The perils of indoor riding [Long]

Here’s a cautionary tale for those of you needing some idle distraction… This is a dark bookend to my return to carbs post.


  1. Too long indoors = poor situational awareness
  2. Tubless can leak air during rides… who knew?
  3. Doing baseline routes the wrong way just for a change is not a good idea…

The Harlemermeer Ringvaart is one of the most popular training routes on the Amsterdam-Den Haag axis. It is well worth an idle Google as it touches on many of the fascinating aspects of Holland. The Harlemermeer was created when the ‘Water Wolf’ ate up a few Dutch villages. They only got serious about getting rid of it 200 years after a plan was first suggested and a plan offered. Then it was only when the Wolf got to the doors of Amsterdam and Leiden. It is the scene of some national founding myths; The Sea Beggars and an Anglo Dutch naval battle (Schiphol Airport in fact). The Ringvaart is a 70 km long circular canal into which the water of the Harlemermeer was pumped over the course of 4-5 years in the middle of the 19th century. Then in typical Dutch fashion Leiden and Amsterdam had a fierce argument as to who would lay claim to the new tax revenue from it. As it turned out the answer was also a typical beggar-thy-neighbour solution: They set up a new municipality. They managed to cover the costs of the various huge steam pumps they built and ran in places like Cruquius and Lijnden when they sold the land on. It has also got a goodly, and fully ridable chunk of the Stelling Line cutting across it. For centuries the Dutch have used selective flooding of their reclaimed land to defeat invaders. The Stelling Line was the apotheosis of this strategy. They spent a massive chunk of their defence budget through the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century building this thing. Then a couple of bike wrenches in Dayton, Ohio invented the airplane…

It’s a great training route as it is flat as a pancake, almost no traffic and only a couple of lights. Obviously being a ring there are two ways of riding this clock-wise or anti clockwise. Now in all my years riding this route I realized I never rode the whole thing clockwise. It turns out most of us don’t. I have ridden sections of it that way, but usually en-route elsewhere or coming off a different ride. I have also spent the past couple months on off season doing the Fascat weight plan and riding indoors with it. Recently I discovered Hunter Allen’s blog post on the ‘No-go zones’ so when the plan called for a 2 hour Z2 ride (A no go zone, < 2.5), I thought I would take it outside and do the Ringvaart. Then for a jolly I would do it the “Wrong way”.

This particular bike had only seen one ride since February and the first lockdown. The irony will become clear; but then I didn’t want to keep riding outdoors. I wanted to avoid the possibly of loading up an already harassed health care system in the highly unlike event I had an incident. For that first ride back I replaced the sealant in the Pro ones and filled them back to the usual pressure. I rechecked the pressure prior to this ride too.

All the above sort of wafted through my noggin a few weekends back as I sat, Buddha-like, in the middle of the Ringvaart road, contemplating my Sealskinz clad hands sat uselessly in my lap. I was enjoying the sounds of punctured bagpipes. This wasn’t my first rodeo, I never had a serious crash before in my 35 years of riding. I came close when I lived in the states and wiped out trying to take off my arm warmers. Then I had that same bagpipe music. Once I realized that I was the source, I concluded I had probably winded myself or at worse done a rib in. Now being about 30kms from home, I was tempted to call 911 then. Luckily, this being the states, I realized that they would have transferred me to a bunch of accountants with a couple of EMT guys and an ambulance on retainer. Who would have picked me up and upon stabilizing me noted that the correct hospital for my injury would have been two counties over. They would then have probably got in touch with a billing firm that had a chopper… When I got to the real estate agency with a hospital they would have taken one look at me and sent me across town to a tax consultancy that had an X-ray machine. Where they would look at my chest… then as a malpractice buffer CT scan everything else, do a full blood work up, endoscopes fore and aft and a DNA analysis for any underlying conditions before sending me home with some painkillers and draining the hell out of my coverage for the year… So except for an excruciating first 5 meters, I rode home one handed: Not to be recommended.

So back to the Ringvaart. Thanks to the music I was pretty sure I had done in more than one rib but the inoperative hands were a bit of a puzzle. WTF had just happened…?? What had happened was this. As I was leaving one of the few lights on the route I noted that mushy feeling in the front tire. I checked and sure enough it was a bit soft. No sign of any sealant and I had filled it to pressure before I left. Ho hum… I pumped it back up and rode on. Down the road a while it was mushy again. This time I checked the valve and it wasn’t fully tight. Pumped it up again and a quick nature break. As I was getting up to speed a guy passes me and I end up sucking his wheel at a little lower power than I was gunning for. Never mind all good. He tires and I take over at the front on the same pace however now I am going a little bit too high. Right so I will do a decent pull then drop off and fall back to go on my own again. As I am doing this I end up sucking his wheel a bit as he fiddles with his bottles. So now I chop it and I really drop back. Then I start coming back up to speed, gauging my power, when I get that mushy feeling again. I look from the Garmin down at the tire. In my peripheral vision I clock a van parked across the bike lane. Too late. Later when I saw the damage to the van and my bike I realized that my avoidance turn came within an inch of working. My front wheel axle struck under the outside of the bumper. I bounced off the corner of the van then bounced off the road and ended up sat up in the middle of the carriageway with three busted ribs and two broken collar bones. So I have my cyclist cred injury at last. All collected at once.

Of the three lessons learned I started with, the first two are perhaps obvious but the third. Well it comes down to this: If I rode the Ringvaart the right way then I would be on the waterside, adjacent to the canal. There are no buildings there. Hence there are very few parked cars. So it is a doddle in terms of situational awareness.

I would love to thank the woman who looked after me while we waited for the ambulance, but she never left her name. There was some very dark comic moments there as I tried, unsucessfully, with no arms and old slippery Bonts to shuffle my arse out of the way of the traffic I was clearly blocking. I would like to apologize for what I called the gentleman who laid hands on me to try and help me to do that. Also trying to tell the two wonderful EMTs, in a mixture of appalling Dutch and even worse English, unsuccessfully again, how to release said Bonts. So that we could try stand me up to get me on the gurney. Or in the ambulance when the EMT and Cop were asking me my wife’s phone number in the midst of shock onset. In my chattering deranged state I said I haven’t got a f%*king clue, it’s in my phone contacts… Only to hear the two of them guffaw as they picked up my phone to see it on my wallpaper screen as an I.C.E contact. Finally I would like to apologize also to the trauma surgery team members in VUMC for gibbering at them in my ketamine soaked state. I have a very clear snapshot of one of them laughing their head off as they wheeled me to the recovery ward. I may have come out with something along the lines of this shit is great and can I have some for my VO2max intervals. Since my hearing aids had been removed I was probably roaring at full volume.


A great read.

I do think a lot of people spend their time on the trainer in ‘head down’ position and when they get back out on the road transfer it over (or stare at their computer). I almost rode into a parked car last weekend for exactly that reason.

Doing routes ‘the other way round’ can work, except when you forget (as I did) that there’s quite a long one-way stretch, which (along with a closed road) leads to an (extra) 30km detour…


I’ve always thought of myself as being very diligent when it comes to staying aware on the bike, but I’ve still crashed several times from spacing out, sometimes hilarious to the passerby, but not always to me. I once fell, hilariously, headfirst into a wheelbarrow.

I am very lucky to not have had any serious crashes, and I think I’ve now learned how to keep my wits about me, but a reminder is always welcome, so thanks.


You are most welcome. As the old saw goes: If you can’t be good, be careful. If you can’t be careful then be an example.

Now if only I could master the art of sleeping sitting up.


As a fellow ‘bothcollarbonesatthesametime’ club member I wish you the best with your recovery.

I found squeezing a tennis ball, or even an actual grip strengthener, helped me keep a bit of strength for the basic jobs that I never thought I would struggle with, like turning a key in a doorlock.

As a fellow ‘breakingseveralribsaswellascollarbones’ I wish you the very best in not sneezing for a while. Just don’t. At all.

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Thankfully I got to the 2.5 week point before my first sneeze… was dreading it: but it only induced some mild swear words.

Worst bit was the, err, blocking qualities of the opiate painkillers. Valsalva manoeuvre with busted ribs… not so good.

Am struggling eating left handed though.

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Worst part for me when I broke my right humerus on the motocross track was learning to wipe my ass left handed. Must be a muscle memory thing because I had to ask my wife, “Should I wipe towards or away from my balls?” Broke my left collarbone last year in the gravel bike. Titanium fixed both problems in a jiffy. Heal quick and recover well! I’m told there’s nothing but time to heal ribs.


@Pipipi as a member of the two in one go club, can I ask how you managed to maintain any fitness while you recovered? It seems they won’t let me sit on the trainer even until at least week 7. Apparently the right one is a total mess and needs to be left well alone with a plate the size of a book in there. Also I was in the middle of a strength program… wondering if I can do anything there too. I just started with the PT so I will ask him next week too.

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Sorry to hear about your injuries Couldn’t have been much worse!
Surely the van was at fault for parking in the cycle lane. A hefty fine +paying your costs/time off work etc etc would be appropriate.
But i guess it’s a lesson to all of us to be aware of the unexpected.
I recon you ‘ll be riding that route in the right direction after this!
In the meantime, all the best with your healing process, and don’ catch a cold and don’t watch a comedy show :rofl: :rofl: :scream: :scream: :scream:

I could be wrong but I suspect a lot of good TTers are guilty of that. It explains though why I am relatively cr@p at TTs I’ve got to look up/ahead and sometimes around :joy:

Hopefully I’ve got the balance of outdoors/ indoors right to stop me becoming habitually head down but the way this year has been a lot more of my riding has been indoors :thinking:

Cheers @Lydiagould I got past the don’t sneeze phase this week… I accept responsibility for my failing in this. I shall leave it up to the insurance companies to sort out the costs. Blame is for kids.

I’d rather not give medical advice, we’re all different etc, and it’s quite a while ago so these are memories.

I really wouldn’t try any exercise. I wanted my bones to heal up as much as possible and I thought that any stress would distract my body from healing. I did try and drink lots of milk to get more than enough calcium in my system and I think I might have taken some supplements as well. I certainly needed to rest !

Rather than strength it was flexibility I was concerned with. I remember taking my worst shoulder/arm out of te sling and I literally could not straighten it, maybe 160 degrees. It was difficult to hold a pen and get my handwriting back to begin with.

I did go for short walks. But I also remember getting tired quite quickly and falling asleep on the sofa after those.

I remember one exercise from my PT was lying on the floor and raising my shoulders up from beside my waist to over my head until my hands touched the floor. But that took weeks of daily repetitions, I think every time the news came on the TV I lay on the floor and just hung my arms in that position. And then suddenly one day I could do it.

But speak to the PT. I definitely mentioned that I was keeping fit and regularly cycled, just so that he could give me advice suitable (so that he didn’t think I was a sofa TV person, although I would hesitate to call myself an athlete, but certainly someone who was active)

One collarbone was plated and that felt really good almost straight away. I can see why some people can get back on the bike. My other shoulder was ruined, and fixed as well as possible (I think some screws and some string to tie it all back together, a regimental cap?) and that one I had to be a lot more careful with. It felt like the ends needed to fuse together so I didn’t want any exercises that might prevent that from happening.

I made sure that I spoke to the same PT every time, and showed what improvements I was making, and what else I should try next. I tried to be the perfect pupil, so if he said do this 3 times a day, I definitely did and maybe more.

It took a while to get back on the trainer. I was quite worried about putting my weight on the handlebars, or even falling off, so I looped some rope through a roofbeam above my bike so I had something to grab hold of if I fell whilst sitting up. Even then I was worried that I wouldn’t be strong enough to hold on to the rope, that’s why I made it a loop.

Sorry for the ramble. It’s been a while. Rest up. Repeat the exercise your PT gives you as much as possible.

Best wishes. It gets better :slight_smile: d you will be making those FTP improvements in 6 months or so.

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Cheers for that @Pipipi. Wasn’t trawling random internet people for medical advice :laughing:. Just looking for questions to take to the PT and Docs about options. I am doing the walk thing alright for now. Like you I found the first few to be surprisingly exhausting.

Yeah I am sure I will be loving the FTP growth next year, whenever. Alas I had plateaued and I was working on a break through strength plan. Not too hung up on FTP as a rule but my power was too low to hang with my ride buddies that often. They were all rocking FTPs 50 - 80 watts higher than I. I had trained my power endurance up. This was good for the odd 1.5 to 2 hour ride. Longer than that I was toast.

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I think it was the short walks being exhausting made me realise that my body was busy focusing on fixing my body, and I definitely wanted it to focus on that.

Also a bit of a life moment, realising that I might not have survived at all, and to make sure that I wasn’t going to regret rushing my recovery for the rest of my life.

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