Things started OK the week before, when I was officiating at a Mountain Bike Race at Thetford Forest. I rode up on the CCM and took a bit more time, plotting a route that stayed on minor roads all the way, with even a couple of green lanes thrown in on the way.
Once on site, I was able to do my course inspection on the bike and once again got asked to sweep the course at the end of the 4 hour race. All great training for rallying and keeping me "bike fit", the ride home on the back roads was fun if very cold!!! And I really must sort out better lights, the standard 35watt headlight really is woeful.
The following weekend I decided to go out green laning, despite the weather being very cold and icy. All went well with the lanes quiet and in good condition.
After an hour or so it was getting pretty cold and a coffee stop was the order of the day. I rode up what must be the strangest Byway I know in the Ashridge Forest, for a start it is tarmac and a dead end leading only to the National Trust Visitors Centre and (most importantly) Tea Shop. It is also the only byway I know with a night time Traffic Regulation Order (TRO). Now most TROs are permanent or seasonal i.e. Winter only but this one comes into force at dusk every day and is enforced by locking the gate, now most people would assume that to be a private drive rather than a public right of way but it is recorded as such on the Hertfordshire Definitive Map, as I said... strange!
Heading for home, I rode the excellent Nortonstreet Lane near Whitwell. After the loose stony climb from the village I rode the flat section at the top, breaking the ice on the puddles as I went. Exiting the lane I headed the short distance to what was to be my last lane of the day when disaster struck!
Heading into a junction near Easthall, I noticed the puddles at the side of the road were still frozen so backed off the throttle accordingly....... too late!
The back wheel snapped round to the left on what I later discovered to be black ice, my off road racing experience kicked in automatically (much to my surprise) and I stood up on the footpegs, applied opposite lock and cracked open the throttle much as I would on loose surfaces when the back wheel loses traction. Amazingly this worked for a millisecond and the back wheel came back into line but still being on ice, it just continued sliding to the right.
By now I was across to the right hand side of the road and the back tyre hit the grass verge. Of course this meant the back tyre now had grip whereas the front was still on the ice covered tarmac and the bike immediately decided to try and spin round and the front tyre let go. At this point I hit the deck on my right, I know this as I was covered in mud all down my right hand side and had the wind knocked out of me, even though I don't really remember this bit.
The bike wasn't finished yet and now flipped to the left and in trying to catch it, I put my left leg out. Big mistake, the bike immediately rotated round my knee and then dumped me on the road, with the bike landing on the inside of my knee. Although by now I was only travelling at walking pace it still hurt a lot!
You can see in the picture where the the back wheel tried to get grip on the grass verge and the scrapes on the road from the left handlebar and clutch lever. After picking the bike up (and swearing a lot) I was amazed to see the only damage to the bike was a scraped left hand guard and a broken clutch lever. Neither was there any sign of significant damage to my riding gear, just a few minor scuffs and lots of mud! My left knee on the other hand was very sore.
I'm not sure the clutch lever should point that way!
Afterwards there followed a rather painful ride home with a very sore knee and having to make clutchless gear changes, crossing Stevenage through the Saturday afternoon traffic was fun!
Once home I did all the right things, elevated the leg, applied ice and rested it but by monday morning it was clear that something wasn't right and a trip to A&E was in order.
Well the initial verdict was a non displaced fracture of the left tibial plateau. Now the non displaced bit was the one bit of good news in all this. The A&E Consultant told me that had the bone displaced, it would require an immediate operation to screw it back in place but this would almost certainly guarantee arthritis in the knee. The alternative as he put it was "my knee never working properly again". He was a cheery sort... not! I was duly slapped into a "back slab" temporary cast and an appointment for fracture clinic arranged for the Wednesday.
A bit of research on-line discovered that this type of fracture usually results in a plaster cast for a minimum of six weeks and no weight bearing on the joint for at least twelve weeks.... deep joy!
On the Wednesday I returned to hospital and saw an Orthopaedic Registrar who was not convinced that the bone was broken, although the level of pain and it's location wasn't consistent with the alternative diagnosis of ligament damage and indeed was more like what he would expect from a break. After more x-rays, he still wasn't sure and decided he needed to look at it again after the (considerable) swelling has gone down. As a result I have to go back on the 28th and in the meanwhile rather than the back slab cast, I've been put into a full length leg brace.
So that's me for Christmas, at least I don't have to worry about who's driving over the holiday!