Trail riding gives you freedom to explore parts of the country that would otherwise be fairly hard to get to. It's not without its risks though, and falling off is all part of the learning process. That's why we invest in protective gear.

Most of the time we get up, dust ourselves off, take a pic and keep going. But what if it's more serious than that? Would you know what to do if one of your riding buddies had a bad one? TRF member Ben Newham found out the hard way...

TRF:

Hi Ben. Sounds like you’ve been in the wars. What’s the current condition of your shoulder?

Ben:

I’ve fractured my left scapula, which I understand is the triangular bone, or shoulder blade. They don’t put you in a cast because it’s quite deep in your body, which means I’m constantly twinging it! It will be 6-8 weeks before it has healed and then up to 6 months before it’s up to full strength.

TRF:

Sounds painful. Let’s backtrack, what was the TRF ride out that you were on?

Ben:

It was a ride in Herefordshire and Wales organised by Paul Benjamin. So far we’d had riding quite similar to that we find at home although a lot more overgrown and less travelled. We’d just stopped for lunch à la petrol station and fueled up, about 40 miles into a 100 mile ride.

TRF:

So what actually happened?

Ben:

This is the embarrassing bit. It was a farm track, almost entirely flat, no ruts or anything even slightly difficult. I turned into the corner and lost the front on the gravel and was catapulted into the ground. I kept my arms tucked and took the brunt on my shoulder. I think anyone that has ridden with me will know I have fallen off before; this was the first time I instantly felt I’d been hurt.

TRF:

OK, so you’re lying there on the ground. You know you are hurt. Was it mad panic or did the other riders you were with know what to do?

Ben:

It was pretty good actually; Bob and Vern stopped me moving whilst Paul B kept talking to me (other riders having gone ahead).

After working out I was generally OK they took my helmet off and gave me a bag to rest my head on. They got on the phone to 999 and gave them the location in degrees and minutes, plus the OS grid reference. I think Darren and Paul G were dispatched to the nearest junction to guide the expected land ambulance in. We’d just crossed a ford so everyone was working out how we’d deal with that. Everyone was extremely calm and capable. I had to speak to the emergency services operator who I think was assessing my condition.

She told me it could be long wait and I was not looking forward to lying in the sun for an hour or two! Whilst we waited I was kept entertained by bad jokes and mickey taking as you might expect. Vern also called his extremely patient wife out from her hike to bring his van to the spot, so they could take my bike back to the B&B.

TRF:

The air ambulance looked quite exciting, though I’m sure you weren’t feeling that at the time. What happened when the paramedics arrived?

Ben:

After 10 or 15 minutes of waiting, we heard a helicopter in the distance and someone joked, “That’s for you Ben.” It came closer and someone else said, “Well it is a red one.” It started circling and I was soon forgotten about as everyone got excited about the helicopter! I remember Darren running up the lane with a big grin on his face.

They spent a few minutes flying around to see where they could land, choosing a spot less than 100 metres from where I had landed myself.

Once they arrived they quickly got as much information as possible from my mates and got started with the drugs which instantly made me feel a bit better. They asked if I minded if they removed my amour before they sliced through the gear and removed the neck brace that I was glad I’d worn. They generally poked and prodded, paying particular attention to my neck and spine and established that I could be walked out to the helicopter with a suspected dislocated shoulder. I slowly stood up, the combination of the drugs, shock and lying down meant I was quite dizzy. I managed to get to the helicopter without falling again and I was sat in first class sipping on morphine whilst they flew me to Shrewsbury hospital.

Perhaps the worst bit was arriving at the helipad which is next to the car park; there were lots of people with video phones filming the helicopter who must have been quite disappointed as a hairy topless me stepped out! As I’ve always found with the NHS A&E, I was dealt with quickly and well looked after, though they kept me overnight because of the drugs they’d given me.

TRF:

Looking back on the incident, was there anything that you think went well or could have been done differently? Any lessons we can learn from your accident?

Ben:

I remember the pilot saying how easily they had found us because we were able to give the precise location, and that he felt the OS grid ref was best as there is room for confusion with lat/long coordinates. Even if you ride without a GPS there are various apps which will give you a precise OS ref, so I’d suggest everyone gets one of those, like the “OS Locate” app.

One other thing I think would be sensible is to have a list of emergency contacts for these more informal, but still organised, trips. Details could easily be shared via Facebook messenger in advance, or just given to one particular person. Had it been more serious for me it could have taken days for my wife and family to find out.

I was pretty disappointed that it took almost 5 minutes for the guys to start taking pictures and having a laugh at my expense whilst I was on the ground. They normally have the timing down to 30 seconds or less!

In all seriousness, I think it was dealt with exceptionally well. I should say a special thanks to Paul Benjamin who drove well out of his way and waited for hours at the hospital to take me home on Sunday night whilst I was discharged. Vern and his wife also very kindly got my car back home, going above and beyond.

It surprised me that the air ambulance is entirely supported by charity, so dig deep next time you see a collection. My wife told me she always donates as she expected me to require a lift from them at one point!

TRF:

So, is that you off riding for a while?

Ben:

Yes, for a while. I was hoping to do the mini-mondo in Spain in September but the doctors think that’s unlikely, plus I’ll be out of the Cambridgeshire TRF Dawn 2 Dusk event. But I can use the time to put more shiny bits on the bike I suppose!

TRF:

Thanks Ben, get well soon!


Did you know that the Air Ambulance operates entirely on donations? Herts TRF made a donation to Wales Air Ambulance after Ben's accident. You can make your own donation here:

http://www.walesairambulance.com/