cycling kit and safety

As I get more and more into cycling, I’ve been spending more and more money on cycling kit — fancy jerseys, cycling pants with decent padding, comfy gloves, cleats and shoes, helmets….. not to mention different kit for the changing seasons. And this is on top of the $ I spend on the actual bike itself, which is another small fortune.

I used to approach purchasing cycling gear with an attitude of pragmatism over aesthetics, but as I increased my cycling mileage, I’ve learnt that there’s a reason why some kit costs way more than others.  After falling off my bike on a descent on a rough patch in Hebei province in late April, I’ve learnt that good quality kit was not only more comfy, especially on long rides, but they actually reduced the extent of my injuries and saved my life.

Pre-crash outfit

The crash happened so fast, I had no recollection of what happened right before I lost control of my bike and landed on a haystack. I ended up with scrapes, bruises and swelling mostly on the left side of my body. Thank God I didn’t break any bones and felt strong enough to cycle another 15 km to the nearest town where a kind local took me to at a hospital to get cleaned up and checked out.

After getting back to Beijing, I’ve been reflecting on how I could’ve prevented the crash and how my kit’s (literally) saved my skin, if not my life:

  1. Helmet

Apart from a dent, my helmet was pretty much intact, which spoke volumes about its quality. This helmet has served me well since I bought it from a Swedish friend’s going-away sale mid last year. He bought it for his wife but it was too big for her, so it was almost brand new. I used to think any old helmet will do as long as I’m wearing one when I’m cycling. My first bike helmet was the cheapest one in the shop and a little too big for my head, so I gave it away after I got the Orbea. The Orbea was the right size for my head and had an adjustable dial at the back which I’d loosen when I wore a cap underneath my helmet in winter, and tighten when I don’t. I’m now wearing my aunt’s  very fancy and comfy Rudy Project helmet. I’m definitely not skimping on my next helmet purchase.

2. Prescription sports sunglasses

I bought these from Beijing’s spectacles wholesale market in Panjiayuan about two years ago on a friend’s recommendation. The whole set came with five interchangeable lens with the prescription lens wedged behind. I bought these after getting annoyed at the inadequacies of my normal specs. They kept slipping down my nose and didn’t provide any coverage against dust and whatever else the road threw up. Even though the spectacles broke into pieces on impact and scratched my left cheek, my eyes were thankfully unharmed. I still have a faint ‘Z’-shaped scar on my left cheek which will hopefully fade over time.

3. Cycling clothes

On the morning of the ride, I was still contemplating whether or not I should wear my arm warmers. I figured if it got warmer later, I could always take them off and stash them in my jersey pockets. Boy, was I glad I never took them off, because they literally saved the skin under my left forearm when I fell from my bike later that day. As the arm warmers were over a year old, they took quite a beating from the fall and I wasn’t able to wash out the blood stains. They were thrown out together with my beloved helmet.

My jersey protected the rest of my left arm and showed no sign of damage, as you can see in my Powerman duathlon pictures.

For the longest time, I’ve always regarded cycling gloves more as items of comfort rather than safety. I’ve been blessed with palms that don’t perspire as others and so I don’t have to worry about losing my grip. This fall has caused me to look at cycling gloves with fresh eyes.

Last but not least, my favourite Pearl Izumi cycling pants were not just the most comfy cycling pants, they were also resilient. Even heavily discounted, they’re the most expensive pair of cycling pants I’ve ever bought (RMB 800+). I’ve worn them so much over the past two years, the logo has fallen off.  My left thigh still bear the scrapes from the fall, but these cycling pants are still in pristine condition, apart from a couple of tiny holes and a tiny bit of scratchy fabric. My Castelli cycling pants didn’t fare so well after my fall in Yangshuo last Feb.

What’s your favourite cycling kit? I’m looking forward to hear from you and discover cool new kit.


My forearm fracture adventure in Beijing – Day 2

Click here for Day 1.

Pre-surgery dramas

Considering I didn’t sleep well the night before, having to adjust my left arm throughout the night to relieve the pain, I woke up early the next morning relatively refreshed and energised. As requested by the orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Miia, the night before, I arrived at Oasis before 8:30 am, armed with my medical insurance card, Iphone, Kindle, clothing for two days and my X-ray from SOS packed in an overnight bag. She’d informed me that she hoped to operate on me latest by noon, the operation would take a couple of hours and I’d be discharged latest the next morning. Little did we know that things would turn out completely different as the day progressed.

After reporting at the clinic, I was first taken to the third floor to choose my ward. Thinking I was only staying for one night, I took one look at the two rooms that were available and chose the smaller one without thinking twice. It was only after the nurses helped me change into my hospital gown did the reality of my impending surgery and hospitalisation finally sink in.

The nurses then took me to get X-rays of my left arm, then I was brought back to my ward. They then proceeded to take my temperature and my pulse, and gave me some painkillers to tide me until my operation. Then I was left alone to wait for my operation. I took this opportunity to reply to WeChat messages from the few friends I’d informed about my accident and impending surgery.

At about 12:30 pm, a hospital admin staff came into my ward to inform me he was still waiting for the insurance company to provide authorisation before I can undergo surgery. Dr Miia was concerned about my left arm swelling too much if the operation was delayed for much longer and she wouldn’t be able to close my wounds after putting in the titanium plates. The hospital admin staff suggested I contact the insurance company directly to chase them and then left my ward.

By this time, I haven’t had anything to eat or drink for over 12 hours, apart from sips of water when I took painkillers, and naturally my throat was hoarse and I felt tired and weak. I felt so uncomfortable, I wasn’t even able to nap, let alone calling up the insurance company. But as minutes then hours passed with no further news, I became concerned if the authorisation would arrive at all.

At 3:30 pm, I decided it was time to make the call. I prayed silently to God for strength and favour and made the call, unsure of what to expect. The lady who took my call was surprised to hear from me, as she said they were still waiting for information from the hospital. She promised to look into my matter immediately and call me back. To my relief, she did call back after five minutes to say the authorisation had been sent to the hospital but the hospital’s phone line was engaged. I got out of bed immediately after hanging up the phone and walked to the nurse’s station to relay the message, forgetting I could summon a nurse into my ward just by pressing a button.

Within an hour, I was wheeled into the operating theatre, transferred to the operating table and put under general anesthetic. I remember thinking then, finally I’ll get some much needed rest.


A post-op selfie taken at Oasis Hospital
A post-op selfie taken at Oasis Hospital

When I finally woke up around 7 pm, I was back in my ward with my left forearm wrapped in what felt like a ton of bandages and my head still feeling the effects of the general anesthetic. I was glad to see a couple I know from church who were in the ward waiting for me to come around. I chatted with them between sips of water while waiting for dinner to be served, but they could tell I was exhausted from the operation and from not eating anything for the last 20 hours so they left after about an hour. Despite my extreme hunger, I managed only to eat about a quarter of my dinner, preferring to drink water and fruit juice instead.

After having my fill, I dozed off in exhaustion…

(To be continued)