If you're going to be a courier, and by that I mean actually stick at it for a few years, you're going to crash. It's inevitable. If you're lucky you'll not be carrying an injury for the rest of your life and if you're unlucky, well...
You might consider yourself a highly skilled rider, but on the road luck has everything to do with it. I know a guy who rode so carefully you would almost call him slow, but that didn't help when he swerved behind a car that had just pulled out on him from a side street only to faceplant when he hit the towrope attached to the car behind. Fortunately it was only a cuts and bruises crash ( plus he now has one of the funniest crash stories to tell* ) but that wasn't the case a year later when on his way home a car travelling in the opposite direction turned into him putting him through the windscreen, that was a cuts and scars and two weeks off crash. Still, that's a pretty good crash/miles ratio for a nine year courier career, he fully recovered but is now an obese van driver.
Some of the worst crashes are nobody's fault but your own, losing concentration for one second can put you face down in the gutter. I thought oil slicks only happened in video games but on wet days they're everywhere and it doesn't take much oil to bring a bike down if you don't see it coming. An empty plastic bottle, if struck just right, can keep you off work for a week, even freshly painted road markings in the wet can bring the unwary down.
One longtime Glasgow courier managed to wreck himself with absolutely no assistance from anyone but himself, it happened quite a few years ago but for the sake of anonymity we'll call him Man A to save his blushes.
Stuart's crash must rank as one of the worst I've had the misfortune to attend and it didn't happen from lack of skills, as a bmxer Stuart's bike handling skill are, usually, better than most. I've watched him hop onto a traffic island, have his d-lock pop out of his bag strap where he keeps it tucked, then catch the lock in mid-air and keep on going all whilst rolling along on his front wheel ( he admits this was a bit of a fluke ) but all this talent didn't save him from destroying himself in a Park empty of traffic.
Kelvingrove Park is situated on the side of a hill with a maze of footpaths winding down the slope and using them is an essential short cut on the Glasgow courier circuit. The surface of the paths was once tarmac but at the time this happened they'd mostly degenerated into loose 'tiles' of tarmac intermixed with potholes and pockets of fine gravel, making cornering a high concentration task. This is one of those situations where riding a track bike is definitely safer because you don't pick up the ridiculous speeds going down the hill you do with a freewheel. Stuart was riding a mountain bike and he was in a rush. No one is sure exactly what happened, Stuart's head hit the ground so hard his memory was reset to twenty minutes beforehand but with a bit of Courier Crash Scene Investigation ( CCSI ) we came up with this scenario: The crash happened right at the bottom of the hill just before it flattens out, at this part the corners aren't tight and you can see your run out, so if the path is clear you hit the gas. It looked like on the last corner one of the tiles of tarmac had slid away taking the front end of Stuart's bike with it. From where his bike ended up and where the puddle of blood that showed where Stuart ended up it looked like he slid for about two meters, probably on his face.
I was the third courier to turn up at the scene and I made the mistake of poking my head in the back door of the Ambulance. Head wounds always look bad because of the amount of blood that pours out of them. But Stuart had been wearing a pair of frameless Gucci wraparound shades that he used to go on-and-on about. When his face hit the ground the lenses cracked and the razor sharp edges had peeled the skin off on one side from his crows feet to his ear and I looked in just as the Paramedic was trying to push the flap of face back into place. Stuart is always chirpy so I'd kind of planned on sticking my head in and giving him the thumbs up and getting a smile back, but he couldn't even see me through the blood. It was pretty horrific, the Hospital had to get their Plastic Surgeon in to make him beautiful again.
There's an advert for Oakley somewhere in there.
One of the best things about crashing for a courier is that if you spend longer than five minutes lying in the road a familiar** face will show up and say " Hey Buddy how you doing? Stop trying to get up I can see bone. " or if you're me they come running up when you're lying under a bus and step on your pen, your only pen, smashing it to smithereens ( I appreciate your concern Bryan but sometimes you can be so clumsy ). At Stuart's crash three of us spent a good ten minutes on our hands and knees looking for his missing teeth ( turns out he'd swallowed them ), I delivered some of his packages, Hutch took the rest and phoned his girlfriend to let her know which hospital he was going to and "The Hopper" ghost rode his bike to a safe destination, kind of like ants clearing up after a picnic... but with more blood.
The drama didn't finish there, the next night, a few of us went round to the Hospital after work for a visit. When a nurse pointed us in the direction of his bed we were met by a pretty grim sight. Crowding round looking at his bandaged head and unfocused eyes, his chin wet with dribble I really thought "This is it. This is the wheelchair and nappies my mum kept warning me about for not wearing a helmet." We all stood around him going " Uhmm... " and " Oh... " as young men do when things get serious. My glasses had started to mist over as usually happens in emotionally charged situations when suddenly the little bastard perked up, flipped us the bird and started pissing himself***. What we didn't know was that he'd seen us coming into the ward and decided to have a laugh by doing his best Jack Nicholson at the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest impression, but for those few seconds when I first saw him I was a genuinely scared courier.
*It's up there with Bryan in Glasgow cycling into a road works hole while chasing down a suspected bike thief and Selim in London getting knocked off by one of the Hyde Park Warden's golf buggies.
**Unless you land on your head... then your brother could turn up and you'll have no idea what his name is.
***Laughing, not wetting the bed.