Sunday, 15 June 2008

In favour of toe clips

Usually, when I am riding the London to Brighton Bike Ride, I make the effort to remove my clipless pedals (the sort that anchor the bike shoes to the bike, and make riding much more efficient and pleasant) and replace them with flat pedals with toe clips.

I do this because on the L2B the roads and hills in particular are often crowded with the sheer number of riders (around 27,000 every year), some of whom will be bobbing and weaving unsteadily up the hill, and some of whom will be pushing their bikes. In those circumstances, I find it a bit easier to get out of toe clips in a hurry, should I need to - if, for instance, I am bumped by the rider in front me and in danger of tumbling messily to the road.

This year, for the first time, I elected to ride with the clipless pedals I normally use, figuring that I would be just fine - either I would stay out of trouble, or I would unclip my feet at a safe distance, and ride up the hill without the benefit, but without the danger.

And so I did, for the first, oh fifty miles of the ride, until I came to the largest, steepest, longest hill climb of the Ride, from the village of Ditchling up to the Beacon on the very top of the South Downs. (I've geekily built a little Gmaps Pedometer route of the climb. Make sure you switch on the elevation display!)

As can be safely predicted, I quickly found myself accidentally touching the wheel in front of me, losing balance, and struggling to free my feet from my elegant machine.

I went down with an apologetic cry and a heavy thump onto my left knee.

Needless to say, I immediately remounted with gusto, dashed the tears from my brave and shining eyes, and continued with my ascent with increased fevour. And I did not hamper or hinder any other rider as a result of my tumble.

The picture below, taken at the top of the hill with my Blackberry, shows the regrettable, impressive (and somewhat sore) result.

A grazed knee covered in blood

The embarrassment is far greater a wound, however.

Alas, I do not have any pictures of the splendid view from the top of the hill - stretching over the rolling hills down to the sea, very well worth the climb. Nor any of the hundreds of cyclists and several ice creams vans plying their welcome and brisk trade atop the Downs themselves.

Nice white socks though, what?

And I was not alone in my injury. My riding companion, the ever-sprightly Bearded One, was the victim of a wheel-clipping-induced-tumble rather earlier in the ride, resulting in a flat tyre, a hole in his cycling leggings, and an increasingly-claret-coloured leg. With satisfying symmetry, it was the opposing, some would say complementary, patella that was lesioned. Let the record show that - with customary resolve - he stiffened his hirsute upper lip, replaced his inner tube, and ventured bravely on for the remainder of the ride.

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