Meggie Bichard's injury prompts safety calls for Nelson mountainbike trails
One of the world's top mountainbikers is recovering in Nelson Hospital after falling from her bike in the Maitai Valley and breaking her wrists and forearm.
Nelson-based Meggie Bichard, 30, is one of New Zealand's top female enduro riders and finished seventh place on the Enduro World Series circuit this year.
"I don't know whether to feel fortunate or unfortunate," she posted on her Facebook page. "One forearm and both wrists fractured from a bucking bronco head on with a tree. I hope my body will forgive me thank you to the awesome Nelson [mountainbikers] for getting me out."
She is in a stable condition after undergoing surgery.
The accident comes as local mountainbike clubs are looking to improve safety on trails with statistics showing that injuries across the Nelson region have almost tripled in the past five years.
Figures from the Accident Compensation Corporation show that mountainbiking injuries across the region have increased from 174 in 2010 to 463 last year with a spike occurring each year. The cost associated with treating those injuries in that same time has jumped from $190,000 to $798,642.
"People do crash a lot, and I think that is an element of the sport in all honesty, but what we try to do is keep it to an absolute minimum," said Nelson Mountain Bike Club chairman Paul Jennings. He said injuries were a part of mountainbiking, as they were in many other sports, including rugby.
The injury figures come as Bichard and another mountainbiker suffered serious injuries over the weekend.
A 50-year-old man also suffered head, face, neck and shoulder injuries after falling from his bike on the newly opened Jaws Track in Kaiteriteri on Sunday afternoon. He is also in a stable condition in Nelson Hospital. A first aider who came across the scene said the man was "pretty banged up" having suffered a gouge out of his lip and a concussion.
Kaiteriteri Mountain Bike Park committee member Guy Trainor, who designed the Jaws track, said it was a trail suitable for intermediate riders. However he said skilled riders were likely to have more serious accidents because they travelled at a greater speed.
"Every weekend there are literally thousands of people out on the mountainbike tracks. It's just unfortunate that there is always going to be the odd incident there. We certainly wouldn't want to give any impression that any track is dangerous to ride — we endeavour to make them safe," he said.
He urged riders who had accidents on the new Kaiteriteri tracks to let the committee know by contacting email@example.com or a committee member or the beach office.
After hearing this feedback, Trainor said the committee would endeavour to go back and carry out remedial work where possible on tracks. Warning signs for upcoming hazards would also be placed on tracks.
The injured man in Sunday's accident was treated at the scene by an intensive care paramedic from the Nelson Marlborough Rescue Helicopter before being flown to hospital. A personal locator beacon had been activated by other people with the man at the time, which helped the helicopter find his exact location, said spokesman Tim Douglas-Clifford.
As summertime approaches, Douglas-Clifford said more injuries from mountainbiking were expected.
"I can't really put a finger on the statistics, but yes, as the season migrates you tend to get more people in the [mountainbike] parks, and more people getting out," he said.
The ACC figures show that the most common injuries for mountainbikers were soft tissue injuries, lacerations, punctures or stings, fractures or dislocations and dental injuries.
The large majority of injuries were attributed to males between the ages of 35 and 44.
Paul Jennings said the club was working on ensuring clear signage at the beginning of trails in the Nelson region to show what skill level would be required to ride them.
"The biggest thing is the accuracy in grading the trails. Mountainbikers should understand the trail they are going down," he said.
With a number of new trails being created in the region as popularity for mountainbiking grows, Jennings urged riders to scout the terrain of a new trail before riding.
"It's always worth it to have a look before you leap," he said.
The club's membership numbers have grown substantially in the last few years, he said. They currently have more than 1100 currently signed up. By the beginning of next year he expected this number to reach 1200.
Growing membership numbers and new trails being made have gone hand-in-hand in increasing popularity for the sport, he said.
"It's probably a catch-22 — the more beginners and novices that join the club the more beginner trails are made. It creates an environment to bring friends and families out to try it."