‘Chip off the Old Block’

Phil and his son Brock have forged a relationship around two-wheeled adventures. But a near fatal accident has seen Brock taking a well-earned break from the bike.

Phil and his son Brock have forged a relationship around two-wheeled adventures. But a near fatal accident has seen Brock taking a well-earned break from the bike.

Phil Twigg, 49, works in the irrigation industry in the Australian outback. A self-confessed MAMIL (Middle Aged Man in Lycra) he keeps fit by cycling with his son, Brock, 16, a school student.

PHIL: “Of course, I was there at the moment of Brock’s birth. I already had a daughter, so to be given a healthy baby boy was all a guy could ask for.

When he was a baby he cried an awful lot, and needed lots of nursing and cuddles but he was beautiful and full of life.

He became a happy little toddler and even back then he enjoyed things he could pedal. He used to scoot around the house on a tricycle. His relationship with two-wheels began when he was given his first little BMX bike at around the age of seven.

He was always pretty cautious on his bike. We lived in a cul-de-sac and were pretty protective parents – especially knowing how reckless I had been as a young bloke – we spent hours together, cruising around our town on our bikes. It was lovely.

The real adventures started when he became a teenager and got his first proper mountain bike. He really took to it. We’d ride up our local hill and through the bushland. Last summer we took our bikes to the alpine slopes of Victoria and cycled with a few of Brock’s school mates. It was a great way to spend time with my son. 

Brock is a much more accomplished mountain bike rider than me. I’d beat him on the flat, due to my road cycling fitness, but as soon as we hit the hills and anything technical, such as jumps and rock gardens, I wouldn’t keep up.

When we ride together we are pretty competitive. It will be heads down and bums up, but we’ll stop now and again to discuss a section we’ve just ridden, usually exaggerating how high in the air we’ve jumped, or talk about the tree we almost hit.

We talk about lots of things apart from cycling. I’ll ask him how he’s going at school, or get his opinion on world matters. When he missed out on the school soccer squad I talked him through his disappointment and let him know it’s okay.

Dad is one of my best mates”

Recently Brock had a terrible crash that almost killed him. He boards at school down in the city (Sydney) and went out one weekend for a ride by himself at the Hornsby Mountain Bike Park. He did everything right; contacted us to tell us where he was going and how long he’d be. He even SMS’s me when he got to the Park to tell us he’d arrived safely.

An hour later we got a phone call from a policewoman. She said that Brock had had an accident on his bike and that he was breathing but unconscious, and was being airlifted by helicopter to hospital.

I felt this horrible emptiness in the pit of my stomach and a million things went through my head. I was terrified. What if he dies? What damage has been done?

Thankfully, my brother is a pilot and was able to fly us straight up to Sydney. When I first saw Brock he was coming out of the back of an ambulance, hooked up to a bunch of machines. I felt sick with worry.

The doctors told us he had a fractured cheek bone, fractured eye socket, fractured skull, a compression fracture in his neck and a nasty laceration on his face.

However, the most worrying problem was the bleed on Brock’s brain. There was a possibility it would leave him with permanent damage.

Brock remained in hospital for more than three weeks. Initially he slept most of the time, but eventually he started to come back to us.

Now he’s back at the family home recuperating. I feel blessed that he’s okay. He wants to get out and visit people and go places, but I’ve made him slow down.

I won’t lie; yes, I’m nervous about him getting back on the bicycle. I’d love to be there to take his first ride with him.

What do I get out of the relationship? Pure joy. And the pleasure of seeing a young boy becoming a beautiful young man. I like to think we’re buddies, not just father and son.

Brock: I remember when I was a child, Dad cycling with me around the town, trying to get me interested in road cycling. It didn’t work…mountains and bushland are more my thing.

My father bought me my first mountain bike for Christmas a few years back. He started coming for rides with me on the bush trails. He’s actually pretty good at mountain biking, much better than he thinks he is. I suspect he may have been a bit crazy when he was younger.

We went on a trip to Falls Creek in the snowfields earlier this year. It was the best weekend of my life; so much fun. The whole time we both had a big smile across our faces. I think Dad’s probably at his happiest when we are riding together.

We do spend a lot of time chatting about cycling. But I also talk to him about things that are happening at school and in my life. I love it when he tells me stories about when he was young like me. He says he wished he’d tried harder at school; that’s why he wants me to focus.

He’s a great father. He would never yell at me. He makes sure I am focusing at school and doing the right thing, but even if I’m not, he wouldn’t scream; he would simply guide me in the right direction.

Dad would always be there for me. If I had a soccer game, he would always turn up. And if we played in another area, it would be a good excuse for a boy’s weekend away.

We don’t argue much, but when we do, it’s usually about me not being a very good listener. He’s usually right.

I don’t remember anything about the accident. In fact, I can only remember things from my third week in hospital. I asked Dad if I was dead. He smiled and told me I was alive and that I’d be back to normal and everything will be okay.

Dad’s a very positive person; very supportive. That attitude helped me get through my stay in hospital without too much worry.

His support has continued since I returned home.  And he’s making sure I don’t do anything too stupid and upset my recovery.

Dad is one of my best mates. I’ll definitely ride with him again. It might take a while, but I’m already looking forward to it.”

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