I think I’ve got a problem. I can’t stop crashing. And unfortunately it’s not a new phenomenon. I’ve spent my whole life riding, and usually crashing motorbikes. You’d have thought that someone who’s spent 25 years riding (and racing) bikes at any given opportunity ought to be half decent at it by now. Or you’d expect at the very least they’d be able to avoid hurling themselves off it every five minutes. Well unfortunately, as far as I’m concerned, that doesn’t seem to be the case.
Because as I write this, I happen to be nursing a freshly broken finger. It’s not a bad break, you can barely see it on the xray, but it’s on the index finger of my right hand so it’s a proper nuisance. How did that happen? Yep, you guessed it; I fell off a bike. A trials bike this time. A trials bike on which I was doing about 1mph at the time. This is about six months after I broke my wrist, and about four months after I broke my leg. It’s getting beyond a joke.
You could be forgiven for thinking that I’ve got something wrong with my bones. You wouldn’t be the first person to think that. I can remember visiting a physiotherapist a few years ago, after yet another crash, and her asking me if I’d had any other injuries, and if I could list them for her. “What, all of them?” was my reply. The poor girl had just about run out of room on her notepad by the time I’d told her about the feet, ankles, legs, pelvis, spine, fingers and hands I’d broken over the years. Of course, she suggested that I must have brittle bones. I told her that that was bollocks. I also suggested that she highside a ZX-10R at 100mph, so that we could see how brittle her bones were; because I thought that was really funny. She didn’t see the funny side.
Because I’m not a doctor but I’m pretty sure there’s nothing chemically wrong with my bones. My riding, on the other hand, could do with some work. But I think the years of crashing and not really worrying too much about it, has warped my sense of reality. I’ve developed far too blasé an attitude about jumping off moving motorcycles, and it’s not healthy. Perhaps it stems from growing up racing motocross bikes, which you could fall off time and time again without A, destroying the bike or B, injuring yourself too badly. Or you certainly could at the speed I used to ride them (i.e. slowly).
Or maybe it’s something to do with the fact that if I did hurt myself as a kid, I might have got a day or two off school off the back of it. Which was a major bonus, because I fucking hated school.
I only really started to realise that crashing bikes was a problem when I got a bit older and started road racing. Because that was when crashes got really expensive. I was never really too worried about hurting myself, but once I’d written a few bikes off I did start to be a little bit more cautious. But only because I knew how much it could end up costing. To the point where I never really used to understand when, after a crash, people would say things like “At least you’re not hurt, that’s the main thing. We can fix the bike”. When a lot of the time we can’t fix the bike. The thing’s smashed to bits. Destroyed. It might have been a £15k bike, and now it’s scrap value.
In my 20s, I would have genuinely taken a broken arm over a written off race bike. How stupid is that? But it’s because it doesn’t cost anything to fix broken bones, whereas race bikes it does. It costs a lot.
Now I’m an ‘adult’ (sort of), I’ve learnt that breaking bones as often as I do isn’t the done thing. It’s not normal. Some people my age have never even broken one! I’ve also learnt that to some people, a broken bone is a big deal. Saying something like “Yeah, he’s absolutely fine, he’s just broken his arm” doesn’t compute with most people. “How can he possibly be fine if he has broken his arm?” they’ll say.
So although I’m yet to completely stop breaking myself, I have learnt the error of my ways. I can see now that the life I’m living is not sustainable. It’s about time I make a change. And whilst I’m not ready to wrap myself in bubble wrap and stop doing the things I love (just yet), I feel like the first step is acknowledgement. And I feel like I’ve taken that step. Can I get a ‘halleluiah’?