RIP Dummy, and Other Things

Happy days, and not so happy days; a story of the untimely end to the greatest bicycle I've owned, reflections on what could have been, and an atmospheric micro-adventure in the far west.

“Flippin’ heck Mike”, said a mate as we surveyed the wreckage of my Big Fat Dummy, “all the earthquakes, volcanos, rockfalls, and bears and big cats, and it’s a bloody Renault Clio just a few miles from home that takes you down!”

RIP.. the greatest bike I ever owned.

I’d been heading the 60km over to my folk’s place, a journey I can’t make entirely on trails, for dinner and to return a chainsaw I’d swiped a few weeks earlier, when a driver took a turn at too high a speed, crossed the central white line and ploughed into me from my 2 o’clock position. A week later I still have flashbacks, for a split second seeing that car heading straight towards me at speed and knowing what was about to happen was the single most terrifying moment I’ve ever experienced, and I’m still baffled that I’m not in hospital being pinned back together, or worse..

Of course there is no inherent meaning in these events but it is human nature to try and take something from such things.. it is not hard to imagine that maybe the universe is trying to say something.

Had the impact been a few millimetres different in position the outcome would have been very different, and had it been an SUV I think I’d certainly be finished – it would have struck around my pelvis or lower rib cage instead of lower down around my lower leg/ankle position. In the event it looks like the impact of the car’s bumper happened a few mm behind my ankle, on the crank. The Dummy was also slightly heavy at the time, probably bike + load of around 40-45kg, which combined with the tremendous amount of force absorbed as the complex cro-mo steel spaceframe of the rear of the bike folded, saved me from being flung hard as would have happened on a regular bike. Instead I ended up tangled in the wreckage with nothing worse than a load of bruising, cuts, pulled tendons and muscles.. and a degree of shock. Phenomenally “lucky” if luck is the right word… perhaps I am lucky in that this is the first time I’ve been struck in a lifetime of cycling; defensive cycling can go a long way but there are times when nothing is effective protection when cars are around.

I could feel body and mind seizing up, and certainly with regard to getting past the mental issues with venturing out on two wheels again I figured the sooner the better, meaning just a few days after. Still unable to sleep or get to grips with anything much at all, it made sense to take advantage of the early hour to enjoy a steady trail-trundle down to Godrevy for a swim before the crowds turned up. Black and blue, and with some mild ankle, knee, and hip joint issues, it was absolutely bloody marvellous; the sea is around 18 degs now, and conditions were crystal clear without a breath of wind. Cars were already beginning to pour in by the time I left at 8am. It’s something I’m going to try and get into the habit of doing more often; the burden of tourism can crush the enthusiasm and enjoyment out of just about anything, so I just need to get in the habit of getting up earlier…

The driver did stop, the whole family were in the car, and I have to say that they’ve been good as gold; the young driver I think was in a far worse state emotionally than I was. Of course there’s no excuse for bad driving, and I would rather it had never happened, but the way they looked after me, and have been good to engage with since the event, has been an entirely positive experience, the driver also called me a day later to see how I was; that would have been hard to do. In a world apparently full of bellendery they’ve stood out as properly decent folk; local family, live just up the road from me. There are other positives to be taken from the whole thing too… such as the reinforcement of the value of family and friends – for whom I’m profoundly grateful, and yet another reminder of the fragility of life; a full stop may lie just moments ahead. Very recently I unexpectedly lost two other people from my life locally within days of each other; one to a horrific knife attack at home, and the other just didn’t wake up one morning. Of course there is no inherent meaning in these events but it is human nature to try and take something from such things, and having become thoroughly bogged down and burned out with work and “life” – mostly due to the pandemic context – it is not hard to imagine that maybe the universe is trying to say something.

As for the Dummy.. there seems little hope for a direct replacement. The frames are no longer made, and only a handful ever made it into the UK so a second-hand one showing up seems unlikely. It’s beyond reasonable repair, most tubes (of which there are many…) would need replacing, and additional to the bent bits there are stress fractures visible too. I absolutely have to replace it with something similar, it was such a fundamental part of daily life for hauling stuff that couldn’t be done on a regular bike, as well as bringing a great deal of pleasure to my days; depending on how the insurance claim goes, there may be sufficient to have something similar made for me by a UK frame builder. There’s always a regular cargo bike of course but the combo of fat tyres and mountain bike handling really worked for me in terms of turning hauling duties into adventures. Hey ho.

A fine Monday evening bivy spot.

Happier things; the week prior to the above a couple of buddies were planning a Monday night campout in the far west. Being somewhat bogged down and behind on a project, and feeling short of time I initially wasn’t going to go, but some relentless bugging – for which I’m grateful, persuaded me, rightly, that the only appropriate course of action was to dash out and buy a fresh bottle of whisky, throw some gear at my bike and pedal off west into the evening. The weather closed in chilly and misty, with a brief respite around dinner time that resulted in some fabulously moody skies, before the fog settled for the night. Good conversation and laughs were enjoyed just a few metres from a heavy swell booming on the rocks. It can be tough finding the motivation to head out locally here during the holiday season when roads and coast are overwhelmingly packed with people and cars, but there are still quieter spots, and times when  the weather is less then ideal also represent an opportunity.

It would be wonderful to be on the road again but things are far from over so instead just trying to make the most of what’s here for another summer while  thinking about what the future should look like. More than ten years after quitting my aerospace career to embark on a self-employed adventure, it feels like another crux in life’s journey may have arrived.

Well, anyway, enough of the self-absorbed rambling, I think I’m just happy to be here. Enjoy the summer, here are the rest of the pics.

Fabulous smoky sunset as the mist lifted.
Rocky and ‘awkward’ terrain made for a less than obvious spot for an outing, and all the better for it. Dusk was fabulous.
Trundling home the following morning along a misty Tin Coast. Atmospheric.
I took my old ECR, for its association with all the happy memories of life on the road, temporarily curtailed.

24 thoughts on “RIP Dummy, and Other Things

  • Good to know that physically you are somewhat OK, but mentally is a different state by the sounds of things. Shame about the bike.
    Me personally, I have never understood why we allow vehicles on our roads that have the speed capacity to do twice the maximum speed limit in the UK. I would want all new vehicles to only have a maximum forward motion limited to 75mph. I am convinced that would stop many incidents like yours. Also all vehicles could be controlled by sensors to slow all vehicles when entering restricted speed zones like in towns, cities and villages.

    • hey, cheers. the mental side seems to be settling, time will sort it out although it’s hard not to feel a little nervous around cars, even just walking to the shops. I agree re the speed thing. They weren’t going that fast, somewhere approaching 40mph I would guess, but still completely inappropriate for the turn in question. Inexperienced driver….

  • Jeez Mike – what a ‘mare for you & the dummy ! Glad you’re mending & the driver / family have done the right thing. Does make you think…whatever you do to protect yourself out riding – there always variables you can’t control ! And car drives can be the worst.

    And well done for getting back in the saddle soon…it may not seem so, but it’s good to get going again.

    • cheers! Yeah, the dummy does feel like a bit of a loss, although it’s really just a bunch of tubes, it’s hard not to be a little bit sad about it…

  • Well done for such a precise description with such a positive outlook. I hope that you are able to find an even better bike for your adventures and that you continue to take us along with you!!!!! May your spirit be with you. (Malt?) Slainte Mhor !!!!!

    • hey, thanks for the kind thoughts! I must confess I did wonder why I bother writing this stuff, but sometimes it helps just to put it outside of me, if that makes sense…

  • Hi Mike, glad to read the you are ok, and that the driver is doing the right things too. I am sure that will help get over what would be a very traumatic experience. I drive on the roads for a living each day and can only say that I was an defensive cyclist before I started this job, and witnessing the daily neglect/stupidly of drivers its made me more so.

    Sad that your bike was destroyed but very happy it was not you. You have a fine collection of bikes and I am sure you will come up with a fabulous replacement for the Dummy.

    I dropped by your site after getting my fill of the morning newspapers, left me felling flat, and even though you have been through a terrible experience you project, a very positive outlook as always.


    P.S just checked our sea temps on one of the coldest days of winter down here, and it’s 19C :) enjoy that “summer” mate.

    • haha, 19 degs in winter, I don’t know how you stand it…. and where’s the fun in the traditional Christmas Day dip when the sea is warmer than 7 or 8 degs…

      Anyway thanks for taking the time to write, if you’re on the road every day I can imagine you see some horrendous behaviour… I’m not on the road that much, but every time I am it seems to be a relentless parade of bad driving.. I have never wanted a camera on my bike, but I might now…

  • Damn! Glad you’re on the mend though. I think there are only two types of cyclist, those who have been knocked off by a car and those of us who are yet to be knocked off but know its coming! I live on the IOW so have a lot of similar roads to those in your neck of the woods. This is the hairiest time of year as a daily cyclist with a huge influx of grockles that don’t know our 1960’s type roads. Have you thought about a Salsa Blackborrow? Ride safe!

    • I think you’re right, I’d never been hit by a car in all my years of riding, and had been thinking about it recently… “when is it going to happen..”.. increasingly it’s felt almost inevitable despite strenuously avoiding a large number of roads… and busy times. I have a mental list of “never ride there” and “only ride there at certain times of day and year” (low sun etc) roads, but it’s still not enough.
      I had looked at the Blackborow… it’s a possibility.. would rather have steel but not ruled it out. Not really thinking about it at all at the moment, haven’t the energy.. it’ll sort out directly :-)

  • A very enjoyable, if distressing, read, Mike. So good that the perpetrator of the collision cared enough to follow up and see how you were faring. I suppose that everyone involved in such an incident is a victim in some way. I’ve heard that the tractor driver that almost took Nick Saffin’s life a couple of months back hasn’t slept properly since – a victim of his own stupidity and carelessness.
    I hope you continue to recover, and find a replacement bike.

    • hey John, cheers.. and yes, the driver learned a hard lesson.. the bright side is.. she didn’t kill me and will (I hope) be a much safer driver in future. she was in a terrible state of shock.

  • Blimey Mike, that is scary. Sorry to hear about the Dummy, but it’s so fortunate that you are unscathed. As I seem to have cause to say more often these days, “Considering how unlucky you were you were very lucky”.

  • Wow! Glad to hear you are ok… physically at least, as mentally in your case it would be very difficult ๐Ÿ˜‰. But, as we say in Spanish, *mala hierba nunca muere”.

    • hehe, I think that might be one of those phrases that loses something in translation, but I understand the intent, cheers! :-)

  • Glad you’re okay, Mike! I once lost a well loved bicycle in an accident. Couldn’t be replaced, was a small and old two gear Dutch bicycle to zip around the city on. I missed it for a long while.. The shock of the accident I remembered even longer.

    • cheers Jan! It’s interesting how often it’s the oldest or least-assuming bikes that are missed the most. Having said that, the dummy will also certainly be missed!

  • Hi Fella.

    Sorry to hear about your Surly. Reading a post of yours on another blog was one of the drivers in getting a Big Dummy myself. When I was looking for mine I connected with a chap that had Fat Dummy for sale. Think he was in Bristol, I believe he still has it. Do you want the contact?

    • hey, that’s very kind of you, cheers. I did see a Big Dummy for sale in Bristol, but it wasn’t the “fat”, so yes please, if you do have the details that would be great, cheers. If you email direct using the email link down in the footer I’d be very grateful.

    • hey Josh, cheers for writing!
      Re the dummy.. are you sure? The surly page you link to says “There are no future productions planned….”. Sadly.

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