Crashes happen – It’s part of cycling
Written by Jack Stafford, Professional Cycling Writer
April 30, 201
It’s part and parcel of being a cyclist. An inconvenient truth of sorts. But crashes and wipeouts are a thing. Many can be prevented, while others were simply destined to happen.
Here we take a look at where close calls or wipeouts are most likely to occur, and later we discuss how they can be avoided.
In the bunch – Where a mistake can do untold damage
As cyclists, we’ve all had close calls. In the bunch they happen all the time. Perhaps someone in front hit their brakes too hard, or perhaps it was their reactionary weaving to avoid an obstacle that almost took you down.
From an innocuous wobble and clash of wheels, to an all out catastrophe, riding in the bunch has its dangers. Cycling in close proximity to others can be intimidating, especially when you know a simple mistake can bring the whole bunch down. Most acclimatize quite well to riding in the bunch, but unfortunately some take more than one tumble before they master it.
If that’s you, then fear not. Even the pros are still learning! Try watching the first week of the Tour de France in the lead up to the bunch sprints.
The descents – High speed and high risk
Descending is where many novices get caught out. Taking the wrong line into a tight bend at speed may mean there’s a chance you’re not coming out! Running wide or carrying too much speed are the two most common mistakes from the nervous to the over-confident.
Some bring it all unto themselves?
Maybe you’re all alone with no one around for miles. A sudden hard effort up a steep section and a cleat that slips out of the pedal is all it takes. After a nasty bang on the groin, you’re on the floor. Even your equipment can let you down when you least expect it.
So what can you do to minimize the chance of a crash?
How to avoid a crash and minimize the risks
When we crash or experience a near miss, we can usually pinpoint the cause. Thankfully most of us learn from it before doing more damage to ourselves or others.
Let’s take a look at a few of the ways to avoid being the person responsible for the wipeout.
Don’t be the weaver in the bunch
Cycling in the bunch is prime territory for a simple mistake to lead to disastrous consequences. You’ll want to avoid hearing the crunch of carbon at all costs when you’re powering along in the group. To ensure you’re not the person responsible for causing irreparable damage to high-end bikes, here are a few things you can do.
- Always leave enough space between yourself and the person in front. This is especially important if you’re not familiar with them or notice an erratic riding style. Assume they may brake or swerve without notice. And be ready for it.
- Focus on the road ahead, not the wheel. Avoid becoming hypnotized by the wheel in front. Sure, it’s important to be weary of it, but ensure you also direct your senses to potential dangers elsewhere.
- Riding on the inside before a steep bend or along a steep ravine? Be weary of getting blocked in with nowhere to go. Make yourself heard, or back off and allow others space if you suspect danger.
Take the right line. Stay safe on descents
We’ve all seen the pros descend like falcons, but trying to emulate them can end up in disaster for many. In reality it requires years of practice, and when your paycheck doesn’t depend on it, why tempt fate?
To stay upright on the descents, here are a few tips.
- Following a nervous descender? Give them space, or better yet, pass them and take the lead. When following someone on a descent it’s very difficult to avoid following their line. If they go wrong, then you too go wrong, and there’s no point in both of you ending up in the ditch!
- If passing someone on the inside at speed, make sure you shout. Oftentimes cyclist have enough on their minds on a fast descent. Stretched to their limits, the last thing they may expect is to be passed.
- One danger anyone who cycles in rural areas has come across is animals crossing the road and dogs chasing. This becomes even more dangerous at speed on a descent. Try and anticipate any potential dangers beforehand. If you spot something up ahead, be prepared to react and let others know.
Some of us merely get the occasional warning of what can go wrong, while the unlucky few learn the hard way. As rewarding as cycling is, it can be dangerous. Thankfully however, by following a few simple guidelines you can avoid those sights and sounds of tangled bikes and snapped carbon that no one wants.