You know that new Summer Lightning trail over on Leith Hill? First big victim today.....

Summer Lightning on Leith Hill with added blood.

It doesn't happen very often, but I get invited out on rides with the teachers from a Reigate school now and then. My neighbour teaches there. I think I get invited only to help fix a mechanical or map read if there's a potential for them to get lost. Fairly confident I don't get invited for my sarcastic personality.

Today I was supposed to be out with PP on his new Orange 5, but it was in Coventry for some reason. Option 2 was a solo spin to Box Hill. Hmm, not mad keen. Then I got a text from TN; fancy Leith Hill? Meet at the top? Well no; my inner snob hates Leith Hill at the weekend. All middle managers, and walkers who stray all of 100m from the car parks. It's hell.

What other options did I have? Yet another solo ride to see Big Shouty Bollocks at Headley? So OK then. But personally it's a bit lame meeting at the top. You've not earned a ride then. You've just driven somewhere. My wife actually suggested I ride there from home in Reigate. Normally that's what I do for the hill, but I only had an hour to spare before the appointed meeting time, so instead elected to ride up from Dorking.

And what a pleasant day to do the climb, and how easy it is to navigate. You just kind of point the bike uphill and before you know it, well 35 minutes, you're at the Landslip car park. As it turned out it wasn't so manly to do the climb, as post 2pm I was up and down that hill like a yo-yo directing ambulances and ambulance staff.

You see, on the new Summer Lightning trail near the cricket pitch, one of the teachers had an off. Not an experienced rider it must be said, but a nice enough bloke. Little run, little jump, big face plant. I was right behind him and had to take avoiding action not to ride over him.

Now before you say we were "up for it" and egged each other on, not a bit of it.

We discussed this bit of trail before doing it, and the consensus was to roll it slowly. We rolled the first jump, and I assumed we'd roll the second. But as he launched into the air my initial reaction was of "RESPECT!" and awe. What a man.

However, about 50cm up his brain clearly didn't agree with the course of action and he kind of stopped mid air, and brought the bike down heavily on to the front wheel, and thence onto his face. I've never seen such an impact. He just lay there, and it was clear it was a bad one. Within an instant his face was a mess of blood and his eyes were swollen. He couldn't move as it seemed something was wrong with his arm. He lolled about, drooling what looked like vomity blood.

I called 999. You don't fuck about. Just do it, do it quick.

The paramedic arrived twenty minutes later, which considering where we were was a fast response. He called in the heart unit and the air ambulance. The air ambulance were reluctant; the landing spot was a kilometre away, so what was the point? Call in a 4x4, so that's what he did. And it's here where I start having to ride up and down the hill, directing and bringing traffic to the accident. And I must say it was a cool thing to do, this directing thing. Don't want to do it ever again though.

The initial prognosis here was a broken arm, broken jaw, broken eye socket and suspected broken neck*. Quite honestly this photograph didn't do things justice as he was drooling blood. A lot of it. At this point he went into shock. Here he is wearing my arm bandage from my first aid kit, and will soon be draped in my silver foil blanket. Note with the blanket I've carried that thing with me since 1997. Still in the original packet, it's by now done 45,000 bike miles. All the time I questioned why bother, but it doesn't weigh anything. Tomorrow I will replace it, and hope to carry it unused until I die.

We were at Coldharbour here, not 200m from the pub. We may as well have been on the moon. It was tough to get him out of here. Respect to the ambulance crews - four of, plus two paramedics. Big call out this one.

So, that easy Summer Lightning trail? Take it easy folks, respect your limits and ride up to, possibly just a little beyond them. But by heck have a bail out plan should things go tits up. Oddly enough this has not put me off mountain biking, and neither do I think the trail should be sanitised. Life shouldn't be sanitised. Things need respect that's all. Today the hill got no respect and the hill bit us in the ass is all.

On reflection this guy was always one of the first down a bit of trail. He looked to be pushing himself on, and this perhaps wasn't helped by some 'phone app he had running that kept calling out his average speed. A bit like a monkey on your back encouraging you to be a bit reckless eh? For once none of the other riders egged him on at all, and we were a very conservative bunch. It's a pity as this looked to be his first proper mountain bike ride. At least he'll have a story to tell and chicks dig scars, right?

I'd never make a paramedic or even decent first aider. My initial reaction was of "Yeuk" as goo spouted from his mouth, followed by a desire to photograph the gore, perhaps even prod the painful bits to see if they move in alarming but funny ways.

Once it was clear he was going to live and wouldn't be heli'vaced out it all got a bit, well, boring and I was grateful for the diversion of being the traffic officer, directing people about. Now we know he's just broken his face, whilst it all looked messy and no doubt painful, there's a little bit of me that wonders why he didn't MTFU and take us all to the pub. I'm guessing this attitude comes from my motorcycle background, where if you weren't actually dead [and that did happen once] you were malingering.

I was so tired when I got home that food just had to be a bloody steak with heapings of buttery mashed potato, accompanied by a big broccoli. Fried the steak myself. It oozed on the plate and was fantastic. The broccoli was almost raw, so perfectly crunchy. No idea why, but walking away from something like this is very life affirming. By heck I hope he's OK though. Don't know his name, or where he hails from, but he was a nice bloke just out for a ride with work colleagues. As I write he's at St Georges, and you don't get taken there from here unless you're a mess. Fingers crossed mate. Beer and t-shirt on me when you get out.

*10/3/2014: Actually he's got a broken jaw, eye socket and nose. That's a month off work right there. The bike, by the way, was fine.


  1. I ride round there on my own, I am just wondering how I will ride
    back to leigh when my face is leaking and my arm is broken!

  2. Hi grhaffdd,

    90% of my rides are solo, perhaps 100% of my nights rides are performed alone. This guy hurt himself showing off within a big group ride. Group rides are great, yet sometimes things get pushed a bit too far, somebody goes outside of what they can do. Solo I ride well within my own personal limits. Although saying that I have come home with the odd broken bone, mainly ribs from side swiping things. Just ride to where you feel comfortable I guess? Most riders I know go out solo, so it can't be that big a deal.

    Just keep riding my friend!


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