As Lance Armstrong once said; “If you worried about falling off the bike, you’d never get on”. Obviously no one goes out to crash their bike while out on the road, well no one with any sense of self preservation, but you will at some point become a victim of gravity. Many factors of a crash are out of your control, however there are certain things you can do to make the experience (slightly) less painful upon impact with the ground. The basics of falling learnt by many martial artists and gymnasts can be used to lessen the blow of a fall. Using the momentum of a fall to roll out of a crash is often very effective, although easier said than done. In this blog we attempt to break down the most common falls on a bike and talk you through the crashing process, and how you might be able to save yourself from a little less road rash and bruising.
Clipless Newbie Fall
We’ve all been there, you get a new pair of shoes/pedals and haven’t quite mastered how to unclip. If you’re lucky it will happen in a quiet country lane and you will fall on a grassy verge. If you’re not then it will happen during rush hour at a busy set of traffic lights. A lack of experience or concentration is the cause as you forget to unclip as you start to lose balance. A slow motion sideways fall is usually the result, with severe embarrassment afterwards.
This is a relatively slow crash compared to other experiences that involve you, your bike and the ground. None the less this type of crash can be just as painful to you both physically and to your pride. Due to the lack of forward momentum during this crash you are unable to roll out of it. Your best bet is to spread the impact of the ground along your arm, hip and leg and then twisting onto your back. You may be able to lean the bike towards the ground, keeping your body upright for as long as possible giving you extra time to unclip. Another piece of advice would be to relax your body if you do end up hitting the ground. Of course this is easier said than done, but tensing your body as you make contact with the ground can cause you more injury.
Over the Handlebars
In this situation the front wheel has likely jammed or stopped suddenly enough to propel you over the handlebars. This may be due to a drain cover or stray dog wandering across the road. Whatever the reason the outcome is usually the same.
The worst thing you can do in this situation is to hold firmly onto the handlebars and shut your eyes tightly ready for impact. You will only have a tenth of a second to react but try to extend your leading arm towards the ground in order to absorb some of the impact. Your head should be tucked in as the last thing you want to do in this situation is to land with your full weight on your noggin. As you hit the road you want to try and roll out of your fall much how a gymnast would. Try to take the impact of the ground with a sequence of body parts; arms; shoulder; hip and legs and let the momentum of the fall allow you to continue rolling.The next process is to make sure your bike doesn’t land on top of you causing further injury. If you’ve managed to unclip your bike will hopefully have landed elsewhere.
This is another common type of crash you may experience when out on the bike. You may have leant into a corner and lost traction of your wheels. This type of fall can be recoverable if you manage to unclip and dab a foot don’t but chances are you won’t have time.
The road surface will play a major part in this crash. If it is wet or icy you may skid along the floor for longer than if you’re riding on a dry day. Unfortunately Lycra doesn’t give the best protection against asphalt and road rash is inevitable part of this type of fall. Again you will want to try to roll out of the crash using the momentum of the fall. The main aim of this is to keep as much skin as possible as you come into contact with the road. Spreading your weight across various body parts as you hit the floor will lessen the impact on are which are susceptible to break such as your collar bone. One of the main aims is not to get tangled up with the bike as you hit the ground. This can mean trying to distance yourself from the bike, particularly the handlebars which are a nasty part of your bike to fall on.
When writing this I understood there would be a barrage of negative comments questioning the stupidity of trying to prepare and plan for a crash. With crashes happening out of the blue and with only milliseconds to react, you may feel all the above information is useless. However with the above knowledge I believe you will be able to avoid less serious injury. Watching other crashes may seem rather sadistic, but examining how people roll out of crashes can give invaluable information if you end up in the same situation. Obviously we haven’t covered collisions or contact with other road users, but this is something we will look at in a later blog.
As always we want to hear your experiences. How do you cope with crashes? What was your latest incident involving the tarmac? Let us know in the comments section below.