Numbers 1 through 3 were fairly boring- 1, nearly pancaked myself on a bus at a closing speed of about 60mph, 2, nearly got cut up by a car turning right as I overtook the que on the outside at 40mph or so, 3, nearly T boned a car speeding through a roundabout.
This one was a bit more scary.
I'd been riding, pretty well, the trails round the back of uni. I found a new one that kind of ended nowhere, and saw what might be a big drop off to the right. So, I went to explore. "yup, that's pretty big". It was about 6 foot to downslope which was littered with trees, with another drop that I couldn't see over about 15 metres further on. So, I turn round and paddle the bike and me up the hill. I kinda saw a trail when I was with the bike and wanted to double check it, so I put the bike down, and walked back down the slope. My foot slipped and I was on my back, sliding towards the drop. "shitshitshitshit" my mind wanted to scream, but rather than that, the logical part gave a far worse message. "If you go over the edge, you are absolutely FUCKED". I was full on my back, looking at the edge coming up towards me, petrified and unable to move. I looked at my right foot, as I gradually slowed down. It was obviously providing most of my braking as it was building up a fairly significant mound of dirt. I was slowing down, but still going towards the edge a bit too fast... ,I slowed down some more, and though "thank god, I'm going to be ok"
At which point, in slow motion my right foot went over the edge. "Oh, fuck". I forced both my legs down as they went over to minimise the impact. Landed, still slipping, heading right for some trees. My first thought was "If I hit one I'm dead". Then I realised, that if I didn't hit one, I was significantly deader, as the drop I hadn't gauged could have been the edge of a cliff (I think it is from surrounding terrain, obviously haven't checked this though). I saw a tree to the right of me, and steered my legs towards it. My legs went right, my torso and arms went left, and my left arm caught on a vine, stopping me short. I spent 20 seconds waiting for my fear to subside to a level I could deal with, and then the mound I'd formed and was sitting on collapsed a bit, and I nearly died of fear again. I looked around; thankfully there was a sturdy tree to my left. I reached out and put an arm around it, and pulled myself to a secure position. Then I looked back at the slope I'd just slipped down... it was not good. I decided that there would be a way through higher that I hadn't seen, and started climbing. I put a foot on the sturdy tree, pushed myself up, grabbed a root, and then pulled myself up until I was able to get my foot on another tree. I stuck my foot as far down as I could on the trunk and pushed, and the tree swayed worryingly. Heart in my mouth, I looked back and there was an enormous crack in the tree... I pushed a bit less hard, grabbed another root and levered myself up. In fairly short order I was at the drop. I looked, and saw a thin root sticking out the bank. Thankfully I remembered some pearls of wisdom... "If you pull something to test it's strong, don't be surprised if it gives way". I secured myself, and gave the root a tug. It gave way, and I nearly went back down the slope. I pulled it again, and it seemed to be strong now. I jumped off the tree I had my foot on and pulled myself up as far as possible. I spotted another root in easy reach to my right, and went for it. As I was reaching with my hand, I knocked it and it broke; obviously dead. I looked, there was nothing else; it had to be this root. I pulled as hard as I could on the root which had given way, and just managed to reach the unbroken fragment, whereupon I was able to grip a proper root (~5cm diameter) with my left hand, and then my right. I hung off this one root for about 20 seconds, thinking "there is NO way I'm letting go of this" Eventually, I gathered the strength to do a pull up, and then wiggle up the bank to my bike, where I collapsed for about 5 minutes.
At that point, I got angry. I don't know why, but I got very angry. I picked my bike up, and walked a few metres to level ground, sat down for another 2 minutes to get back to a semblence of "normal", and then found somehow found a way onto a path I knew. The path ran next to a sleep slope very much like the one I just fell down. I just wanted to be out of their, on open roads with plenty of grip and no ridiculous gradients. My mojo was gone though, probably dead at the bottom of the hill like I should be. A low branch, normally battered out the way with the helmet, made me stand on the brakes. A sharp turn, and again, I was on the brakes. I was in a rubbish state, and always had the ridiculous slope to my right. I just wanted to be away from it, and I knew that the faster I went the sooner I could get onto the fire road, which was safe. But it wasn't to be. A sharp left hander which I would have easily ripped any other day I horribly misjudged. "no FUCKING WAY" I'm going down there again I thought, and locked both the brakes. I saw a stump up ahead that I was guaranteed to hit. "fuck it, I'll take the broken shin", and kept the brakes locked. The bike slide down to the right, my shin bounced off the stump and I rolled to a stop. Shin was bruised, but not broken. Bike was easily retrieved, and I set off again, even more angry I'd lost all my skill. Finally the path spat me out onto the fireroad; I locked the rear and slammed it into a trench just to prove that I still had some skill, which formed the basis for the next half hours riding. I flew down the rocky fireroad, braked hard just before the turn at the bottom, and was onto beautiful tarmac. Finally. I turned left, then right... "speed bumps, 1 mile" the sign warned. Perfect. If I was riding to a track, this would be it.
I accelerated down the hill, my anger fueling my pedal strokes. The speed bumps weren't real, they were the ones you can axle in a car. I smashed my bike into every single one, getting ridiculous air off a 6 inch speed bump. I was honking, hitting about 30 mph. There was a car coming up the hill, and I stared at the driver.... "Come fucking get some" I muttered under my breath. There were parked cars in my lane.... lifesaver, swerved out into his lane, hit the speedbump, got air, landed, swerved in with about 8 inches to spare, then swerved back out into the oncoming lane. There were no more cars until the T junction at the bottom. I hit the rear brake lever, pulled it to the bars and let the back step out, controlling it, leaving a sine wave of burnt rubber on the tarmac. Stopped at the T junction, and turned right; it was downhill, and now was not the time for uphill. More speed bumps; proper, unavoidable ones this time. Chasing a car down the road, easily passed it. The road went up steeply for a bridge. Out the saddle, letting my anger fuel my pedal strokes, over the bridge at warp speed. Then left again, down still. Onto a road; there was a single carriageway bridge up ahead with a car and pedestrians mid way along it. There was no way I was going to brake; I hopped on the pavement, avoided the car and dropped into the road just before killing the walker. Toll up ahead, bikes didn't have to pay from previous experience. Hammer the pedals on the downslope for the upcoming hill. Stayed in the middle of my lane... fuck the car behind me. Left turn towards bath, straight road now. I was hungry and thirsty, but was letting the anger supply the energy for pedalling. Past one cyclist, 2. Red lights ahead, I'm turning left. Fucked if I'm stopping. Hop the pavement, lights go green. Drop in hard behind a car, smashing the rear rim on the ground. I don't care if I just pinched it, no way I'm stopping. Lungs are on fire, heart is doing backflips. Keep pedalling, there's a limitless supply of anger I need to burn off before I stop. Pedal, harder. Smash those pedals.
And then, the anger is gone. Look around, find a bench. Lifesaver, swerve across the road in front of an SUV, pull a stoppie up to the bench, dismount, dekit and sit down. Wait for pulse to go below 200bpm.
10 minutes later, I set off again. Right on the roundabout; cars can't follow me here. Huck a left, then straight on. Cars again. Something bad up ahead; some motorcyclists behind about 10 cars and a couple of busses. I filter up the outside of the motorcyclists, see the way is blocked. Turn around, make eye contact with the rider, shake my head, and jump the kerb in front of a police car. No way he can catch me, even if he wanted to, this is my town, and I'm on my good bike. Right turn, straight ahead, then another right. End up on the bath to bristol cycle route somehow.
Ride a couple of miles, find a pub. Walk into the bar, get charged £3 for a pint of cider. I don't care. Sit outside, with my bike next to me, a fantastic beer garden atmosphere, a cold cider in my hand and beautiful weather. Perfect.
I'm never going to have a ride with such a beautiful mix of feelings in it again.
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