when the ride goes well it feels like an incredible achievement. The downside is that if you have a sudden lapse of confidence you’ve gotta be able to work through it or have a back up. When heading out for solo rides I would let someone know and that would be the person I would reach out to if necessary mid ride.

Returning to group riding; before considering returning to group rides it’s really important to be able to identify what your triggers are, if any. For me it was vehicles pulling up to the road from the left, it made me a very twitchy and potentially dangerous rider to be in a group and it took time to be able to control my reactions. I’ll only say it once. COMMUNICATION IS KEY. Let people know about your experience, let them know what triggers you, talk to them during the ride about how you’re doing, any information will likely be greatly received and means those around you can support you.

Another aspect of the accident I’ve been asked about relate to making a claim against the motorist. I am in no way qualified to recommend an appropriate path for anyone to take in this regard, however I can share with you my own experience. Completely overwhelmed and still dealing with a concussion I contacted the legal side of a large online bicycle retailer and they essentially did all the work for me, for what would eventually be a 25% cut of the settlement. All I had to do was keep a tally of costs incurred because of the accident, this included loss of earnings, quotes for repairs or replacements and even travel expenses to hospital appointments. Due to the injuries sustained I also supplied photographs of the injuries and agreed to an independent medical assessment. This is by no means a fast or easy process, making a claim forced me to re-live the accident, made me have to put a price on my physical and mental health and left me in an unsettled state until it was eventually over. The compensation I received did fix the physical things, but no amount of money could undo the damage to my confidence.

Regaining confidence to ride again can take time, there will be ups and downs, but with persistence it does come back. Set yourself goals, but be lenient on yourself. There are a few extra things I did along my journey which I found helpful, such as specific bike skills days at Hillingdon cycle circuit (which I have previously written about), learning to use bike rollers, entering my first race, completing my first time trial and having a go at track cycling, I even did some test riding for a power meter company which meant a cash incentive for when I did go out! There is so much support and encouragement available through the club to try new things and get back out there, Cowley Road Condors really are the friendliest bicycle club around!

A slightly more serious note to end on ...

I’d like to highlight the seriousness of a concussion and direct you to the clubs recent document on the subject. My accident resulted in me being unconscious for some time, apparently I regained consciousness in the ambulance and proceeded to vomit everywhere and once in hospital I had an array of scans. I am told I presented as my normal self; coherent, friendly and joking around, however I have no recollection of this or the 48 hours I spent in hospital. I don’t remember taking photographs of my injuries or calling in sick to work, I don’t remember the hunger or the vomiting that followed, I don’t remember the fits I had and I don’t remember having more scans because of them. I do remember leaving hospital, barely able to walk or hold a conversation. The weeks that followed were an unexpected challenge. Fatigue meant I slept 12 hours at night and napped in the day, even a walk to Peloton was exhausting. I struggled to hold conversations, remember words or names, so I spent a lot of time in silence. Movement around me was overwhelming, even walking down Cowley Road surrounded by people, traffic and bikes made me feel dizzy and disorientated. One thing I still struggle to explain was my inability to make meals for myself, I couldn’t think of what to eat and I certainly couldn’t pick out ingredients in the supermarket, so I lived off of soup for a while! Gradually the effects lessened, but I still don't have those 48 hours of memory and I spent six weeks of my life in a daze. I’ve known people to have shorter or less severe experiences and I’ve heard of far worse, but nonetheless concussions aren't something to be dismissed or underestimated.

Last modified on January 08, 2019
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