Why you shouldn’t overlap wheels

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Riding in a bunch safely requires a sixth sense that only countless hours of practise will teach you. Racing will accelerate this learning curve, but not everyone has the luxury or desire to compete. Either way, one day or another you’ll probably find yourself riding in a bunch where you’ll need to know the unwritten rules.

I shared this video on social media yesterday to hear your thoughts about the crash and who is at fault. The views were split — many people saw the front rider as being at fault and I can certainly see why. But those are the responses that worried me.

In my view, the correct responses were:

Whether it’s an incident involving a vehicle or another cyclist, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault — you’re the one going down on pavement like a bag of potatoes and trust me: it hurts like hell. With that in mind, let’s consider the crash above and how it could have been prevented for the unfortunate guy who touched down.

It’s easy to judge in hindsight, but I can see a number of errors which led to this crash. The rider in front is most definitely at fault for riding erratically, but the rider behind could have avoided it he hadn’t been overlapping wheels.

The rider in the front did have good intentions and the foresight to signal (as ambiguous as that signal was). Unfortunately there wasn’t much else other than his hand signal to indicate that he was turning. He should have been in the left side of the lane, but it’s hard to tell without a front view of what was coming up.

The rider coming from behind did slow down when he saw the front rider’s hand come out, and he probably had no idea what that signal meant. His only mistake was that when he slowed down, his front wheel was overlapped with the front rider’s rear wheel (granted he was nearly a metre away). Still, this is a dangerous place to be.

There’s a saying in bike racing: you are responsible for your own front wheel. In this case it wasn’t a race but the sentiment remains the same and it’s even more important to remember when riding amongst others you’re not familiar with.

If this unwritten rule had been followed, the accident wouldn’t have occurred. Yes, the man in the front massively chopped the rider behind, but it was the rider behind that paid for it (and the guys behind him). In an uncontrolled environment, never overlap wheels. This is for your own safety.

This video is a good example of a situation that most experienced riders would have been able to avoid.

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