Broken Neck Mountain Biking, Crashing Head on Into It

Broken Neck Mountain Biking, Crashing Head on Into It

I had the idea for hike a bike a long time ago while lost on what was supposed to be a short blast on some local trails. But it wasn't until I broke my neck that I really had time to work on the idea and make it reality, every cloud I suppose.

Not surprisingly I broke my neck while mountain biking. I live in Glasgow and although Scotland has some amazing riding, spectacular scenery and fantastic trails that's not what springs to mind when you think of Glasgow.

That being said no more than a 50 minute drive away there is an abundance of riding to be had either in and around Mugdock and Strathblane, the Campsie Fells or out towards Aberfoyle and the Trossachs. These types of muddy, rocky rooty natural trails are pretty much all I've ever ridden.

So while on a family holiday in France and inspired by the likes of Nico Vink and Vinny Tupin I decided to hire a big travel Giant Reign and hit Chattel bike park. This was a world away from the muddy slopes and roots I was used to but man, it was fun. At times I felt more lime I was on a roller coaster than a bike.

It wasn't until my third trail of the day that I realised the French often run their breaks the opposite way from riders in the UK and that my back break was on the right and my front on the left. Other than a complete wipe out on my very first run (which I cant really blame that on) it didn't seem to make a difference and my riding felt good.

Maybe it was in my head but it soon became very noticeable and maybe it was that fraction of a second of extra thinking that could have made a serious accident just another mountain bike crash. I don't know but I do know it wasn't to blame.

After finishing a red trail called Vorachatak I realised I had a slow puncture. I got down to a café and managed to borrow a pump. This is what sticks in my mind as the pivotal point maybe just a few more pumps of air in the tyre or a few less could have prevented what was about to happen. 

I decided to hit one more trail before catching the lift back up for some lunch. I chose a "easy" blue trail that I think was called People. I should really point out to those who don't already know that a blue run at a Chatel Bike Park isn't the same thing as a local blue run on Trail Forks that just takes you round the park. Some of these trails could send you so high they need mission control centres.

Anyway I was taking it easy-ish down the trail when I came over a slight dip and seeing some gravel lead off to the right. I must have lost traction for a split second because by the time I realised my mistake and hammered on the anchors it was too late. I went straight over the bars and into what I assumed was a bush. 

It was a bush, however it happened to be a bush growing out the side of 10 to 12 foot drop. I soon realised I had no idea where the ground was until my head hit. I instantly heard three distinct cracking sounds. Que panicked and agonised screaming and a few sweary words. I quickly ignored all rules around spinal injuries and whipped of my helmet in the vein hope that the cracking sound was something other than my bones. Unfortunately the helmet was in one piece but I then realised I could still move everything from my shoulders down.

It must have been adrenaline but I put my helmet back on and climbed back up the drop using roots and plants to drag myself. I had no idea where the bike had gone but thankfully it was waiting for me at the top. 

I then struggled back down to the hire shop where I was helped out of my gear (not before the bike was checked over and given the okay) and given some ice. THe guy at the shop offered to callme an ambulace but the Scot in me panicked at how uch that might cost. I instead opted to call my father in law who was about an hour away in Evian.

After getting some top class sunburn on my almost reflective peely wally legs my long suffering better half and my father in law came to my rescue. About an hour later we got to the hospital in Thonon. Thankfully my wife speaks French so she explained what had happened and within minutes I felt like a mighty morphine power ranger ready for my CT scan.

Having that typical British mind set of "everyone speaks English" didn't work out too well in the hospital. It turns out no one spoke English. Thankfully my contractually obliged interpreter was on standby to dish out the news of the scan.

My wife then told me I had broken my neck which seemed quite funny at first (morphine makes everything funny) but within minutes I was on my side being held by numerous nurses and doctor while vomiting off the side of the gurney. 

I spent the next few days in hospital looking at the celling and not having a clue what was going on other than I might be going to Geneva to have surgery whereby they cut through my throat and vocal chords to install plates and pins.

I was pretty worried but I was too busy trying to eat my fish paella on my back to get too concerned about anything else. Thankfully after a MRI scan it was decided that I didn't have the extensive ligament damage expected so I was fitted for a brace with no need to operate and I was out a few hours later.

I ended up in a full neck and back brace for just over a month and a foam collar for another two.

It was one of those freak accidents that just happened. I didn't feel like I was doing anything out with my ability and I didn't feel that I was taking risks.

I'm lucky to be alive, lucky not to have any lasting damage or disability and I am  lucky to be surrounded by my family. I will never lose my passion for mountain biking and I will keep on riding.

I just turned right when I should have turned left.