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Crashing on a road bike sucks. There’s no two ways about it. Whenever I’m out mountain biking there’s always someone who has a stack, but usually it’s laughed off and no one gets seriously hurt. Crashing on a road bike is different. It’s always a drama and there’s often a visit to the hospital to clean up the wounds or get the collarbone patched up.
Many crashes can be avoided by knowing how to stay out of trouble or understanding how to handle your bike in potentially dangerous situations. Here are a few of them:
1. Overlapping Wheels. When riding in a bunch, the golden rule is DO NOT OVERLAP WHEELS. What is meant by “overlapping wheels” is that you shouldn’t ride behind someone in a position where your front wheel is ahead of his rear wheel. This gives me an excuse to use my mini-peloton to illustrate:
As you can see by the red arrow, Rider X (let’s imagine he races for Total Rush) is overlapping wheels with the Rider Y (he races for O2Networks). When Rider Y suddenly pulls out to dominate the sprint in the SKCC Club Champs this Sunday, RiderX has no where to go, his front wheel will clip RiderY’s rear wheel, and RiderX will likely go down. It’s up to RiderX to be careful of the movements of those ahead of him. If you keep overlapping wheels, it’s a sure way to come down in a bunch.
There will always be some degree of overlapping wheels when riding in a bunch, but it’s a bad position to put yourself in. A good rule of thumb to keep in mind is that you are responsible for your front wheel, not the person ahead.
2. The second crash. When riding in a bunch and you hear that awful sound of carbon and metal cracking and sliding along the pavement behind you, there’s often a second crash quickly after. This is caused by the riders looking behind them to see what happened. When you hear a crash behind you, don’t panic and continue as you were. Unless of course you’re concerned about the rider who might have crashed…(that doesn’t happen here in our bunch rides)
3. Braking while cornering. Most crashes happen on corners. The most common thing that happens is the front wheel washes out and before you know it you’re sliding along the pavement. The biggest thing to remember is not to suddenly grab your brakes while in the middle of a corner. When braking, the weight of the bike and rider moves forward and the front tyre makes the transition from unloaded to loaded. Making this change too quickly won’t allow the front tyre cope with the sudden requirement for additional traction. Progressively using the back brake settles the rear and affects how the weight is distributed during braking (which should only be done in a straight line).
All of your braking should be done before you enter the corner while you are upright (not leaning). If you arrive at corner and suddenly recognise that you are going too fast, straighten the bike and feather the brakes (more rear than front) and get into it again. Read a previous article on descending tips and cornering tips for more info on this subject.
4. Changing your line in the middle of a corner. This comes back to entering a corner at the correct speed. When you decrease the radius of your turn, you’ll increase the amount of force pushing you to the outside of the corner. This is when your front tyre can potentially wash out.
5. Too much tyre pressure. This is one of the biggest mistakes made by new cyclists. There’s a misconception that more tyre pressure is better and makes you faster. It’s astonishing how many people pump up their clinchers to 140psi, the road gets a little bit wet, and then someone comes-off though a corner. I have an entire post that I’ve been meaning to publish on tyre pressure coming in the near future.
6. Riding differently on wet roads. The same rules apply on wet roads as they do on dry roads, however you need to be extra careful and let down your tyre pressure. I have no problem with riding at 90 PSI on wet roads. Many people will change their technique on wet roads. The only difference between wet roads and dry roads is that flaws in technique will be amplified and potentially dangerous.
There are many things you have no control of out on the road, but recognising which situations to stay away from and how to handle your bike properly are the first steps to staying upright. Now, how much do you want to wager that I’ll have a crash shortly after writing this post?