Earlier this evening [^1] I turned from Evans Street, Rozelle at great speed onto Henry Street. Inexcusably, I looked over my shoulder as I navigated the corner into the narrow side street. When I returned my gaze to where I was piloting the iron steed I was alarmed to see a parked car in my direct path. Just before impact, I squeezed the brake levers hard but sensed the effort was to no avail. Careening towards the car in slow motion the thought flashed through my mind that this was a very grave situation indeed. In that split second I asked myself, no I told myself, I’m stuffed! I slammed into the stationary vehicle and somersaulted over the bicycle.
In the distance there were no spectators to witness my bloated body tumbling over the handlebars of my vintage bicycle. I executed the forward roll I had been trained to perform as a younger lither man, perfectly, if not modestly. I was surprised to find that in middle age I had retained the body memory of my sixteen year old self.
I picked both myself and the bike up swiftly. It was dark, the temperate evening air, a small comfort. My main concern was the bike. Priorities, all wrong. I knew I was hurt but wasn’t sure how seriously. It wasn’t until I arrived home that I noticed that my bicycle helmet had a slight depression below the surface of the shell, obviously at the point where it had made impact with either the car or the ground. As I write the first draft of this entry, the right hand side of my head feels somewhat displaced. I’m not concussed, but mildly shocked. The helmet is not cracked, but it did absorb undue force and is no longer useable. I don’t have a scratch or bump on my head. What a relief!
In the aftermath I noticed the wooden box attached to the front carrier had absorbed the impact of the crash, bending the carrier out of alignment to the bike. Unlike more modern materials used for bicycle construction, steel is quite forgiving. I detached the carrier from the bicycle, bent it back into shape with various blunt instruments and then reattached it. As good as new!
Frankly speaking, without the helmet I would have been in a fair bit of strife. Moreover, fortunately I was wearing gloves and long pants. These second layers of skin saved me from serious abrasion. My upper body was less protected. I only wore a tee-shirt but luckily escaped harm with some very light inconspicuous scratches on my right forearm. Keen to get back into the saddle, I ordered a new helmet the following day. The brand, aptly named ‘Nutcase.’
Feeling vulnerable, at first I only confided in my partner and a few close friends about the crash. After a few days I loosened up and allowed the unfortunate incident to bubble to the surface of casual conversation with colleagues around the office. Because my narrative did not involve a careless driver who didn’t see me and so on, there was no ‘I told you so cycling is dangerous’ glances directed my way. My story could only be made sense of through the caricature of the absentminded dimwit, more along the lines of ‘why didn’t you look where you were going you idiot?’ It was beyond careless I admit. But mistakes happen. Tiredness was not the direct cause, but tiredness impaired my better judgement.
What if it wasn’t my fault? What if I hadn’t crashed and then proceeded to a main road only to collide with a reckless driver or an invisible pedestrian cloaked in darkness? Perhaps it was the hand of God that shepherded me to relative safety, which translated into the accident I actually had?
Fanciful thinking? Who knows? I’m not religious. Well I’m Greek. Before the Romans, we used to believe in many Gods. If we still did, we would have had to make up the God of Cycling and pray to that. In any case it was a close call and I got away with it largely unscathed.
I live to ride another day.
[^1] Tuesday 4 February 2020, approximate time 9 PM.