“It has to do with the way cy­clists tend to fall,” says Dr Brian Cun­ning­ham, an or­thopaedic trauma spe­cial­ist. “When you fall di­rectly onto your shoul­der, your clav­i­cle (col­lar­bone) – which has an s-shape – com­presses, and is prone to break­ing.”

You’ll know if you’ve bro­ken your col­lar­bone – it’s not a sub­tle in­jury. You may hear a crack as you hit the ground, and mov­ing your arm will be ag­o­nis­ing af­ter­wards.

The big is­sue with this sort of break is that if it heals right, it won’t im­pair your long-term func­tion – but that doesn’t al­ways hap­pen. Re­mem­ber, the col­lar­bone acts as a strut, con­nect­ing your arm to your chest; any kink in that sys­tem means you could face pro­longed prob­lems. What to do straight af­ter a crash: If you sus­pect you’ve bro­ken your clav­i­cle, go to your clos­est ER. Treat­ment op­tions: Once X-rays are done, the sever­ity of the frac­ture will de­ter­mine the course of treat­ment. A tiny hair­line frac­ture is a sim­ple fix. Usu­ally the doc­tor will put your arm in a sling and tell you to come back in six weeks.

If there’s any sort of dis­place­ment, things get more com­pli­cated. “The pen­du­lum has swung, from stay­ing away from non- op­er­a­tive treat­ment to opt­ing for surgery in cer­tain sit­u­a­tions,” says Cun­ning­ham. Col­lar­bone surgery en­tails plac­ing a small plate over the frac­ture and is rea­son­ably straight­for­ward. Still, there are risks to any surgery. Col­lar­bone tro­phy: In the course of their post­break re­cov­ery, many cy­clists no­tice a col­lar­bone ‘bump’ – a bit of a cal­lus where the bone has healed.

tech­nol­ogy, so when things go wrong, we get into trou­ble.

In ad­di­tion to go­ing too fast and los­ing con­trol, other ac­tions that will cause you to endo are go­ing too slowly and not hav­ing enough mo­men­tum, or at­tempt­ing to bail from an ob­sta­cle. In other words: com­mit, or crash. Loots rec­om­mends you cross-train, to strengthen your bones. And, he adds, “al­ways – and I mean al­ways – wear full-fin­ger gloves. Your ten­dons are near the sur­face; if you lose the skin off your fin­gers in a crash, you could do per­ma­nent dam­age and lose mo­bil­ity.”

And then there are haz­ards such as slip­pery and sketchy sur­faces, loose gravel, tyres slid­ing out from un­der­neath you, me­chan­i­cal fail­ures – and even wild an­i­mals. Re­mem­ber Buck Nor­ris? That’s poor Evan van der Spuy – dur­ing a race a few years ago, he was taken out by a Red Har­te­beest. SCHOOL OF HARD KNOX Pros take risks dur­ing races in or­der to gain as much ad­van­tage as pos­si­ble – and plenty of them leave a bit of them­selves on the course. Re­sults of yet another study pub­lished in the BMJ found that elite rid­ers are four times more likely to be in­jured while com­pet­ing than when train­ing.

But some pros in­jure them­selves with­out even turn­ing a pedal in anger. In Au­gust this year, Max Knox had a “stupid crash”.

How stupid is ‘stupid’? Pretty damn stupid, says Knox. “Never, ever ride on the kid­dies’ tracks. Don’t be fooled by how easy they look – a jack­ass like me, it seems, can break his col­lar­bone rid­ing the lit­tle kids’ course.”

As a pro rugby player, Joel ‘ That Kick’ Stran­sky faced some of the big­gest brutes ever to pull on a boot, but his worst sports in­juries were suf­fered on the bike – or more ac­cu­rately, frac­tion­ally af­ter fall­ing off the bike. Six weeks be­fore the 2015 Cape Epic, Stran­ners ate some gravel and shat­tered his col­lar­bone. He still rode that year; and he com­pleted the 2016 Epic; but in 2017, what should have been his 8th Epic medal ended af­ter only a few kilo­me­tres.

He mis­judged a jump and went over his han­dle­bars. When he emerged from the dirt, he looked like he’d gone three rounds with Grace Mu­gabe. A plas­tic sur­geon spent two-and-a-half hours stitch­ing him back to­gether. He also broke some ribs and punc­tured a lung.

Many rid­ers would have hung up their bikes af­ter such a bad crash, but not Stran­sky. Two months later he rode the PWC Great Zu­urberg Trek stage race with for­mer pro An­drew McLean. The pair won the Masters cat­e­gory.

McLean has had his share of face-plant mis­for­tunes, too – in­clud­ing sur­viv­ing

one of cy­cling’s more sen­sa­tional hor­ror crashes, when he ploughed into a dead buf­falo. McLean broke a bone in his hand.

My hand break wasn’t as dra­matic as McLean’s, and my come­back wasn’t as suc­cess­ful as Stran­sky’s. And not be­ing able to get back on my bike as the bones in my hand knit­ted them­selves to­gether was frus­trat­ing in the ex­treme. Wait­ing for the doc­tor’s six-week cy­cling ban to ex­pire, I be­came a couch-potato blimp.

When I fi­nally got back on the bike, my ex­pec­ta­tions of fly­ing up hills and flow­ing down them didn’t match the re­al­ity. My mus­cles had shriv­elled. But that wasn’t the prob­lem; I could al­ways get my fit­ness back. What wor­ried me was that I was about as con­fi­dent as a for­eign in­vestor when Ja­cob Zuma an­nounces a cabi­net reshuf­fle.

I had lost my MTB mojo. I went down rocky de­scents rid­ing the brakes too hard, and then went into self-loathing mode for rid­ing the brakes too hard. I re­buked my­self for be­ing such a crap rider, even as I watched mates bomb past me, go­ing down faster than the Ti­tanic.

I kept telling my­self it was okay ¬– I was just rid­ing ‘ within my­self’. In fact, I was scared and be­ing ten­ta­tive, which is ac­tu­ally much more dan­ger­ous than be­ing over­con­fi­dent.

When I came to a tech­ni­cal sec­tion or a steep de­scent, my think­ing would go into over­drive. Should I go in fast? Or slow down? Is my weight go­ing the right way? Where should I look? Is this sec­tion too dif­fi­cult? Should I walk? How will I earn an in­come if I break my hand?

My men­tal scars had sucked the plea­sure out of cy­cling, and I was on the brink of find­ing a new hobby. That’s when I had a beer with Chris, the friend I had fol­lowed down the sin­gle­track when I

was left stumped. No- one I know crashes more than Chris – but crash­ing never

dents his con­fi­dence. He dusts him­self off and con­tin­ues where he left off, only faster. He’s crash-proof.

“Just ride,” Chris told me. “Don’t over­think it.”

He con­tin­ued: “When it comes to moun­tain bik­ing, if you aren’t crash­ing, you aren’t try­ing: when you crash, you learn. Don’t fear it, em­brace it – and above all else, just ride.”

True dat, I thought. Chris was right. I knew there was only one thing to do: re­turn to the scene of the crime, and come face to face with my neme­sis – the Stump of Doom. I rode down the trail, mak­ing my way down the steep rocky sin­gle­track. Once more, my heart jumped into my throat as I ap­proached the switch­back, but I made the turn okay.

I paused when I got to the stump. Funny – it didn’t look as men­ac­ing as I’d re­mem­bered. And I made it to the bot­tom in one piece.

But un­like Moose, I don’t ride be­cause I will crash. I ride de­spite the fact I will crash. For Moose, crash­ing is part of the thrill of rid­ing. For me, rid­ing is the thrill of rid­ing. Crash­ing? Not so much.

And I’ve de­cided that Descartes’ maxim should ac­tu­ally be: I think, there­fore I crash. I’ve come short many times since that beer with Chris, and I ac­cept that I will again – there’s no ‘ if’ about it, it’s ‘ when’. It’s part of the sport. When it hap­pens, it’s just one as­pect of do­ing what I love.

About six weeks af­ter I rode down that sin­gle­track where I’d had my crash, the trail burnt down. The Stump of Doom was re­duced to ashes.

My neme­sis may be gone, but per­haps it had the last laugh: I still can’t make a tight fist with my left hand. And my fin­gers ache when­ever there’s rain on the way.

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