Recently I read a number of news articles about a man who came off his mountain bike, hit his head and is now paralysed as a result. However this man fell off during an instructed skills course and is now suing the instructor for £4m because of ‘Woefully inadequate’ supervision.
I feel for the victim, as it’s a tragic accident that I wouldn’t wish on anyone and it will have a massive impact on his life. However I really hope the Judge will throw this case out of court or rule in favour of the instructor.
According to the victim’s lawyer, he was a mountain biker with 12 years experience, but was a novice on rough terrain and descents. Also claiming he was encouraged to descend the section they were riding at speed and without braking which the victim felt was unsafe. Now I take issue with this. The victim is a grown man who works as a solicitor, so we can assume he is of more than fair intelligence. He also is old enough to identify risks and if he felt it wasn’t safe or didn’t feel confident enough to do the task, then he didn’t have to. No one was forcing him. However, he fell off on the second descent of the same section of trail so he had already done it once and felt confident enough to do it again.
This also raises the question that how can you be an experienced mountain biker but a novice on rough terrain and descents. As a mountain biker myself, I know that these aspects are integral to mountain biking and essentially what makes mountain biking exactly that and not just riding a bike. Is it being claimed that merely by owning a mountain bike for a number of years then you are and experienced mountain biker? No, it doesn’t. If a mountain bike is your bicycle of choice and you just ride it on the road, to the shops or on a gentle ride with your family round Centre Parks then you are not a mountain biker. Just the same as the school run mums in big four wheel drives aren’t off roaders and participate in greenlaning at the weekend with the other mums. I could go and buy a racing car if I had the money but that wouldn’t make me a racing driver.
Ultimately, anyone with any sense will know there is an element of risk in this kind of activity. Whether you ride a mountain bike or a road bike, there will always be risks. Most sporting events carry risks of accidents and injuries. By participating you accept responsibility of these risks. Lewis Hamilton will accept that driving his Mercedes at 200mph involves a high amount of risk, but he still chooses to do so. Rachel Atherton knows there is high risk of injury when racing her mountain bike at high speed downhill over extreme terrain and doesn’t blame others if she comes off and injures herself.
We now live in a blame society and I hate it. I’ve come off my mountain bike myself during an Enduro event leaving me injured. I was off work for 4 weeks on just statutory sick pay leaving me out of pocket, I had to buy new wheels for my bike as mine had buckled in the accident and buy a new helmet as I cracked mine after hitting my head on a rock which all cost quite a lot of money. Did I look to blame someone? Did I sue the event organisers? No, I didn’t. It was an accident. I knew the risks of the sport I love before I took part. I’m old enough to know what I am capable of and I wasn’t forced by anyone to do it. I know my accident is nothing compared to this victim in question but the principles are still the same. It was an accident. There was no one to blame. Just as if you had a sneezing fit whilst driving and crashed your car into a tree and injured yourself. Sometimes, unlucky things just happen and the sooner people accept that without looking for someone else to blame, the better.
What really concerns me though is the ramifications if this case falls in favour of the victim. Worms would be spilling from the can all over the place. The knock on effects could be huge and possibly devastating for the sport of Mountain Biking and cycling in general. Would instructors stop instructing in case they are sued if someone falls off? Would guided rides be stopped in case the guide is sued because someone fell off because they failed to point out that some rocks might be slippery after a recent rain fall? Would trail centres close in case someone ignored the warning signs and hit a tree after taking on a section that was too difficult for their ability? And would bike shops be sued for not warning cyclists their new brake pads would need to be bedded in? It would open the floodgates for so many people looking to make money from their own inability to accept responsibility.
If you chose to participate in something risky, accept that risk or don’t do it and spoil it for everyone else. Its a simple choice. Accidents happen. Sometimes, and some people might find this hard to believe, there is no one to blame. It’s just bad luck.
Those of you who know me and those of you who follow me on Twitter, will know that I will often stick up for cyclists against selfish and ill informed drivers. After all, as a keen, but not so great Mountain Biker, I often ride my bike on the road too so know what it’s like. Many of you will also know that I love cars and driving but despite this I know that, statistically more often than not, in a collision between a cyclist and a motorist, the latter is usually at fault.
However, there are some case’s where I just cannot defend the cyclist.
Saturday just gone, I had spent the day out on my mountain bike with my Girlfriend in Rendlesham Forest. The weather was perfect, the company was great and we had a really good time. On returning home late in the afternoon I received a phone call from my father to inform me that he was in Hospital as my Grandad had been in an accident. This was quite a shock. But the details were to be even more shocking.
My Grandparents had been on the bus on the way back home from town on Saturday morning. They were sitting on the front row of seats on the bus. The ones that are usually signed as priority seats for the elderly and women with pushchairs. Suddenly the bus had to perform an emergency stop out of the blue without warning. My Grandad was sitting on the seat nearest the isle. The force of the emergency stop sent my him flying forward and crashing into the front of the bus beside the driver, head first.
The reason for the emergency stop was a teenager on his bike who rode out in front of the bus without warning or without looking, backed up by witness accounts. The lad on the bike came off his bike but was generally ok. He had picked up his bike and moved to the roadside as a crowd of people gathered. Unfortunately, my Grandad wasn’t so lucky. He hit his head with such force, it had been cut open and was bleeding badly. The impact also broke his neck leaving him unconscious. According to the Doctors at the hospital, the neck break trapped a nerve which stopped him breathing and he also suffered a heart attack.
Thankfully an ambulance and paramedic arrived quickly after the bus driver had immediately called 999. On their arrival they rushed went to the cyclist to treat him. It was a witness who shouted at them to leave the cyclist as he was ok and deal with my Grandad on the bus. The paramedic took one look at him and immediately an Air Ambulance was called for and further assistance. The Air Ambulance bought a team of specialists who set about stitching up my Grandad’s head on site to try and avoid him needing a blood transfusion as he was losing a lot of blood.
Police took witness statements and photographed the scene by which time my Grandad had been rushed to hospital. As I write this he is currently in an induced coma in intensive care so you can imagine this is quite difficult for me to write. But I feel I should, mainly to clear up a lot of confusion.
The incident has been reported in the local newspapers, on local radio and on some websites. However the report is rather vague and states the Cyclist was arrested and charged with assault, despite not really saying what happened. This has led to some people questioning why the cyclist was arrested for assault and questioning why my Grandad was standing up and why the bus driver was driving while he was standing up.
So I now need to clear a few more things up. I too initially assumed my Grandad was standing up at the time of the incident but as explained earlier and backed up by many witnesses, this was not the case. The driver did nothing wrong. In fact, he did everything right, including calling for an Ambulance extremely quickly. Even witnesses stated his reactions to the cyclist were lighting fast. I have nothing but sympathy for him as it has been quite a distressing experience to deal with. As for the lad on the bike, Police arrested and charged him.
Some people may think this is pretty harsh or unfair, but he was entirely at fault and caused the incident. I will openly admit it is quite a freak accident, but one that could have been avoided had he been paying attention and riding correctly within the law. After all, if a car driver caused a serious accident by pulling out in front of someone, they too would be charged by the police.
Hopefully this will give a clearer picture of what happened and you can understand why the cyclist has been charged. I’m pretty sure he isn’t the kind of cyclist who rides for exercise and competition like many do who I will admit are generally courteous and respectful of the road laws. I use the word ‘generally’ though as there is one more incident I want to highlight.
You can imagine my shock and disgust the very next day after my Grandad’s incident. I was driving back from work when a Cyclist from Boxford Bike Club rode out of a side road in front of me without looking causing me to brake hard. He seemed oblivious to what he did and I was shocked and appalled at what had happened. I know he was a Cyclist from Boxford Bike Club as it was written on his Jersey. Perhaps that club needs to educate its members and tell them the consequences of their ignorant actions.
So I urge all cyclists, PLEASE take responsibility for your riding. Respect the road laws and highway code. I know some drivers can be a menace to cyclists, but make sure you are not at fault. We ALL need to take responsibility when out on the road whatever mode of transport we are using. I will continue to defend cyclists against rude and ignorant drivers, but I will not defend those at fault. That includes those who ride through red lights. You give all of us who enjoy riding bikes a bad name and if you get hit by a vehicle in the process of ignoring traffic signals you have only got yourself to blame.
Finally, I wish to thank all the Doctors, Nurses and Staff at Queen’s Hospital in Romford who are currently looking after my Grandad and Essex Police for all their efforts and for so kindly looking after my Grandma until my Dad could be with her.
I hope my Grandad will make a full recovery soon.
After a week in intensive care and with no brain activity being shown on scans, and advice and consultation with the Neurologist, the decision was made today to turn off my Grandfather’s life support machine and he sadly passed away at about 1pm this afternoon. Despite the hospital’s best efforts to save him, it was of the opinion of the Neurologist, that Grandad had technically died on the Saturday morning during the incident on the bus.
I’d like to thank everyone for all the kind messages during this difficult time.
Rest In Peace Grandad. You will be greatly missed.
The ignorance of some motorists can be annoying. People parking where they like, hogging the middle lane, using fog lights unnecessarily, the list can go on and I’m sure there are many other things motorists do that you hate. But for me there is something else that I really hate but might not seem such of a big deal to you. As someone who also rides a bike, and I’m sure many other cyclists will back me up on this, the phantom ‘Road Tax’ that many motorists believe in, really annoys me. So much so, that I took it upon myself to write a letter to Honda today to complain about them fuelling the belief that road tax exists. I rarely write letters of complaint, but here is the one I wrote today:
I’m not normally one to write letters of complaint as I’m sure most fall on deaf ears. However, this time I feel I can’t sit by without saying something.
I’m not writing to complain about one of your cars or your customer service like many complaint letters possibly do. That’s not to say your customer service is poor and your cars are rubbish as I have no experience of either. I do like some of the cars you have produced though. The NSX and Integra Type R being prime examples. I’m not so keen on the Jazz however, but not being over 65 years of age, I appreciate I’m not really target market. The pensioners seem to love them though don’t they? Actually, I only know of one person below the age of 65 who has owned a Honda Jazz and she only bought it because it was pink. But that’s a whole different story.
The reason I’m actually writing to you is as follows:
Today I was listening to a popular commercial radio station and during a pause in the music, news, travel updates and light hearted banter, your advert came on. You know, the one for the new 1.6 litre Diesel Civic? Well, I was quite impressed with the information about fuel economy and horsepower. I also assume it has some neat little features too such as cup holders and a compartment for keeping gloves in. I was then surprised to hear the advert say that because of its low emissions you don’t pay road tax. Now, here lies my issue. I was surprised because I too, like the rest of the drivers in the UK, also don’t pay road tax. Why? Not because my car has low emissions like your new diesel Civic, but purely and simply for the same reason I didn’t get any money from the tooth fairy after having my wisdom teeth removed. Road Tax, like the Tooth Fairy does not exist! I used to think that Father Christmas didn’t exist either, but I’m pretty sure he lives close to my place of work and drives a green Nissan Micra. I’ve seen him a number of times and I’m pretty convinced. But again, that’s another story.
Back to your advert. Naturally I assumed you did of course mean that due to the low emissions of your car, it was exempt from Vehicle Excise Duty. You might think this is a petty gripe on my behalf, however, as well as a motorist, I am also a cyclist. I can also assume that none of your advertising department are cyclists either. Probably too busy driving around in new Civic’s feeling smug because they aren’t paying any, so called ‘Road Tax’.
Now, as a cyclist, and like many other fellow cyclists, I have real issue with the popular belief that Road Tax still exists even though it was abolished back in 1937. You see, this misconception breeds ignorance amongst many motorists. They see this phantom road tax as tax on using the road, when in fact, that little circle of paper they are really paying for, vehicle excise duty, is a tax on your vehicle. With this belief that they are paying a tax for using the road, they also believe they have more rights to use the road over people who they think don’t pay to use the road. Usually, the cyclist.
These motorists are a danger to many. They vent anger towards cyclists if they have to slow down for them and then sometimes put them in danger out of frustration and the believe that the cyclist has no right to be there as they don’t pay this phantom ‘Road Tax’ that many, including yourselves seem to believe exists.
You may recall the story of a young girl in the national news a few months back who knocked a cyclist off his bike, then announced on twitter ‘Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier – I have right of way he doesn’t even pay road tax!’. You can check out the story here: http://ipayroadtax.com/no-such-thing-as-road-tax/i-knocked-a-cyclist-off-his-bike-i-have-right-of-way-he-doesnt-even-pay-road-tax/
While you’re on that website, have a look at the other articles and information too. You may find it of use. Thankfully, this person got into a lot of trouble, but would her attitude and behaviour have been different if she was educated in the facts and realised that road tax didn’t exist? Every taxpayer is funding the road network through general taxation. If the roads and only the roads were funded purely from vehicle and fuel duty then I’m pretty sure our country would have the best road network in the world, or at the very least, wouldn’t be the potholed mess they are currently. Ironically, as in the case of this young lady, she was actually a trainee tax advisor!
You may think that this is an isolated incident. Yet a quick browse on social media shows that alarmingly this is a belief shared by many motorists and even more alarmingly, their frustrations are often taken out on cyclists with many stating it is fair game to knock over a cyclist if they are in the way. But of course this is ok, because a motorist pay road tax and a cyclist doesn’t. Many also seem to forget that most cyclists, like me, are also car owners and that some bikes can be very expensive. Even more expensive than a brand new car, like the Honda Jazz. (That was purely an example. Other cheaper cars are also available of course.) So pay just as much in the way of tax and duty as they do, yet as they have a bike too, probably use the road less.
Many times I have been given abuse via social media for trying to correct motorists on the fact that no one pays road tax and cyclists are in fact helping by easing congestion. Some cyclists even get the abuse face to face. I was once even called a ‘Cycle Bore’ and told where to go by BBC TV’s very own Home Improvement / Lottery quiz show host Nick Knowles on Twitter. I’m sure Sarah Beeney or Dale Winton would have been far more polite had I corrected them on their ignorance of vehicular based tax payments. Mr Knowles’ ignorance was further underlined by a fellow user of social media who kindly pointed out that my profile clearly stated that I loved cars and was a motorsport photographer. He was subsequently abused too. I used to find Mr Knowles mildly amusing and quite enjoyed his DIY SOS show. He is now dead to me.
So you see, these uneducated motorists are a danger and a menace to society. I can’t be sure but I have a feeling that some of them are keeping Jeremy Kyle in a job and the unemployed entertained on daytime TV. I however don’t find it very entertaining and your company is hardly helping matters by advertising the phantom menace that is ‘Road Tax’. I’m sure you will agree that these people, and probably your advertising team, need to be educated. And who better to help educate these people than a reputable car manufacturer as yourselves.
May I suggest you pull the radio advert that is currently running and maybe change the voice over so he states that, ‘Because the Honda Civic is so low on emissions, it is Vehicle Excise Duty Exempt.’ Or words to that effect, as I appreciate it doesn’t have the same ring to it. But hey, I’m not Advertising whizz kid. I just like to deal in fact rather than mislead the already misled. Also, perhaps a disclaimer at the end stating that the UK’s roads are funded by the big Government Tax pot that all UK taxpayers help fill and is divided up to fund all necessary (and unnecessary) services and that taxpayers, (many of whom are cyclists as well as motorists) are helping fund the roads regardless of whether you own a car or not. I’m sure you can get someone to say that bit really quickly at the end. Perhaps you can ask the bloke who reads out the disclaimer about APR, terms and conditions at the end of those payday loan radio adverts. He’s really quick!
Anyway, I’ve made my point and I would like to think you will take this complaint seriously and think carefully about the points I have raised and the stupidity you are encouraging. Failing that, I have printed this letter on good quality paper and used high quality ink so it should feel nice and won’t leave a rash when your advertising team use it to wipe their backsides with.
I’ll let you know if I hear back.
Some of you will know I have taken up cycling again after a few years out of the saddle. To be more precise I’m into Mountain Biking rather than road cycling and I have already taken my new Specialized Rockhopper on a week’s Mountain Biking on the tracks and trails of the Yorkshire Dales. However, recently, something has concerned me a lot. Something I find pretty shocking and somewhat disturbing. Something that should have attention drawn to and something that should ultimately be eradicated.
I use social media a lot. One form I use often is twitter. I use it to chat and interact with other people, usually with similar interests but not always. I‘ve met new people, learnt new things and experienced new stuff through twitter. I have a nice bunch of followers who put up with my rants and moans, random mutterings and general guff I spout about daily. Despite not actually being near me, they keep me company and when you work on your own for the most of the day like I do, it’s quite comforting.
It was through a follower on twitter I stumbled across an account called @CycleHatred. This account mainly retweets the abuse users write on twitter aimed a cyclists. Occasionally it posts videos of cyclists on the receiving end of abuse from other road users. Whilst I love riding off road, I do ride quite a bit on road too and I’ve had my fair share of near misses and close calls with motorists who don’t look, are impatient, don’t give you room, perform ridiculous manoeuvres and are genuinely oblivious to their surroundings. But I have never, yet, been abused either verbally or physically.
Some of the stuff I have seen via this twitter feed is pretty unbelievable, from videos of Drivers spitting at cyclists, to people telling their twitter followers they want to deliberately run into, injure or kill bike riders. But one tweet I saw today really hit a nerve with me and is the reason I felt the need to sit and write this. I’m not talking about the tweet from @mylomylo that stated “I wish running cyclists over was legal” Ironically it seems this guy is a lifeguard and yes, I am naming and shaming. But it’s the tweet from @ChloeA91 which said “The Cyclist I just followed to work was asking to be injured. Almost hit him just to teach him a lesson #sillyprick” that really got to me.
What is wrong with people? How can anyone be so ignorant towards someone who is riding their bike who I’m pretty sure, unless they were some kind of sado masochist, wasn’t asking to be injured? Why is there so much hatred towards cyclists? Do these people think they own the road? Perhaps it is just another sad refection of society today. Should people like Chloe even be allowed on the road herself to put other people’s lives at risk with her blatant disregard to the safety of others?
I’m not going to tar all car drivers with the same brush though. I know it is the mindless minority who hold so much contempt and hatred of other road users riding bicycles. I’m not going to moan about cars and the environment either. I love cars. Those of you who know me or read this blog regularly will know that I’m a huge petrol head. I like driving, I like motor racing and pretty much anything to do with cars and they are a big part of my life. But I like my bike too and I like to ride it as well. This means I ride on the road where I respect other road users as I wish they respect me.
I will also say that yes, there are a few mindless cyclists too. I’ve seen them jump red lights, not signal when turning, cutting through traffic, not using lights and generally doing some stupid things. But remember, we have all seen cars jump red lights, not indicate, pull out without looking, cut up other vehicles, drive whilst using a mobile phone. So not everyone is blameless.
Digging a little deeper I have seen forums where people try to justify their hatred for cyclists. Some of their arguments and reasoning’s are just ridiculous and really bug the hell out of me as I genuinely cannot believe people can be so ignorant.
One of the most common beliefs from Cycle haters is that Cyclists don’t pay road tax and should therefore not be on the road. Excuse me? There is no such thing as road tax. What these people believe is road tax which they pay each year and receive a disc they display in their vehicle is not road tax. It is a vehicle tax. Most cyclists, like myself also own a car so will also pay this vehicle tax anyway. Also, there are many new cars that are vehicle tax band A and don’t incur any tax charge and Vehicles over 25 years old are also tax exempt. Should these vehicles be banned too? Anyway, this is all irrelevant as all the tax everyone pays, from your earnings to VAT, goes into a big government pot and a percentage is taken out to pay for, the generally poor, upkeep of our roads. So this is a stupid argument. Have these people paid their ignorance tax? No. So stop being such an Ignorant fool.
I’ve seen people moan they hate cyclists because they hold them up while they are driving. Oh boo hoo. They probably moan about tractors too. The tractors farmers use to produce the food these morons eat. A lot of cyclists cycle to work. Usually because rush hour traffic is a nightmare and it is probably quicker to cycle than drive. Maybe all the cyclists should drive and add to the already congested roads? Other cyclists ride as a sport. A sport like football. A sport that some motorists pay lots of money to watch. Also these cyclists are keeping fit and active. In a world of obesity and laziness, is that such a bad thing? Think about that next time you get held up for a few seconds behind a cyclist after you’ve jumped in your car to pick up your take-away pizza from just up the road.
Another statement I’ve seen about a lot is ‘If you can’t afford a car get off the road’ or words to that effect. I can afford a car. I have a car. It’s quite a decent one too. It’s better and more expensive than quite a few of the other cars on the road. Hell, even my bike is worth more than some of the sh*tboxes a few of these haters drive around in. As stated before, most other cyclists have cars too. Some cyclists have top of the range hand built carbon fibre bikes that cost thousands of pounds. Some even cost more than a brand new car. So from this I can deduce that I and many other cyclists can afford a car and judging by this stupid statement should be allowed on the road. Let’s also not forget that you are entitled to WALK on a public highway. I rest my case.
The final point I’ll touch on is the belief that the law will always side with the cyclist over the motorist. This is completely false. The law will side with whoever was not in the wrong. As mentioned above, there are idiots on bikes and the law recognises this. Yes the woman who knocked Bradley Wiggins off his bike was summoned to the local police station, but she was in the wrong. Witnesses saw her pull out of a petrol station in front of him. But on the flip side, I will give you another example.
I knocked a cyclist off his bike once whilst I was in my car. It was actually just yards from a Police van containing half a dozen policemen who saw the incident. I had stopped in the road waiting for oncoming traffic to pass so I could make a right hand turn into the road the police van was parked and the direction I was indicating. As the traffic passed I quickly checked my mirror and made my manoeuvre. As I was halfway across the road there was a bang. A cyclist had ridden into the side of my car and fallen off his bike. I hadn’t seen him. As I got out of my car to see if he was ok and apologise, the on looking policemen had made their way over. The cyclist was fortunately OK, but was keen to show me his anger at what had happened. Thankfully the police were there although I did think I was going to get into a lot of trouble. One policeman was trying to get the cyclist to stop shouting and go home despite his complaints his front wheel was buckled. The other policeman who had came over spoke to me. He told me I had nothing to apologise for and was glad there wasn’t any damage to my car as they didn’t want the paperwork to deal with. I was somewhat confused by this. He explained the cyclist had overtaken the car waiting behind me and rode straight into the side of my car as I made the manoeuvre I was signalling for. He was in the wrong and I had done nothing punishable.
Maybe it is this kind of cyclist that the haters refer to. The minority. Yes they can be a nuisance. But there are many other nuisances behind the wheel of a car. Do I hate them? No. I am a car driver too. I love cars and I love driving. I also know that they are the minority and I don’t judge everyone on the actions of a few. Whilst I accept we are all accountable for our own actions on the road, I can’t really accept the attitude of the mindless few who think it’s funny to suggest it would be worthwhile to harm people who ride bikes. Surely they are the ones who shouldn’t be on the road. Or even out in public as they seem to pose a danger to everyone and even themselves with their own idiocy. So please, less of the hatred. I know we can all get frustrated and cross at times for a number of different reasons, but it would be better for all if we could all just get along, put aside the ridiculous reasons for hating people and put the brush that’s used for tarring down.
Oh, and feel free to follow me on twitter: @ChrisGurton
Having spent the summer watching the incredible Olympians and Paralympians wow everyone with their achievements and putting most of us to shame, I decided I needed to get off my backside and participate in some kind of sporting activity. I guess this was the Olympic legacy that had been talked about.
So, it was time to get back into cycling. Well, Mountain biking to be precise. My old bike was getting on a bit and needed some work done to it. But rather than spending money on a bike that was over 10 years old, I thought I would treat myself to a 30th birthday present and buy a new one. Spending a while researching and looking for a new bike I eventually opted for a 2013 model, Specialized Rockhopper 29er. A lot of mountain bikes are now opting for 29 inch wheels over the standard 26 inches and although dubious at first of buying a 29er, after trying one, I was impressed.
With the new bike purchased it was time to set myself some targets. I needed to get a lot fitter, but ultimately I’d like to compete in some events. There is a winter race series in Thetford Forrest each year which I have attended before as a spectator. Four races, one a month from November to February with a choice of a four hour or two hour race and a leisure ride. Perhaps this was something I could take part in. Obviously I wasn’t going to jump in at the deep end so I was thinking about taking part in the leisure ride at the end of January and the two hour race in February.
This means I have a few months to get fitter and train for the target I’ve set myself. Having bought the bike at the beginning of this month I thought a target of 50 miles of riding a week for the first month and upping that each subsequent month would be a good start. At the moment there are still a few motorsport weekends I will be in attendance at so most of my cycling is done after work during the week. However, last weekend, I wasn’t trackside so took the opportunity to take my bike to Thetford to ride round the Forrest.
There aren’t many bridleways or tracks near my house, so it was a good opportunity to take the bike off road on the miles of Forrest tracks, fire roads and single track. With four different routes ranging in difficulty there was a lot of chance to put my bike through its paces. I spent the morning on the two easier routes, mostly tracks and fire roads. It was good fun and I clocked up 22 miles before I stopped for some lunch. After my break I decided to tackle the two harder routes mostly single track with berms, dips, jumps, pits, and more! The smile plastered across my face showed how much fun I was having. The only low point was being overtaken at speed by someone who was clearly more experienced than me and the realisation following that I had a lot to do to get up to standard for the winter series. But, in the mean time, I was just having great fun.
A few things I have remembered since getting back out on my bike though are a bit more concerning. I remember now how arrogant some car drivers can be towards cyclists. I don’t appreciate having my elbow hit by wing mirrors because the driver hasn’t given enough room when passing or just can’t wait to get by and squeeze between you and oncoming traffic. Also, a car driver wouldn’t overtake on a blind bend, so why do they think it appropriate to overtake a cyclist on a blind bend? Because, let’s face it, if a car did come the other way, all drivers are going to swerve left, into the cyclist and not right into the oncoming car. But I won’t get preachy on you. I love cars and I love driving, I just wish a few others would be more considerate. One thing we can all agree on though, is who died and left horse riders in charge of the roads? Many times I have ridden down lanes to be confronted by horse riders in the middle of the road, sometimes two or more abreast and been given the most filthy of looks!
It is safe to say though, I’m loving being out on my bike and the fact I’m getting valuable exercise without paying a fortune for gym membership. As I write this, I have had my new bike just over two weeks and I love it. Although I sometimes come home feeling knackered after a ride, I also come home feeling really good and that is a positive thing. As for my 50 mile a week target, well, after two weeks and a day, I’ve done over 160 miles. I’m even going to take the bike with me on holiday next month. There are plenty of tracks and Bridleways in the Yorkshire Dales and although I’m pretty sure the hills will kill me, I can’t wait.
In the meantime, the fact that my bike is missing a pair of wheels and an engine doesn’t mean my blog will take a change in direction and I will stop talking about Motorsport. Far from it. There’s still lots of track action to be seen before the season is over and next up this weekend is the Britcar 24 hour race. A highlight of my year and I am looking forward to it. Maybe I will see some of you there.
A couple of weeks ago, the British Touring Car Championship headed north of the border for its annual trip to Scotland and the Knockhill circuit. Again it was a weekend of high drama and yet again one man in particular was right in the centre of it all.
I initially decided not to write about this particular incident, which saw Aron Smith make contact with Jason Plato sending the latter off into the gravel and out of the race. Previous blogs expressing my opinions of Jason Plato and his attitude and behaviour have generally been met with agreement. However some fans of the outspoken racing driver, who’s lead has clearly been followed by those who support him and have decided to be very critical of my own opinions. Some been quite personal but many claiming I know nothing about what I am saying. Somewhat Ironic in many cases.
So you can imagine my delight in a saviour in an unexpected form. There were so many things I wanted to say about Jason Plato and his attitude, behaviour, driving and his somewhat scathing and hugely hypocritical comments live on TV. One man saved me the trouble of writing down my views, as he had already done so. This man? The Boss of Motorbase Performance Dave Bartrum. A BTCC race winning team and also a British GT winning team too. So this Man cannot be accused of not knowing what he is talking about.
Dave had written a blog about the weekend at Knockhill which included a large section about Jason Plato which went like this:
“The only sour note of the weekend was Jason Plato’s reaction to the incident with Aron. I realise he will see it his way and we will see it ours, that’s natural. I was disappointed in the penalty which TOCA gave us because we’ve been on the receiving end of nearly identical incidents with Aron & Rob Austin in round 1, TOCA verdict – Racing incident, Liam & Lea Wood at Croft, TOCA verdict – Racing incident. Someone does it to Plato, TOCA verdict – 3 points & a £500 fine. Is it because its Plato? Maybe, who knows? With that in mind when we heard that 888 & Plato had appealed we were surprised, turns out Jason wanted more! He even suggested that Aron had a job to do on him! What can you say to this? Paranoid maybe?
Jason is supposed to represent British Motorsport, in two roles even beyond his role in the BTCC with MG & 888. He is the face of the KX young driver programme mentoring young aspiring drivers & has a major role at the BRDC as a Director. Yet despite all of this he remains the most outspoken, shouting his mouth of to anyone who will listen about how badly everyone else drives! Sorry, am I missing something? Is this the same Jason Plato who rammed Matt Neal off in a fit of rage/revenge at Snetterton, the same Jason Plato who rammed Gordon Shedden of at the last corner of Donington after pushing him along the back straight whilst Gordon tried to brake, and the same Jason Plato who simply disposed of Dave Newsham disgracefully at the first race of the season? And that’s just this year. He has been one incident away from a 3 month ban for a little while due to his own indiscretions on track in the last 12 months. Pot and kettle spring to mind!
He suggested Aron doesn’t deserve a race licence. Quite frankly, he is the man who needs banning from the championship. Why TOCA didn’t give him points for his revenge mission at Snetterton on Matt Neal is anybodies guess! Probably because he has so many points already. MG & his sponsors should think twice before renewing his contract if he continues to behave like this. He makes damning statements that other teams and drivers are merely ‘playing at this’ and we’re just ‘pretenders’ unlike the paid professional drivers. At most, if this was the case there would be a 3 car grid, this is modern day Motorsport. I amongst other would love to have the budgets of yesteryear and be able to pick two fully paid drivers like Andy Neate & Jason Plato as 888 have been able to this year!
How he keeps a job with the BRDC is beyond me. He is a Director in the most influential club in British Motorsport, he is in a role which people need to respect him and look upon his as someone who sets an example of how a race driver conducts himself both on and off the circuit. In my opinion he does neither! It’s a joke that they have someone with such low regard for fellow competitors and young drivers in such a position. It’s hypocritical. There is a new young driver programme which he is fronting. He then accuses Aron of being ‘a pretender’ because he pays for his drive. Will that be the same for all the drivers under his management who are paying for their drive? I doubt it, I’m sure he will change his mind then! Quite frankly no driver having been mentored by him would be welcome in a race car of mine.
All of that said I do respect his driving ability, he is clearly very talented. He also puts on a great show for the public, who seemingly love a bad boy. Maybe we’re just another part of his show this week. I just think if he kept his mouth shut and his thoughts to himself the world would be better for it. I can only assume, and half understand that Aron is on the receiving end of his passion from the reality that Jason’s Championship received a massive dent at the weekend due to him making a mistake of his own by drifting over into Aron, giving Aron very few options. Jason made the uncharacteristic error in which he lost out, something he doesn’t do very often. I think most drivers would have driven exactly how Aron did, and the others probably would have ended up in the gravel themselves!”
This is worryingly almost exactly what I wanted to say on the matter and many will know I have been saying similar for a long time, but only this time, hopefully, I won’t get abuse from certain people so thanks Dave.
Now even the most hardcore Jason Plato fans must take on board some of these comments and surely see Dave has a very good point. I am however, not criticising people for wanting to be a fan of Mr Plato though. I have said it before and say it yet again. The guy has great driving ability there is no argument there. But is he really a role model to those who do support him? Especially the younger generation. Is the do as I say not as I do attitude setting a good example? Is the constant moaning and criticising of the rules and others inspirational for others? Lots of Plato fans say he is a hero and legend. But is this really the way a hero should conduct himself?
Two words I have just used are thrown about far too much in describing sports stars and mostly unnecessarily. Hero and Legend. I’m going to stick my neck out on the line here and risk further abuse by saying Plato is neither of these. Good yes. But not hero or legend. Why? I’ll tell you why.
A Hero or Legend is not just someone who reaches the very top of their discipline, but someone who inspires others. Someone who sets a good example to others, overcomes adversity, conducts themselves well and shows a good, positive attitude and strives to achieve. But most of all, someone others can look up to. A role model who people want to emulate. After the Summer of Olympic and Paralympic games, it is clear there are many that put the MG BTCC racing driver in the shade.
For motorsport fans though, If you want a real Hero, Legend and Inspiration, look no further than Alessandro ‘Alex’ Zanardi. The Italian ex Formula one driver suffered a horrific crash in 2001 in the Champ car series and subsequently lost his legs. Whilst many of us, faced with this for the rest of our lives would wallow in self pity and hate the life that you now face. Alex didn’t. He continued do race for a few years after his legs were amputated, but he had his heart set on one goal. The Paralympics.
Without moaning, complaining or criticising, Alex set out to achieve this goal. Training hard in the face of adversity, all this hard work came to fruition last week. The road cycling took place at Brands Hatch, somewhat poignant in this incredible story and Alex Zanardi was there to represent Italy in the hand cycling with his unique three wheeled bicycle which was no doubt designed with the help of some of his friends within formula one. The British crowd were there in their thousands to cheer and support the participants with many motorsport fans there to support Zanardi.
All the hard work and determination came to fruition for the Italian which saw him take two Gold medals and a Silver. The delight within the motorsport fraternity was clear to see. This man’s incredible journey in the face of adversity had come good and he had reached the very peak. This man is a genuine Hero. A true Legend. And an Inspiration to all.
Dave Bartrum’s full blog can be read here.