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Best Practices For Bike Crashing
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Hello All,

Thinking about the recent mono riser failure crash video thread http://forum.slowtwitch.com/...ost=6420622#p6420622

In the video it looked like the rider https://www.facebook.com/...eos/857944257714303/ did an nice job body surfing the pavement.

As noted ……. gloves would probably have helped although the road looked a bit wet and smooth.

There is some advice out there on best way to crash …. but it seems to me that some crashes occur so quickly and so awkwardly that it is difficult to ‘do it right’.

Another rider hit my bike while passing me and down I went ….. it was raining off and on …… the road was wet.

I have only crashed a few times and it seems that each time ….. I had time to do nothing “right or wrong’ …… and thinking back …… the crash was so quick …. I was aware that I was going down ….. next thing I know I was sitting by my bent bike bars taking inventory of what happened. I sat up … took my bike out of the road and sat down for a couple of minutes.

The race helicopter came by (I was surprised it was so quick) asked if I was OK …. I gave them a thumbs up.

I had a big divot in my helmet (thanks helmet) and from the chip seal road ….. lots of road rash …. no broken bones.

I was trying to steer to keep my bike upright until close to the ground and I did not have time to put my arm out to break my fall and landed on my shoulder …. may have saved my collar bone.

I was still in race mode and got my bars sort of straight (aluminum bars) and with the front wheel cocked a bit to one side got back in the race and finished. In my case having gloves and a helmet really helped. I retired the helmet …. my bib shorts and jersey …. to the garbage can ….. the gloves survived with a couple of small rips.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gsYxOTmIU_4

Wet roads are a menace …….

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uNFhh22IiU

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9gVKtlv5wGw

So …… what helped you in a crash? ….. what are your thoughts on best practices for crashes?

Cheers, Neal

+1 mph Faster
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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That's tough. We'll, it's easy to say... But, the reactions have to be instinctive to be effective. The problem is the natural instincts are wrong. We all want to catch ourselves. But that puts all the fragile parts in the way when going down.

The only way to unlearn the wrong instincts and learn the right ones is practice. Who wants to practice crashing?
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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too many ways...

just be prepared for the aftermath as much as you can
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [Tom_hampton] [ In reply to ]
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Instincts are all right. You throw your delicate arms out to protect your head/body, vitals parts. Broken collar bone is better than cracked skull. Crashes suck. Wear your helmet properly. Avoiding the crash is obvious, but if its gonna happen protect your head neck body at sacrifice of everything else.
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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nealhe wrote:
I have only crashed a few times and it seems that each time ….. I had time to do nothing “right or wrong’ …… and thinking back …… the crash was so quick …. I was aware that I was going down ….. next thing I know I was sitting by my bent bike bars taking inventory of what happened. I sat up … took my bike out of the road and sat down for a couple of minutes.

I have a lot of experience... and I've been lucky. I think I must have learned some of it as a kid riding a bike and falling. I've crashed at least 30 times as an adult on road bikes. Most of them in crits.

Of course you don't have time to "think" during the crash. You need to do the programming ahead of time. I think visualization might help a lot. Imagine scenarios and how you'd react. Anything head first, I naturally tuck and roll. Falling to the side my hip usually hits the ground first then my forearm and torso. I never try to catch myself (so far). Best thing is to orient your body and relax. The pavement isn't going to yield, so you have to. Not easy to do.
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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Of course it's not realistic every time, but in my last crash I was able to unclick at least one cleat before hitting the deck on that same side. I think that was huge for me but can't necessarily prove it, but I think it allowed me to break my own fall a little. I was also able to grab the brakes for a split second and that I know was key in walking away with just a few bumps and scrapes. Moral of the story: stationary trainers can be dangerous. (That was a joke).
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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Tom_hampton wrote:
That's tough. We'll, it's easy to say... But, the reactions have to be instinctive to be effective. The problem is the natural instincts are wrong. We all want to catch ourselves. But that puts all the fragile parts in the way when going down.

The only way to unlearn the wrong instincts and learn the right ones is practice. Who wants to practice crashing?
I did when I was young, basically, by diving for volleyballs.



So I think actually falling a lot in other sports - that is tumbling, skiing, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, volleyball, etc. - will help instinctively with falling on the bike.
You're spot on that we should not try to catch ourselves when hitting the ground - rather we should slide or roll.

That said, if the OP is concerned about crashing, perhaps a more useful thing would be to practice not crashing in the first place. Here's something I wrote about that

https://medium.com/@johntomlinson/staying-up-607a3bf88de4


http://www.jt10000.com/
Last edited by: jt10000: Sep 13, 17 20:17
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [rruff] [ In reply to ]
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rruff wrote:
Of course you don't have time to "think" during the crash.

About 30 years ago, I had my last "self-inflicted" road crash (everything since has been during crits), descending on GMR. I was taking a sweeping left hand turn at about 40mph, near the shoulder, and hit a rock about the size of a grapefruit. My front wheel just missed it, but the rear wheel hit it and got kicked into the air. At this point, it was one of those experiences where time slows down. My mind ran through the whole scenario: "I'm leaning to the left, my rear wheel is about to touch down again, and I'm about 1-2 feet from a dirt shoulder. I'll lay the bike down on the left side, I'll only slide a few feet on the pavement until I hit dirt, and the road rash probably won't be that bad..." So I was prepared to slide out on my left side, but unfortunately when the tire touched down again, I was immediately catapulted off towards the right, which I was completely unprepared for...

"I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 10, and I don't know why!"
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [Warbird] [ In reply to ]
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Warbird wrote:
So I was prepared to slide out on my left side, but unfortunately when the tire touched down again, I was immediately catapulted off towards the right, which I was completely unprepared for...

What happened to time then? Just curious.
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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not to get too off topic but what you might be after is how to avoid crashing after contact (?). One thing we always drilled (as a roadie) early in the season was becoming comfortable (as much as possible) with contact. You could start off with having a buddy ride alongside (ideally at a slow speed and on a grass surface) and push against your hips or shoulders so that you become used to that. Progress to bumping elbows and eventually bumping shoulder/leaning against each other (as you see in sprint finishes).
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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Tim_Canterbury has the right idea.

Learning better bike handling skills, to potentially prevent the crash, shouldn't be overlooked. Go to a CX practice session and start bumping arms and shoulders ...
Last edited by: rijndael: Sep 14, 17 9:52
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [Rider17] [ In reply to ]
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I agree. Broken neck, skull fracture head injury worst outcome.

Life is full of froth and trouble, two things stand in stone
Kindness in another's troubles, courage in one's own
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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Go take a couple of Judo classes
The first thing they teach you as far as I remember is how to fall.

Here's a link to the basics (first googled link I found) and I'm sure you can google a thousand YouTube videos as well:
http://judoinfo.com/breakfalls/

You are basically taught to never stick out your arm, roll, and absorb the force across your body.
If you go down this way while cycling, you will get road rash, but unlikely to break any bones.


People always tell me "but crashes happen too fast! You can't train that!".
Well, 20 years since my last judo class, the technique is still instinctive to me. And getting your ass flipped to the mat in Judo happens pretty fast too.
I have hit the ground hard about a half dozen times over the past 15 years and I have never sustained a serious injury.
I'm seriously considering teaching a "how to fall" session for my cycling club. Too many collarbones lately.









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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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Back in my bike racing days we were always told don't unclip or let go of the bars when going down. Like others have said you have to really program this in your hard drive way ahead of time, otherwise you will just do what seems prudent at the time. By letting a leg or arm go out to break the fall can lead to breaking those appendages or things connected to them. Way I was taught was you can get up and ride with road rash the next day, even that day, but not with broken bones.

It is a hard thing to do, but I would guess I had at least a 1/2 dozen crashes after learning this and did it each time. Nothing ever broken, but of course road rash, but you are going to get that no matter what you do. Think of rolling when going down, hitting on a large surface as soft as possible. This causes more sliding and rash, but it beats the alternative of stopping very quickly and getting a quick shock to a particular joint in your body.
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [jt10000] [ In reply to ]
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jt10000 wrote:
I did when I was young, basically, by diving for volleyballs.


So I think actually falling a lot in other sports - that is tumbling, skiing, dance, gymnastics, martial arts, volleyball, etc. - will help instinctively with falling on the bike.
You're spot on that we should not try to catch ourselves when hitting the ground - rather we should slide or roll.

So did I. Ball sports of all types, martial arts, generally being a stupid kid, rock climbing, downhill skiing, skating...etc. When you are falling down EVERY damn day, you learn pretty quickly that trying to catch yourself with your arms, hands, wrists, feet or whatever doesn't do anything except hurt your arms/ hands/ wrists/ ankles. Keep your appendages clear, slide, tuck, roll, whatever to dissipate the impact. In martial arts, we learned to twist and take the impact on our rear quarter/shoulder blade area--its round, its strong, its flexible, and you naturally roll (rather than stop with a thud) which helps spread the load. We spent entire class sessions doing it over and over and over. You can even learn to direct the energy and return to your feet.

As an aside: We'd probably all be healthier, more physically robust adults if we continued to fall-down all the time, like we did as kids.

Road (or Tri) Bike crashing while clipped in is such a crap shoot, though. For the most part you've only got limited control of your arms, less so the torso, and almost nil for legs. The direction of fall is almost guaranteed to be sideways. And since you can't roll because of that bike between your legs, you are most likely to land on your shoulder---> collar bone fracture. That said, I've never broken anything in a bike crash...just road rash. Is that because of my instincts learned from my active youth? Maybe...dunno.

I haven't spent enough time falling off the bike to know what really works and what doesn't...like I did from falling off my feet. At 49, I don't really want to either.
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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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I've crashed hard twice and seen several other crashes up close. Most of the time it is going to happen so fast that you are literally on the ground before you have any time to react. Many of the hard crashes I have seen (including my two) the rider actually still had their hands on the bars as they hit the ground because it happened so fast they did not have time to even instinctively react to reach out to break the fall (a bad idea anywhere if you have the time).

The key skill is avoiding crashes. I have avoided a couple in groups or in races and it came down mostly to being able keep riding the bike, to think in the moment and stay up long enough for an opening to show up and then being able to maneuver through it. The folks around me who just jammed on the brakes but did not steer generally went down.

If you are crashing and do have time to do something between the time it becomes evident you are going down and when you actually hit the ground:
  • Weigh the odds and pick a landing spot if you can (e.g. a 30% chance of a heroic save but concrete if it does not work is not as good an option as a planned landing on grass)
  • avoid sticking you arm out (broken wrist or collar bone)
  • It is really nice if you can avoid:

    • Landing directly on your shoulder first (broken collar bone); and/or
    • Landing such that your elbow gets jammed into your ribs (bruised or broken ribs).

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Re: Best Practices For Bike Crashing [nealhe] [ In reply to ]
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There is no 'right way'. Too many variables. You'll drive yourself crazy trying to say 'I should have...'. Every crash is different. I landed on my shoulder and broke my collar bone. I held onto the bars and scraped the skin on my knuckles down to the tendons (yes, you could actually see them). I've fallen on road, MTB, CX, and MX. MX has been the best because I have all kinds of protective gear on, with MTB to a lesser extent. And I've had many years of wrestling, tae kwon do, and judo to learn how to fall properly. Sometimes rolling through will be the best move, sometimes catching yourself and sliding, sometimes a combination of the two. Sometimes your best bet will be to unclip, sometimes staying clipped in. In the end, be sure to tuck your head and protect yourself the best you can. I wear MBT gloves for everything except TTs now. They've saved my hands more than once.

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