Nine tips for handling an injury on an international riding trip
“Congratulations! You’ve gained full range of motion back.” These were words I’d been waiting to hear for three months following my tumbling down a mountainside in Tuscany on a borrowed mountain bike and breaking my patella.
It really sucks when an unexpected turn (or in my case, a tree) parks you and your bike. While the healing process was painful and arduous, it wasn’t the most stressful part of the injury. I had no idea that when my handlebar clipped a tree while I was cutting through a steep vertical that my biggest worry would be flying home.
There are simple tips, if I had known prior to my accident, that could have helped me in what was one of the most frustrating travel experiences of my life. If you have any plans to venture with your bike outside Canada, check out these points first.
BYOB Bring your own bike. If you want to do advanced riding, I recommend bringing a bike that you’re familiar with. If I were on my own Gary Fisher Superfly 100, I feel strongly that I could have avoided my fall. If you can’t take your own ride, be sure to inspect your borrowed bike carefully, including the clip settings.
Learn the word “hospital” Your travel buddies will have to look up the local word for hospital to find you. I was in an ambulance with non-english-speaking paramedics who couldn’t relay any information to me or my party. Searching “hospital” with a map app did not work. Googling “ospedale” would have saved a lot of time and stress. Also learning the word “emergency” in the local language can be useful in locating the right department.
Getting your busted self back home Airlines have medical clearance guidelines. Make sure to check those of your carrier. I recommend that
“Non-englishspeaking paramedics couldn’t relay any information to me or my party.”
when you’re at the hospital, you don’t leave without a doctor’s stamp and signature stating you can fly home. These things are your golden ticket.
Call your pharmacist When dealing with a language barrier, you may be unaware of the significance of various drugs or treatments. My Italian doctors were unable, in their broken English, to warn me about not taking Advil with the injected blood thinners. My pharmacist in Canada was able to flag this concern for me.
Travel insurance Keep your travel insurance information in your email inbox during your time abroad. You can easily access this while at the hospital. Your insurance company can also help bridge the language gap as they usually have staff trained in every language. The insurance company may also help you with other communication challenges such as sending medical documents to the airline. Help yourself You may have to change your seat or flight in order to fly home. Take ownership and tell the airline the next flight you need to be on and what type first-class space your injury requires. Your travel insurance should cover extra costs, but the airline should offer the new seat at a decent rate. An airline’s suggestion to fly you home three weeks later on a stretcher is not something you have to accept. Again, that doctor’s stamp and signature is key here.
Get a set of wheels If you are dealing with a lower-body injury and need a wheelchair, buy your own. Again, travel insurance can recover this cost for you. It’ll help you make the best of what remains of your trip. More important, using the airport’s wheelchair sticks you in their system. You will have to incur long waits for airport staff to wheel you through. Having your own chair buys you freedom and the ability to move to the gate independently. Time Double your normal airport time. You will experience delays connected with your reduced mobility.
Accounting Keep all receipts pertaining to your injury, including train tickets you hadn’t planned on buying and extra hotel nights – anything you do or purchase because of the injury. It’s all reimbursable through your insurance.
While my i njury sucked, don’t let my experience deter you from planning a rip on trails abroad. I’ve learned from it. After I gained my full range of motion, I started shopping for a bike bag and looking for a sweet new mountain biking destination. A new journey is j ust around the corner.