A collection of wince-inducing, cringe-worthy moments endured by cyclists
The wrong sort of folding bike
I was recently reminded of how a school friend’s brother put himself in hospital. He’d borrowed his mother’s folding bike to go the shops — I’d imagine his had a puncture, since that was more or less permanently the case.
>> Read more: The best folding bikes: a buyer’s guide
Freewheeling down the quite steep hill towards the shop, he recalled that some friend of his brother’s had told him it was possible to undo the frame clamp holding a Raleigh folder’s frame together, and leave it still capable of being safely ridden. He reached down, and undid the clamp.
It was a different model of bike entirely.
Red light fright
A few years ago (quite a few, if I’m honest) I took my bike on a train to visit a friend in Hertfordshire one winter evening. My bike and I got off at the small rural station, and I spent several minutes standing on the platform consulting a map, looking for the right route.
When I’d worked it out, I switched my lights on and started to head for the exit. All of a sudden there was a great screeching of an express train performing a full emergency stop.
It turned out that when I put my rear light on, the driver had thought it was a red signal. The station master shouted at me for a long time. (Contributed by Alan Weekes via email)
Once is careless, twice is…
A Scottish rider, faced with the first cold morning of the winter, just had time to register that the road surface on a roundabout was “more sparkly than usual” before his front wheel went from under him, and he hit the deck.
Uninjured, but a bit embarrassed, he jumped up, and leapt back on his bike. He quickly noticed that his front brake lever had taken the brunt of the impact and had been knocked off line.
“I gave it a hard whack with the heel of my hand. A more sensible man might have stopped riding first. Then I picked myself up for a second time, and went home to get the car.”
Watch: How to… prevent your cables from damaging your frame
Spoke poke retaliation
A conversation with an old bike rider recently yielded the story of the time in the 1950s when he knocked out two of his younger brother’s teeth by thrusting a stick into the spokes of his front wheel as he rode past, throwing him over the handlebars.
“My father was furious,” he told me. “He was going to give me a thrashing, but our mother talked him out of it. So instead, he made me ride my bike down the front path, and encouraged my younger brother to put a stick into my spokes to even things up. I broke my nose and a cheekbone. My father was well pleased with this result. The next time he wanted to give either of us a thrashing, Mum just let him.”
When are they bringing it back?
In the first modern Olympics, in Athens in 1896, the organisers decided it might pack the crowds in if they ran a 12-hour bike race on the track.
Seven riders started — three Greeks, two Germans, an Austrian and a British rider, who was on his afternoon off from being the British Ambassador’s butler. Almost immediately, the Austrian Adolf Schmal attacked and gained a lap. Then he sat on the wheel of the British rider Frank Keeping for the next 11 and three-quarter hours.
Schmal won by the margin of the single lap. Keeping was second. They were the only finishers, as everyone else dropped out through boredom.
It was not an event that was ever repeated at the Olympics.
Arm-warmer face punch
I was putting on a pair of arm-warmers last week, when I lost my grip on one of them. My hand flew back, and I punched myself in the face. Mrs Doc’s mirth was unconstrained. I knew she had a mean streak, but as a bruise raised itself under my left eye, she rocked back and forth in more hilarity than seemed reasonable.
If this wasn’t an omen, I didn’t know what was. I scratched the outdoor ride, and got out the rollers for the first time this autumn.
Five minutes later, while riding no-handed and changing the track on my phone, I rode off the rollers, and fell into the dining table with a bang.
“Did you just fall off the rollers?” shouted Mrs. Doc from upstairs. I said yes, a little huffily. There was a long pause. “Don’t you want to check I’m all right?” I said.
“In a moment,” she shouted. “I’m just texting your friend Bernard. He owes me £10.”
A rider was on holiday in Spain recently with a few cycling friends. They were all riding through a cobbled village, when our hero’s front wheel dropped with a surprising clunk into a deep narrow rut in the cobbles.
Remarkably he stayed upright. Indeed, he discovered that he was wedged upright, with his front wheel buried a few inches into the cobbles. Instead of counting his blessings and quickly getting off, however, he continued to sit on the bike to perform a series of mock victory celebrations.
Very slowly he and the bike toppled over. It was so slow because the front wheel was bending beneath him. It was a write-off. And it took three days of his four-day trip to get a replacement.