I’ve suffered various injuries over the last 30 years of mountain biking. I’ve had a few broken bones and have lost plenty of skin but this week something different has stopped me riding, until today. I had some discomfort behind my left knee and on investigation I found a swollen area at the top of my calf, just below the back of the knee joint. I’d felt like I was suffering from cramp in the left calf and now think it’s all part of the same issue. It could have been a swelling in the posterior cruciate ligament which connects the muscle at the back of the thigh to the bone of the lower leg but because of the cramp like feeling in my calf I’m now thinking that the swelling is where the calf muscle attaches at the top. So what could be causing this swelling, which I’ve had for a few days.

An obvious explanation would be that I’d strained the muscle or ligament in a traumatic way, by twisting or stretching in an accident. I haven’t had any such accidents, though, so there must be another reason. I have a possible cause which eminates from my medical history.

When I was 17 years old I had food poisoning, specifically salmonella, which is caught from chickens or eggs. I really don’t know how I picked it up but I know all about the long term consequences. As soon as the food poisoning was over I started to feel pain in my shoulder joint which soon spread to many other joints. It was a form of rheumatoid arthritis and it changed the course of my life in many ways. I spent 9 weeks in hospital, it messed up my A level exams, taken the following summer and combined with the psychological effect on a young person it has been one of the defining events in my life. The entire course of my work and many other things have been materially changed.

I was starting to recover physically by the summer but didn’t return to serious sport until almost 2 years after the infection. I seemed to get over the arthritis until 7 or 8 years later when I suddenly started to feel a lot of joint pain. I was offered no treatment, since there was only pain relief available. Nothing could be done about the causes. After 6 to 9 months I was given a book by friend of my mother’s which I think was called “Diet for Life”. It advocated a diet to relieve arthritis not through pain relief but by removing certain foods which were claimed to trigger pain and inflammation. Guess what? It worked?

I was not susceptible to some of the triggers so was left just needing to avoid black pepper, chocolate and very acidic foods like fruit juices. Subsequently I identified mushrooms, which unfortunately I loved, so excluded those as well. It’s not easy to cut out all of these things unless you cook everything yourself from scratch but for nearly 35 years I’ve been fairly free from arthritis. I’ve yet to speak to a medical professional who believes any of this but that doesn’t matter, it works for me.

Strange, then, that I should make my wife a chocolate cake for last weekend and eat about half of it myself. I thought a little indulgence was unlikely to harm me but it appears that it has. The irritation of arthritis has often spead into my tendons and I think that is what’s happened this time. As a result I decided to take another day’s rest yesterday and do an easy ride today. I rode along the canal bank In glorious,sunny weather to the locks at Johnson’s Hillock where 7 locks rise by around 60 feet.

The bottom lock of the 7.

The Leeds/Liverpool canal is an amazing construction which crosses the Pennines, a chain of hills running up the middle of northern England. I think there are only 2 or 3 locks before the 22 locks at Wigan. 11 miles later are these 7 then only a few more until the Bingley 5 rise, which speaks for itself. This relative lack of locks does mean that the canal runs for 127 miles between the 2 cities which are only around 75 or 80 miles apart.

Boats line both sides of the water above the locks.

I continued past the boats moored at Wheelton before turning back towards home. I hope that the blood pumping round will have helped to speed my recovery and to be honest the swelling seems to have gone. I covered only around 10 miles of easy terrain but it was a lovely day to be out. In a few days I hope to back to real mountain biking.


  1. sailawaywithchelle says:

    Wow, that is a story!!! I am so sorry to hear that you had the recent pain and swelling — and to hear about being infected with salmonella at 17 — that is awful!!! I am glad that you recuperated, but I am also sorry to hear that you had to endure so much through that recovery and also how the infection impacted your life in many ways. I can relate to this having had some major health issues myself — and I will tell you that, I too, looked to diet as a way in which to manage my conditions. I firmly and wholeheartedly believe that this — diet — is an effective way in which we can help ourselves deal with issues our bodies encounter. I am with you that most of the doctors — except for the naturopathic doctors I’e seen — discount the value of diet in how it impacts our bodies –except for the more ‘accepted’ things, such as not drinking too much alcohol, not smoking, eating less red meet, reducing sugar intake, eating more veggies, etc — but outside of this, most medical doctors I meet never mention the benefits of how learning how diet can affect our health — adversely or positively. Good that you are keen on keeping an eye on your diet to help you — and I, too, feel for you on how it can be difficult to give up those things which you love — chocolate is one for me, coffee and alcohol (though I wasn’t a big drinker anyway) another, as well as some other foods I need to avoid. I try to tell myself when I feel down about it all that I have to look for the gratitude in what I can have/do and learn to accept (embrace!) that adapting to change is the way to keep moving forward, for me at least. I am glad that you’re feeling better, that you had a lovely ride, too –and oh, btw, are the locks the ones you were mentioning going through with your paddleboat? All the best, ~ Chelle

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kirkmtb says:

      Yes, they’re the same locks. From where I join the canal is 2.8 miles to the first lock which took me around 17 minutes by bike. In the boat that would be over an hour each way, so quite a big expedition. This morning the inflammation has gone completely. I just need a warm day now. I may prefer to go in the opposite direction towards a canal marina. It’s nice to sail alongside other boats. I also walked the canal with our dog, Freddie, yesterday to feel the wind blowing. I hope to build another boat with pedal power but sail assisted but the trees and lie of the land mean that the wind is inconsistent. I think I need to make sure that I can take the new boat by car to a lake about 55 miles away.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. sailawaywithchelle says:

        Hi, Andrew! So glad to learn that the inflammation has gone away — awesome! I think that going through the locks by boat would be really cool — I’ve been watching some sailors do this — the Panama Canal (Wind Hippie Sailing) and a series of locks in Scotland, I think, is where the other set of locks were (Sam Holmes Sailing on that one). Hope you get some warmer weather soon your way — we’ve been having sunshine and temps in mid 40s and 50s, which has been great! Boating and biking season is on the way! Woot woot!!!

        Liked by 1 person

  2. sailawaywithchelle says:

    * oops, typo — red meat (not meet!) 😉


  3. crustytuna says:

    I think diet can absolutely affect inflammation. So great that you’ve been able to control it so well for so long. Not a Baker’s cyst? Hope you get back to biking soon!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. kirkmtb says:

      The inflammation has gone this morning. Hopefully it was just as I thought and a bit of blood flowing around has helped.

      Liked by 1 person

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