Bicycle safety | 5 MIN READ

What you must know about crashing your bike

If you spend any significant time on two wheels, you will eventually crash. While accumulating riding experience will cut down on the frequency of crashes, even the most experienced riders crash. Knowing what to do in case of a crash will help you minimize the severity of injuries and damage to your bike.

How to crash

If you’re going to fall, then you might as well fall the right way. Here’s a quick step-by-step bike crash “how to.”

1. Assume the proper position

The position in which you fall plays a significant role in how well you fare the crash itself. If you’re able, hold onto the handlebars and keep yourself upright. Oftentimes, this action in itself can balance you out and prevent a fall. Even if you cannot avoid the crash, keeping your grip on the handlebars is still a good idea. If you realize that you cannot avoid the fall, then try to maintain the following position during the fall: hold onto the handlebars, keep the knee closest to the ground tucked into bike, and apply pressure on the inside of handlebars. By using this crash method, your bike ends absorbing some of the impact. Keep in mind that your elbows should be kept bent, but unlocked, as this will help you easily transition into the roll later.

2. Manage the slide

When the braking force on the wheel exceeds the grip of the tire, a situation that occurs most commonly in corners, the wheel will slide. As scary as this may sound, with practice, you can develop quick enough reflexes that could help prevent a crash. If the wheel starts sliding, release the brakes. While this might sound counterintuitive, by releasing the brakes, the wheel has an opportunity to regain traction. If the sliding wheel regains grip, then you can resume use of your brakes by feathering them.

3. Spot the exit

When you’re out riding, it is imperative that you are constantly aware of your surroundings. Constantly assessing your surroundings not only makes your ride more enjoyable, but also makes you a safer cyclist. With an awareness of what’s around you, you will have an easier time identifying a safe, unobstructed route to your landing spot.

4. Pick a safe landing spot

Every crash involves a landing, which makes your landing spot one of the most important factors to consider when crashing. If possible, avoid falling onto concrete, pavement, or any other hard, abrasive surfaces. Instead, look for dirt or grass patches. If you are riding on a public road, try to steer away from the road so as to avoid oncoming traffic.

5. Tuck and roll

This is when those bent elbows in the first step come into play. If you lock your elbows, much of the crash impact will transfer to your collarbone, which could result in a broken collarbone. This is the kind of injury you absolutely want to avoid. When rolling, keep your chin tucked into your chest, with your shoulder closest to the ground pulled forward. As mentioned before, your elbows should remain bent, but unlocked. Eventually, you will roll onto your side, and end up on your thigh and butt.

Don’t rush

We’ve all seen the crash victim who insists they are fine and jumps up, ready to pedal on. It’s not until after the crash-induced adrenaline rush subsides that a crash victim should consider riding on. If you crash, it is imperative that you assess injury and damage to both yourself and your bike prior to continuing your ride. Before anything else, even before you get up, check your body. Make sure you can feel and move all your limbs. Be careful standing and do not try to lift the bike until you are sure there are no serious injuries. If your head hit the ground, you may not be aware of a sustained head injury. Do not risk moving around if you think that you might be are seriously injured. Call for EMS and seek medical evaluation. Test your body by moving your limbs and ensure that you feel no pain elsewhere in your body. Always take at least a few minutes to assess your condition.

Concussion

Concussions are all too common in the world of cycling, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t serious. In fact, the average recovery time for a mild concussion is five to seven days. The first thing you should do is familiarize yourself with symptoms of a concussion so you know what signs to look for.If able, remove your helmet and check the exterior for obvious impact marks and then the inside of the helmet for cracks or impact depressions. A concussion does not always leave you disoriented, so even if there are no obvious damages to the helmet and you are aware of your location and surroundings, it is still recommended that you stop riding and seek a medical evaluation after any significant head impact.“Remember, getting off the bike won’t kill you, but if you’re concussed, staying on it might.” Once you are fairly sure you have no major injuries, you can start assessing damage to the bike.

Wheels

Typically, wheels fare the worst in a crash, but they are the easiest to diagnose. Ask yourself the following questions when assessing your bike for damage:

  • Is the wheel spinning freely?
  • Does the tire hold air?
  • Are there broken spokes?
  • Are the brakes working and not binding up?
  • After inspecting the wheels, you can begin testing the brake and gear components.

After inspecting the wheels, you can begin testing the brake and gear components.

Components

Check shifting and brake levers for correct positioning. If they are out of alignment, do not push them around the handlebar, as this can score the bar and cause failure at a later time. If the gears are shifting smoothly and the chain runs through the gears without a problem, then the next thing to check is the saddle. Ensure that the rails are not broken and that the saddle is aligned. Now you are almost ready to get back on the bike.

Frame

The final bike check is of the frame. Inspect the frame for cracks or deep gouges. This check is especially important if your bike has a carbon frame, as a crack in a carbon framed bike has the potential to turn into a serious problem if you continue pedaling. The frame check is the final check that you need to conduct prior to getting back on your bike.

Be prepared

Just like the boy scout motto, “Be prepared,” especially if you are riding in an area that has no support system or is away from public transport. When you plan a ride away from civilization, be sure to carry everything you might need should things go wrong. You will need a multi-tool, tire levers, spare tubes, a tire inflator, basic first aid supplies, bad weather clothing, hydration, food, and a mobile phone to call for help.

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