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Tyred - shadows of echoes of memories of songs
j4
j4
Tyred
As mentioned yesterday, I went to a Safe Cycling seminar given by the Oxford Cycle Workshop. It was along similar lines to a recent post from LondonCyclist, and I won't try to do justice to an hour's presentation in a paragraph of LiveJournal, but it was reassuring to know that according to them I'm already doing the right things. The two main take-home points were be visible (not just in the sense of wearing hi-vis jackets and — of course — using lights, but also in the sense of making sure you're not hiding down the side of another vehicle, skulking in the gutter, or lurking in someone's blind spot, but rather claiming your place in the lane you're in) and be predictable (stick to the rules of the road, behave like a car where possible because then cars know what to expect). There was a third not-explicitly-stated rule of "don't be a jerk". I wish more road users followed that one. There's another post in my head about Stupid Behaviour I Observe On The Roads Every Day, but really, who wants to read it? We all see it often enough anyway.

Unsurprisingly, the Oxford Cycle Workshop chap didn't say anything about cycling while pregnant (and I didn't ask, as it was a bit out of scope!). I didn't expect him to (he didn't mention helmets either, interestingly), but I did expect better from a supposedly comprehensive book about pregnancy and birth; however, the NCT's book "Happy Birth Day" doesn't seem to say anything about cycling at all (as I mentioned yesterday, I've emailed them to ask about this). Its "Travel" section only includes driving and flying (and if you're flying, hey, you're obviously not that worried about the next generation anyway); "Exercise" only mentions walking, pilates, yoga, and swimming.

After poking around a bit more diligently on their site it appears that they disrecommend cycling after 3 months because of the risk of falling. (On the other hand, they're happy to include cycling in the SEO text list of types of exercise they mention that their maternity sportswear is useful for; and there's no mention of the risk of falling when you have an actual child on the back of the bike.) I asked both my GP and my midwife about it very early on, and they both gave a fairly "common sense" answer: if you feel up to doing it, do it; if you don't, stop. They gave the same advice about running, for that matter (also disrecommended by the NCT after 20 weeks, due to the high impact -- I have noticed that running seems noticeably harder on my ankles than it used to be, I'm taking it very gently but may yet have to stop). Oddly, nobody seems to say that running carries a risk of falling -- maybe they assume people go running on an asphalt track rather than on towpaths and footpaths full of potholes and stones and wet leaves? Anyway, on the cycling front, that's two medical professionals versus one big shiny book, so I'm going with the medics: I intend to carry on cycling (competently and confidently, but carefully, following the rules of the road) as long as I personally feel physically and mentally comfortable with doing so.

Please note, I'm not for a moment saying that there is no risk of falling involved in cycling: it's true, it's entirely possible to fall off a bike, I have indisputable evidence. I've done it three times in the 15 years that I've been cycling regularly (regularly and frequently, pedants). The first occasion was when I took a corner too tightly and scraped my wheels along the kerb; I fell on to the pavement, skinning the heels of my hands and getting wet leaves and mud all over my favourite woolly jumper. To be honest I was more embarrassed than hurt, really; it was one of those things where you know that you've misjudged but you can't do anything about it. On the second occasion I was drunk, and had cycled home along the (off-road) cycle-path without incident but came a cropper when trying to mount the pavement outside our house (to get the bike down the side passage). I don't recall injuring myself at all; drunk people seem to bounce somehow. The third occasion was when I was trying to see if I could cycle with my hands crossed, i.e. left hand on right handlebar and vice versa. Unsurprisingly, I got confused, wobbled, overcompensated in the instinctive (wrong) direction, and went over the handlebars in an ungraceful heap. My hands took the worst of the damage again (raw-skinned palms full of blood and gravel, ugh). All these were when I was a student; I've never actually fallen off my bike since then.

For what it's worth, yes, I was aware of the possibility that my balance would be affected by being pregnant (either because of queasiness or because of the extra/differently-distributed weight); fortunately, on a bike, if you feel at all uneasy about carrying on for whatever reason, you can just get off and push. I haven't had to yet except when trying to cycle up Headington Hill, and that wasn't balance, that was just exhaustion! (What bastard put the hospital at the top of a big hill, eh?)

So anyway, that's three falls while cycling, all basically attributable to stupidity. In the same time-span, I've fallen while on foot the same number of times, possibly more. Once I was running to meet someone, in heeled boots on wet cobbles; I slipped and landed on the side of my ankle, spraining it quite comprehensively (I had to walk with a stick for a week or so, and it remained sore for ages). Another time I slipped on a wet drain-cover and fell, bruising my hands and knees. More recently I managed to trip over a step, tried to regain my balance (arms pinwheeling like Wile E. Coyote on a cliff-edge) and ended up falling, grazing my hands a bit but (as so often) being more embarrassed than hurt. Not even so much stupidity going on there (except for the running on wet cobbles in high heels, yes, that was dumb): just unfortunate mistakes. OK, I also fell down the stairs from the Long Room at New College once as a student, but I was so drunk that I was only barely "on foot" beforehand; amazingly, I walked away (giggling at the ridiculousness of falling down a flight of stairs) with only a few minor bruises. Funnily enough, I'm not likely to be doing anything like that again any time soon (hopefully never!).

Based on this unscientific study, a) walking is just as dangerous as cycling, possibly more so; b) drinking is more dangerous than either; and c) I ought to wear padded gloves while walking or cycling, because my hands invariably come off worst. (I do wear gloves while cycling, otherwise my hands would be numb with cold before I'd got to the end of our street, but they're not especially padded.) Yes, I know that's not the whole story; but the whole story is a much longer discussion of risk, how we measure it, how we perceive it, how we make judgements about it, how we weigh the risks against the benefits ... and that's a story I don't have time to write tonight. Also, I suspect I can't do justice to it without doing a lot more research, and I don't know when I'm going to have time to do that. But of course we all make judgements about risk every day, with or without doing the research, with or without having concrete statistics to hand; we have to, otherwise we'd be paralysed by indecision. The person who says "but that's so dangerous!" invariably can't quote any more facts than I can to support their assertion. And they take risks too. There is no such thing as a life without risk.

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geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: November 9th, 2010 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is all good stuff. The other aspect is the studies (no. I don't have cites, this is recalled from when I was pregnant!) that show that doing regular (and, as you so rightly pedantify, frequent :-)) exercise is one of the best indicators for a complication-free birth.

I cycled right up to 41 weeks+ ; the last time was two days before I went into labour (at 41w6d) when I cycled a 3 mile round trip to Sainsburys and startled the cashier by answering the "when are you due" question with a date nearly two weeks in the past :-)) The only time I decided discretion was the better part of valour was when we had that horrible heavy snowfall. I walked home from work that day, but I would not have cycled even if I hadn't been pregnant, because the risk of falling was significant.
geekette8 From: geekette8 Date: November 10th, 2010 08:29 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh yes, you might find you need to adjust your handlebars upward for a more upright position later in the pregnancy.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
I did cycle *once* in that snow at the beginning of this year, & wouldn't do it again (pregnant or otherwise) -- I knew it was a bit silly but I was just determined to prove that it was possible (and it was! I didn't actually fall off though I did have one or two wobbly moments...).

Fortunately I live within walking distance of work (it's about a 45-minute walk in the snow, but that's do-able) and there are fairly sensible buses, albeit with a 10-minute walk at each end (so if it's really too icy to walk at any point then I may have to work from home -- fortunately they're OK with that).

And many thanks for the handlebars tip! I meant to ask about suggestions for bike-adjustment but it got lost somewhere in the long rambly post...
tla From: tla Date: November 10th, 2010 01:28 am (UTC) (Link)
I know a few people who carried on cycling while pregnant, and they were all fine. I didn't, but that was nothing to do with risk and everything to do with a) moving between Oxford and Zürich, and b) just generally not feeling up to it. I often wish I had. The balance issue is an interesting one - I have heard that balance is affected in late pregnancy (though it hasn't happened to me), but at the same time, if you can easily compensate for an asymmetrically loaded pannier, why wouldn't you be able to compensate for the bump, which *would* be symmetric?

And yeah, I wish such a course were mandatory for cyclists around Oxford and elsewhere in the UK (and, for that matter, drivers! Especially bus drivers.)
julietk From: julietk Date: November 10th, 2010 10:34 am (UTC) (Link)
Especially bus drivers.

CTUK has been doing some courses with bus drivers recently, which I am very pleased about :)

The trainer mentioned in that LondonCyclist article is my boss! For the benefit of any London cyclists reading this, I will mention that most London boroughs offer some variety of subsidised on-road cycle training (many of them via us). It is *well* worth doing.

I was considering my bike-accidents the other day. They fall into two categories: cornering too fast on wet [cobbles|slippery brick|leaves|drain cover|more than one of the above], and bike-part-failure (I've had two seatposts break, which is alarming). The bits that consistently get damaged are: hip/upper thigh (bruising), knee (ditto), and left wrist (I sprained it reasonably badly on the most dramatic seatpost-failure incident; and I seem to quite reliably fall leftwards. I like this, as an instinct.). My anecdatal conclusion is that my stomach, even if more sticky-out, would not be a high-risk area.

(I would note that over 10+ years of daily cycling, I've come off the bike maybe 5 times in total. Plus one clipless moment, of which we will not speak :) )

The worst injury I've done to myself was on foot: falling over the dog last spring & breaking my thumb :) (Interestingly, I don't think I'd have hurt myself so badly had my overriding instinct as I fell not been to avoid falling onto Sidney; which meant I hit the ground pretty awkwardly. I wondered whether if one *did* fall whilst pregnant, one might wind up doing more damage to other bits of self due to trying to protect the bump.)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 03:16 pm (UTC) (Link)
The trainer mentioned in that LondonCyclist article is my boss!

Heh, cool!

Bike-part-failure is the only thing that does slightly worry me, but only really because it's a bit of an unknown -- the only time it's happened to me was a brake snapping halfway across a roundabout, which was a bit startling, but just a question of carrying on and stopping in a safe place afterwards & going "what the hell was that then?".

I suspect your bike is subject to a lot more stress than mine with all the long rides you do...? Or does it not work like that?

And yes, I hope my instinct if I did fall would be to protect the bump ... but then my instinct so far has clearly to put my hands out (which would not be a bad start from the bump's point of view, though probably less good for my wrists/hands/etc).

I kind of wish I had done more judo-ish stuff to learn how to fall safely, but that's the sort of exercise I almost certainly shouldn't be starting now. :-}
julietk From: julietk Date: November 10th, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Total miles on the road definitely has an effect on part-lifespan; and I do, or used to do, a lot of mileage. I also tend to ride bits of bike into the ground (the fact that one of the seatposts that broke was of Unknown Origin and Age may not have helped). Plus I sit waaaay back on the saddle, and shove back on it hard when starting, which isn't great for the seatpost either. Having had a very similar failure *twice*, I've given some thought to what I might do about it, but haven't actually been able to think of anything (look for signs of metal failure? I'm not sure if that would even show up at all!)

At least with brakes you have two of 'em. Rim going BANG can be very nasty, but happily that you *can* actually check for (make sure rim is not concave). Um. If you remember. [looks guilty] Overall I've decided to check what I can semi-regularly, and otherwise put it into the Sometimes Things Go Wrong column and try not to worry. Plus my experience so far is that even if something *does* break, that doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to hurt yourself, still less that you'll hurt yourself badly.
1ngi From: 1ngi Date: November 10th, 2010 05:03 am (UTC) (Link)
My sister fell down the stairs when she was six months in - gave us all a bit of a start. She and the baby were fine. We, as yet, do not admonish pregnant ladies for using the stairs.

So yeah - risk, perceptions, all that, absolutely.

Dunno if this is too early to say this, but as a mere bystander I have become very aware that a mother's place is in the wrong. Which is an absolute injustice. So as I am always saying to my Sis: stick you finger up and get on with whatever it was you were doing.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yikes, scary -- I'm glad she (and baby) were OK!

We, as yet, do not admonish pregnant ladies for using the stairs.

Well, it's funny you should say that... :-} Our Health & Safety person at work did a "risk assessment for expectant mothers" thing for me ("Do you work with hazardous substances?" "Only if you count my office-mates' senses of humour", etc), & she said that if I hadn't already been in a ground-floor office she would have had to move me to one, because I wouldn't be able to climb stairs later in pregnancy. I pointed out that I still have to climb stairs to get to any other office or meeting-room in the building (it's a weird building), and she said that I'd have to go out the side door and back in the front door instead to avoid that... but that in the winter, this would be impossible because of ice, so I'd have to work from home.

I didn't like to point out to her that our bedroom and bathroom are upstairs so unless I sleep on the sofa and wee in the kitchen sink I'm going to be climbing stairs every day anyway.

a mother's place is in the wrong

Ha! Very true. But yes, I am going with the finger-sticking-up approach to it. :) Thank you.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 10th, 2010 07:51 am (UTC) (Link)
I cycled to work until I went on mat leave at 38 weeks, and felt fine - the bump did not affect my balance as it was in line with the main axis of the bike. I went a bit more slowly is all - and to be honest it was a lot easier than taking the bus and walking at each end. I got some curious or uncertain or admiring comments as people seemed to feel I was doing something unexpected, but no criticism. Having said that, the finance director of one of the divisions - a stern and frankly scary woman - congratulated me one morning for still cycling, and said that she'd got some stick for cycling while heavily pregnant. (I'm astounded anyone dared, actually!)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 03:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
I got some curious or uncertain or admiring comments as people seemed to feel I was doing something unexpected, but no criticism.

You're lucky -- particularly as you were doing this in the summer when it's harder to hide a bump under big coats etc so more people would notice (not that I am trying to hide it, but a) it is only a smallish bump still, and b) I get so bloody cold that by the time I've got enough layers on to go outside you wouldn't know if I was carrying an elephant in there).

One of my workmates has said several times that he doesn't think I should be cycling & he wouldn't have been happy with his wife (who had her first baby earlier this year) cycling while she was pregnant. He means well, & hasn't been shouty about it, but it's tiresome & I don't have a good reply apart from "I'm comfortable with the level of risk involved, and it's my decision" which always comes across a bit more aggressively defensive than I want it to.

The other problem is that it is made more emotive by the fact that someone he knows was involved in an awful road incident & as a result not only miscarried but couldn't have any more children; so anything I say is basically going to be interpreted as a) not caring about his friend's tragedy, or b) sticking my fingers in my ears and saying "la la la that could never happen to me". :-/

Apart from him, there have only been occasional acquaintances/colleagues saying things like "But isn't that horribly dangerous?" to which I say "no, not really". I am trying hard not to have the argument unless other people start it, otherwise I know there's a risk I'll get on my high horse (zomg risk of falling!!) before they've actually criticised me. :-}
htfb From: htfb Date: November 10th, 2010 08:36 pm (UTC) (Link)
You *are* carrying an elephant in there. Being tummy-rubbed by an ostrich, if you squint. We've done this before.

Compared with eggshell-fragile polystyrene cycle helmets, having a nice amniotic crash-bag supporting one at all times, itself protected by a wonderfully intelligent system with, oh, eyes and arms and things, seems like just about the perfect safety setup for the young cyclist. Especially when your protective system also does the hard work of pedalling.
jinty From: jinty Date: November 11th, 2010 08:35 am (UTC) (Link)

It was clearly a bit of the luck of the draw

Given that the finance director mentioned got stick. In my dept there were a few women who'd also cycled while pregnant so that might help.

That's tricky with the workmate - not an easy one to discuss sensibly / empathetically, though I'd want in principle to tell him to bog off.
emperor From: emperor Date: November 10th, 2010 08:21 am (UTC) (Link)
More power to your pedalling muscles! [No, I think I stretched that too far. Oh well. Sorry, it's early for me]

I heartly agree with the "don't be a jerk" thing. I'm trying not to swear at road users who have behaved badly towards quite as much...
marnameow From: marnameow Date: November 10th, 2010 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think up little insulting jingles and sing them (to the backs of retreating black cabs, mostly). It stops *me* getting wound up by either shouting or silently fuming. I'm a happier and safer cyclist when I'm not cross with the traffic. It makes not a jot of difference to whoever I'm singing about, but I'm not sure that shouting helps either.
(Deleted comment)
rmc28 From: rmc28 Date: November 10th, 2010 11:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I didn't get told I shouldn't, just a few "you're still cycling?" comments. I didn't have a balance problem when my bump got quite large, and what actually stopped me cycling was my pelvis going nuts (Symphisis Pubis Dysfunction) which made any movement involving leg separation painful and ill-advised.

I found I cycled more defensively, as in leaving more space between me and hazards, and the scariest moment was someone opening a car door into my path on the fastest bit of Castle Hill downhill: but because I was cycling defensively I was able to avoid them rather than have a nasty fall.
perdita_fysh From: perdita_fysh Date: November 10th, 2010 09:16 am (UTC) (Link)
I continued mountain biking until I was six months pregnant and only stopped then because my SPD was crippling for a few days after each ride. I reached a similar conclusion - that it is about sticking within the limits of what you know you are capable of. The HCPs I spoke to about it (midwife and consultant) had no problem with it, although I didn't specifically mention that I was competing in free ride events at 12 weeks pregnant *&)
http://perdita-fysh.livejournal.com/287277.html

I can disrecommend 'The Best Friend's Guide to Pregnancy' in this regard by the way, she thinks that the only purpose of exercise is to keep your model dimensions so as you're screwed on that front while pregnant you shouldn't bother.

PS: I don't think I said it on the original post - congrats!!
julietk From: julietk Date: November 10th, 2010 10:23 am (UTC) (Link)
I can disrecommend 'The Best Friend's Guide to Pregnancy' in this regard by the way, she thinks that the only purpose of exercise is to keep your model dimensions so as you're screwed on that front while pregnant you shouldn't bother.

That was one of the things that *particularly* irritated me about that book. (The very gender-normative / hetero-normative assumptions in general also pissed me right off.) It did have some useful info, though.
hairyears From: hairyears Date: November 10th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Not exercising is arguably the biggest risk of all.

You will be very glad that you exercised regularly when you deal with the physical work of labour.
jvvw From: jvvw Date: November 10th, 2010 09:40 am (UTC) (Link)
Just in case you didn't see them and they are of interest:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/oct/27/cycling-pregnancy-london

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/green-living-blog/2010/may/21/pregnant-cyclists

At about 33 weeks, I managed to fall over just walking around campus, didn't even trip on anything, but I'm hopelessly clumsy at the best of times!

btw I never found any really good books about pregnancy, but didn't look that hard.
From: scat0324 Date: November 10th, 2010 12:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
The other conclusion is that your cycling falls are more humorous than your walking ones, or perhaps it's just the way you tell 'em.
vinaigrettegirl From: vinaigrettegirl Date: November 10th, 2010 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Balance per se being an inner-ear thing, its unexpected and therefore possibly Not Good influencers would be (a) subtle hormonal changes and (b) equally passing viral infections. As you can't take anti-cold and flu meds whilst preggers, best to be aware of these; and if you can't take vit C for a cold because of the protocol you might decide to opt out of the study. At the end of the day you and the healthy outcome are more important than the science (she said heretically).

Trust yourself and review matters from time to time. If you're iffy, trust that and be cautious. Me, I gave up going up the stairs at work when the simple bump-bump of my footfalls started hurting my womb and a belly-band wasn't helping that. You'll know.
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 04:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, the trial I'm on doesn't ban all supplements, just anything containing selenium, because that's what they're studying the effects of; but it's easy (and much tastier) to get vitamin C from food/drink! The midwife did say that they generally don't recommend taking supplements as there shouldn't be any need so long as you get a reasonably balanced diet.

However, you have reminded me I'm eligible for a flu jab & should make an appointment to have one!

If you're iffy, trust that and be cautious.

Yes indeed -- I do that anyway (cycling or otherwise -- there's no shame in getting off the bike and walking, or sitting down for a minute until I feel better). If I can't climb the stairs, then I can't climb the stairs. It would be a nuisance though so I hope I'll still be able to...!
uisgebeatha From: uisgebeatha Date: November 10th, 2010 03:35 pm (UTC) (Link)
Useful points for cycling, those. Interestingly, they've been sort of applying to driving for me at the moment too, because a lot of the cock-ups I've been making have been because I've not been visible, or hugging the kerb (which might be a relic from how I cycle :/).

I'd like to think I'm not a jerk on the road; I've unfortunately come across slightly more cyclists doing douchey things to give me a fright, who have of course reacted with jerky words and gestures when I've had to slam on the brakes. It's never the cyclist's fault, is it? :(

(Does that workshop offer adult cycling courses, OOI? I've seen that sort of thing around Cambridge, and I think a lot of folk would benefit from them, myself included!)

I'd agree with Ingrid on weighing up the risks and whatnot. You're sensible enough to know what you're doing and just generally be careful :)

Edited at 2010-11-10 03:35 pm (UTC)
j4 From: j4 Date: November 10th, 2010 04:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
It's never the cyclist's fault, is it? :(

Eh? I certainly didn't say that. Checking my post, what I said was:
There was a third not-explicitly-stated rule of "don't be a jerk". I wish more road users followed that one. There's another post in my head about Stupid Behaviour I Observe On The Roads Every Day, but really, who wants to read it? We all see it often enough anyway.
No mention of motorists whatsoever there as far as I can see: "road users" includes cyclists too!

Every single day I see stupid and dangerous behaviour from motorists (cars, buses, taxis, whatever), cyclists, and pedestrians. I don't see many motorcyclists at all on my daily commute, otherwise I'm sure they'd do dumb things too. Perhaps I should make that post after all, to make it crystal clear that I'm not attributing all the stupidity to one group of road users.

As for the question about training: yes, the Oxford Cycle Workshop does adult cycle training. In Cambridge, the Council actually offer adult cycle training: http://www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/transport/safety/education/adult+cycle+training.htm.
monkeyhands From: monkeyhands Date: November 10th, 2010 08:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I couldn't believe that website puts cycling in the same risk group as skiing and horse-riding. Yes, they all have the potential for falling, but so does that well-known sport, "Being Upright".

(awaits flaming from champion skiers pointing out that skiing is scientifically proven to be just as safe as making a cup of tea.)

FWIW I'm a big ole spazmogram and I have fallen off my bike several times in nearly eight years of cycling. I've also fallen over while walking more times than I can count. The week before last I banged my head on the shower shield trying to flick soap out of my eyes. Then the following day I banged a different bit of my head on the bus seat in front of me when I leaned forward and the driver stopped suddenly. I had a bruise and a lump, in different places on my head, for about a week. If I was pregnant, I *hope* I would continue showering and catching buses.

You don't need me to say this, but I'm really glad you're making your own assessment of the risks and not letting other people's knee-jerkery change your behaviour. Because when we talk about risk, we're talking about so many other things that aren't really to do with risk at all.
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