Recovering from a colossal cycling crash (again!)

Virgin Galactic
Richard Branson's signature
Published on 10 November 2021

This week I’ve been taking part in Strive BVI, a multi-discipline challenge fundraising event across the British Virgin Islands entirely under human and sail power. This is the latest in a series of Strive Challenges we have done over the years, all raising funds for Big Change, the education charity founded by my children Holly and Sam.

The Strive Challenge team cheering
Adam Slama

The first day was an exhilarating combination of sailing, kayaking and paddleboarding around Anegada, with hiking, swimming and sailing events planned for later this week.

The second day was cycling day, featuring a punishing 60-kilometre bike ride around the massive hills of Tortola. It was tough, but the team did incredibly well and we had a great time completing the task. 

After the 60k there was an option to do 10k of the extreme hills again. Taking on Strive Challenges has been one of the main reasons I have got so fit in recent years, and one of the best ways I have kept in such a healthy state of body and mind. The events are tough physically, but even more so mentally. When there is a challenge I love to rise to it. Being Dr Yes, I said yes to the extra 15k.

Having made it up the hills, we had to get back down. I was navigating a steep corner, with a massive cliff drop to my left, a car coming up the hill, and my fellow Striver, Felix Stellmaszek, in front of me passing the car. I pulled on both of my brakes, but they didn’t respond. I was going faster and faster, with my options being to drop off the cliff, hit the car, or potentially run into Felix. 

I gripped both brakes as tight as I could (later learning I should have tried taking one hand off the brake and then squeezing it again), but they didn’t work. I cried out to Felix a warning - “brakes not working!” - but he had no chance of getting out of the way. We crashed - hard.

Richard Branson recovering on the road after a Strive Challenge bike crash
Strive Challenge

We both fell off our bikes and our heads and bodies slammed into the concrete road. There is no question that wearing helmets saved our lives – not the first time that has been the case. We both lay flat out on the road as the rest of the team gathered around us. I stayed still, hoping I hadn’t broken my back or paralysed myself. Slowly, I moved my limbs and was relieved they responded. Thankfully, Felix was ok too. He said: “I've never had someone push me off the road and apologise in advance - it was very gentle and kind!”

Richard Branson smiling after a bike crash on the 2021 Strive Challenge
Strive Challenge

The team stopped traffic, and we got up and headed over to a van to head to Virgin Gorda hospital. Just as we did so, another van came hurtling round the corner and careened into another vehicle right where we had just been lying – another close shave!

Richard Branson's injured arm following a bike crash on the 2021 Strive Challenge
Strive Challenge

Thanks so much to the medical team who helped us. I’ve got some severe cuts and bruises on my elbow, an extraordinarily big bump on my hip and a massive hematoma on my leg. But it could have been so much worse. 

Of course, this isn’t my first close shave while cycling. Here's a photo from a bad cycling accident I had in 2016, where I cracked my cheek and tore several ligaments.

Richard Branson drinks tea from a straw following a bike accident in 2016
Branson family

For those of us lucky to have had horrible near misses and got up and walked away, we're very blessed. So many people don't walk away. But I won’t stop taking on challenges and adventures – it’s how I’ve always lived my life.

Richard Branson's injury from a bike crash on the 2021 Strive Challenge
Strive Challenge

It is incredible how adrenaline kicks in when you are injured – it was only after getting home and lying down that my injuries really started to throb. I'm now sitting with my feet up, with ice packs on my injuries, which are starting to go down. Felix is doing well too. Thanks everyone for your kind wishes!