I have always been entirely to blame for the few accidents I have had during my charmed life.  You’ll see what I mean from these two examples, both involving bicycles and hills.

When I first got married, we lived in a flat above a parade of shops.  I didn’t own a bicycle but in a covered area I passed everyday on my way up and down to the flat, I noticed one that appeared to have been abandoned.  I kept an eye on it for some time and it was a always there, apparently untouched.  It was rather a nice old fashioned ‘sit up and beg’ gentleman’s bike, not in prime condition with some rust on the chrome handle bars and wheels.  But there it was, waiting patiently for someone to blow up the tyres and take it out for a spin.

After a few weeks I succumbed and disturbed the bike from its resting place.  The tyres held the air I pumped into them, the saddle was raised, and I leapt on the bike for a trial run.  My newlywed wife called out, ‘take care’ and off I went down the hill towards the station. This was in Essex so the hill was gentle but the road surface was fairly rough causing a lot of vibration.  As I gained speed, I notice that the bracket on one of the front forks – the sort of bracket that used to hold a lamp – was working loose and slipping down towards the wheel hub.  As I watched, the lamp bracket made a sudden lurch and turned in towards the spokes of the front wheel.  Before I could react, it sliced through all the spokes on the offside of the wheel.  The wheel immediately collapsed like one of those Salvia Dali paintings of melting watches draped on tree branches.  If you have ever wondered – you probably haven’t, but just in case you have – why bicycles have nice round wheels with lots of spokes, I can tell you!  I flew straight over the handle bars and landed, arms outstretched, on the road.

I sheepishly carried the poor bicycle back and returned it to the covered area, concealing the collapsed front wheel with an old sack.  We lived in the flat above the shops for one year after this mishap and during all that time the bicycle remained undisturbed.  It was a relief to move away to Berkshire and leave my guilty secret behind.

The second accident was a near-miss (or, more properly, a near-hit).  Again I was on a borrowed bike, this time on a ride through the Cotswold countryside.  My two small sons were with me on much smaller bikes that we had actually bought for them (just in case I was giving you the impression that I only ever ‘borrowed’ bicycles).  Anyway, being in the Cotswolds, it wasn’t long before we came to a steep hill.  I had already discovered that the brakes on my bicycle were inadequate and I fully intended to dismount and walk down the hill.  However, I left it a bit late and bike gathered speed at an alarming rate. The time to alight safely and with dignity had passed and to jump off seemed fraught with danger.  So, I stayed on the bicycle as it went faster and faster, leaving my two astonished sons behind.  At the bottom of the hill, the road made a tight turn over a bridge only wide enough for one vehicle.  I had time to ponder the appalling consequences of meeting a car at this point.  Totally out of control, and careering along at an absurd speed, I shot round the corner and over the narrow bridge.  I came to a standstill half way up the incline on the other side.  A car passed few minutes later with the occupants waving happily little realising their narrow escape.

I suppose the moral is; don’t borrow bicycles – or, if you do, check that everything is tight and that the brakes work.


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