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If you know how to ski, one of the first things you learned was how to fall with minimal impact to your body. Chances are, you haven’t paid much attention to how to fall and avoid falling from your bike. However, like skiing, falling is part of riding. If you ride long enough, you will take a fall.  

Here are some common causes of crashes and some tips on avoiding them.

-Overlapping wheels is when your front wheel passes the rear wheel of the rider in front of you. This lessens the amount of time and space you have in responding to his/her actions and increases the odds of bumping.
Avoid it by watching the pack so you know when riders are slowing. Overlapping often occurs when riders slow into corners. Leave enough room between your front wheel and the rear wheel of the bike in front of you in case the rider stands which pushes the bike back about 6 inches.
Too late? Lightly tap the rear brake and coast a stroke or two. Do not swerve. The rider behind you is depending on your line. If you get bumped focus on holding your line with your hips, not your handlebar. Using your handlebar can veer you off course.

-Keeping your head down. As we get tired or distracted we often lower our heads which leaves us vulnerable to the sudden appearance of people, parked cars, dogs and just about any other hazard. I can attest, I grazed a parked car while watching my cadence.
Avoid it by staying alert on familiar routes and in a group. And if you need to, stop for caffeine as fatigue affects your pedaling which affects your stability. Also, make sure your bike fits properly because you’ll be less likely to be in a slumped over position.
Too late? Brake smoothly and stay in a straight line. Put your weight back a little to keep the bike straight and upright. If there’s an obstacle, try to lift the front wheel over it and if it’s something bigger, try to hit it with your hip which is closes to your center of gravity.

-Hazardous corners can be just about any corner. It could have some loose gravel or debris, you’re going too fast, it’s wet or you hit a painted line.
Avoid it by prioritize form over sheer speed; keep your head up and look as far through the turn as you can; avoid drifting; brake early in the straightaway before the turn; if the roads are wet, let some air out of your tires; don’t grab the brakes in a turn – you’ll put extra force on the tires.
Too late? Stand the bike up and go straight, apologizing to those around and behind you; for gravel, stand the bike up slightly and point straight through it; only change your line once you are through the debris.

-Half-wheeling happens when you are riding slightly ahead of the person next to you in a paceline.
Avoid it by matching the gear and cadence with the rider next to you.
Too late? Soft-pedal a stroke or two to come even again.

-Riding tense, well, that’s when you are tight, every movement is magnified and if you can react quickly the reaction is exaggerated.
Avoid it by a proper bike fit (see, it’s made the list twice); and relax.
Too late? Ride on your brake hoods and wrap your middle fingers over the brake. It’s hard to squeeze too hard with only those fingers.

 

Ok, suppose you just crashed, below are the proper ways to respond.

  1. The first thing to do after hitting the ground is to lie still for a moment and make a mental checklist of injuries; try to wiggle your fingers and toes before sitting up.
  2. You’re bleeding badly. To stop it apply direct pressure to the wound and use spare clothing if necessary.
  3. You hit your head. So, assuming all is well, get a new helmet. Helmets are designed to take only one hit.
  4. You get a road rash. Once home gently brush out what you can with warm water and soap but don’t force it to come out on its own.