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    My Duty to Ride dwightonabike's Avatar
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    Mountain Bike Vs. Road Bike Safety

    I am having trouble getting my mountain biking friend to join me on a road trip. He claims the danger of road biking is too great. I remember reading that only a small portion of cyclist deaths involve a motor vehicle, but I can't find the citation. Does anyone know of any information that compares the danger of cycling on the road to off-road cycling?

    On a side note, why do people only post the incidents that involve cars on this forum? How come we never see threads titled, "Another Biker Death: Cyclist Falls Down Attempting to Cross Train Tracks"?

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    I think road biking is safer, after hearing my uncle talk about "bone breaking incidents" on his MTB and seeing a book called "The Mountain Bike Way Of Knowledge with cute cartoons galore and half of 'em concerning various busted body parts and how to rescue fellow bikers with compound fractures etc.......

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    Senior Member LCI_Brian's Avatar
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    It's almost like comparing apples and oranges, as the risks in each are different. But if we're comparing road biking with mountain biking downhill on technical singletrack, then I'd say road biking is safer. On the other hand, if we're talking about riding a mountain bike on a graded dirt road, then that could be said to be safer than road riding.

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    My Duty to Ride dwightonabike's Avatar
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    Put another way, what percentage of deaths while cycling are off-road? What percentage of deaths while biking on the road are a result of collision with an automobile?

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    No longer in Wimbledon... womble's Avatar
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    The difference in perception can be attributed in the amount of controllable risk. Road bikers can control their risk partially by manner of their riding (eg vehicular cycling) but are still largely at the mercy of the actions of drivers (and pedestrians) around them.

    On the other hand, there mountain bikers ride with nobody else around them and so are not affected by the actions of others. As such, they control their own risk. If they control their risk, they feel safer.

    An analogy can be seen in driving and flying. Driving is one of the riskiest activities we engange in, but drivers feel confident because they are in control of the car. Conversely, many people fear flying despite it being much safer, as they feel helpless in an aircraft.

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    SNIKT! Karldar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwightonabike
    Put another way, what percentage of deaths while cycling are off-road? What percentage of deaths while biking on the road are a result of collision with an automobile?

    Those are some good questions, but I would keep in mind that stats can be twisted in many ways to back up just about any point one would care to make. The way the first question is worded, a cyclist could be knocked off the road by a vehicle and, if the cyclist died, it could, technically, be considered an "off-road" death. And, for on-road deaths, what if a MTB'er gets hit by a truck while crossing a road to continue a trail ride? Is that an on-road death, even if the cyclist wasn't "road-riding"? In other words, people that ride roads might quote stats supporting their view that MTB'ing is more dangerous or lethal(even though it might be something that affects hikers, equestrians and kayakers), while MTB'ers might bring up the huge number of vehicular deaths worldwide to prove their point(even the ones that don't involve bikes at all). I know my examples are simplistic, but I think my point is made.

    Now, as a MTB'er, I think the risk of injury is greater off-road, while the possibility of death is greater on-road. No basis in fact, necessarily, just my opinion. I think it really comes down to how much (perceived)risk an individual is willing to take. I busted my knee on a rock yesterday, but I accepted that might(well, probably) happen to me. I'm not willing to accept the risk that a drunk in a motor vehicle might run me over and maim or kill me. No amount of stat-quoting will change my mind, but personal experience might if I hop on the road for a short jaunt(say to the trailhead) and don't get killed or buzzed or anything. Sorry for the rambling post. Just my $.02....
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    My Duty to Ride dwightonabike's Avatar
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    Yeah, statistics can be twisted to support a view that someone might want to prove, but they can provide useful insight if you approach with some education in statistics and an open mind.

    Of course there will be some significance in how different riding styles and crashes are defined. It can get pretty complicated. Consider a recent incident I had. Cycling on a greenway MUP, I was going left around a sharp curve, with vegetation close to the trail, blocking the view around the corner. Coming around the curve the other way was one of those 6-wheeled, gasoline powered Gators that are commonly used in sports arenas. She was taking up the whole path, going around a right hand curve, enjoying the view of nature off to her left, all while talking on the cell phone! I was able to avoid a collision by going off the paved path and stopping. How would you define a collision like that?! She was not in a car, but it was a motor vehicle, it was not a public road, but it was paved with asphalt. Add into the statistical mix cell phone use, and the lines start to blur. But I would still like to hear some sort of legitimate statistics concerning road vs. off-road injuries and death.

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    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    Good points all around. There is, of course, some uncontrolled risk in mountain biking, in the form of sinkholes or other hidden "traps."
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    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwightonabike
    I am having trouble getting my mountain biking friend to join me on a road trip. He claims the danger of road biking is too great. I remember reading that only a small portion of cyclist deaths involve a motor vehicle, but I can't find the citation. Does anyone know of any information that compares the danger of cycling on the road to off-road cycling?

    On a side note, why do people only post the incidents that involve cars on this forum? How come we never see threads titled, "Another Biker Death: Cyclist Falls Down Attempting to Cross Train Tracks"?
    I think your side note is an excellent point. I have read many places that more cyclists are injured in single bike accidents, or falls. We rarely talk about falls here, but understanding them better might save more lives and injuries than all our worries about autos.

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    I am very concerned about safety because of several accidents in a sport I conduct to be more healthy:
    1) Road bike slipped on wet leaves on park road. Big damage to me and the bike.
    2) Road bike slipped on oil, again a park road in a Michigan Metro park.
    3) Tandem bike flipped over due to hidden deep pot hole on a Wisconsin R to T.
    These accidents cost much pain and could have been deadly. I do not know how to avoid these type of accidents except going much slower and of course wear a helmet.
    My friends also prefer MTB, but not for the intended purpose. They use them for road biking at a slower speed and claim they feel safer. I believe them when I look at my skinny and smooth racing bike tires.

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    My friends also prefer MTB, but not for the intended purpose. They use them for road biking at a slower speed and claim they feel safer. I believe them when I look at my skinny and smooth racing bike tires.

    Many (not all) road bikes will take larger tires. I ride a 1.9in Conti Town and Country up front on my around town XO2 bike (1.5 on back) and it really makes city riding more fun. Sure they're a little slower, but if you pump em up the difference isn't all the great in the rolling resistance department. But I don't want to give up drop bars, add in the weight of a suspension or any of the other things a MTB would require.

    Used XO's may be hard to find these days but I see lots of cyclocross bikes that look like interesting compromises in LBS's now.

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    Senior Member slagjumper's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dwightonabike
    I am having trouble getting my mountain biking friend to join me on a road trip. He claims the danger of road biking is too great. I remember reading that only a small portion of cyclist deaths involve a motor vehicle, but I can't find the citation. Does anyone know of any information that compares the danger of cycling on the road to off-road cycling?

    On a side note, why do people only post the incidents that involve cars on this forum? How come we never see threads titled, "Another Biker Death: Cyclist Falls Down Attempting to Cross Train Tracks"?
    I regularly do both and for the type of mountain biking that I do the road is more dangerous. But odds are greater that you will be serverly injured in a car accident than on a bike. So if your mountain biking friend rides in cars -- well road biking is safer. I would also say that mountain bikes are more safe on streets than road bikes. Reason is that the bigger tires hold up better to road debris and slick conditions. Also lower center of gravity on a mountain bike. Having said all of that, I would encourage the MBer and you to go for rides on off-peak times so that he can build confidence that nothing will happen.

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    Senior Member phinney's Avatar
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    Your friends right. A collision with a car is much more likely to result in a severe injury than falling off a mountain bike. Even with perfect road riding technique your safety is at the mercy of the car driver. On the mountain bike your safety is up to you.

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    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John E
    Good points all around. There is, of course, some uncontrolled risk in mountain biking, in the form of sinkholes or other hidden "traps."
    You got dat right. I found one of your "sinkholes" last Sunday. Face planted hard into a rocky streambed. Now I am nursing a swollen knee and a deflated ego. I did it in front of 20 or so other riders.
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    Calamari to go cc_rider's Avatar
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    If your friend is letting his fear of danger prevent him from going on a road trip with you, then he should sell his bike and get another hobby. Biking has inherent risk, wether you are on a road or on a trail. You minimize the risks to yourself by riding safe and riding smart.

    Does your friend think that he doesn't have the skills to ride on a road? Maybe he has another reason for not wanting to ride and danger is just the justification.

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    Senior Member FLBandit's Avatar
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    Not real sure on the MTB road bike issue, but I also ride motorcycles, both on and off road. I've had WAY more get-offs in the dirt than on the street. I guess it has something to do with people being inclined to get on a trail and go as fast as possible around all the trees and obstructions!! I can see where the same might be true of MTBs. On the othere hand I've known people to break bones in a dirt-bike crash but won't ride on the street because "it's to dangerous"
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    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cycleup
    My friends also prefer MTB, but not for the intended purpose. They use them for road biking at a slower speed and claim they feel safer. I believe them when I look at my skinny and smooth racing bike tires.

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    Truthfully, there isn't just one kind of mountain biking, nor just one kind of road biking. Comparing statistics between two very diverse categories can produce misleading conclusions. Consider the following reasonable arguments why mountain biking is safer:

    1) On a mountain bike, you're generally only avoiding stationary obstacles, while on a road bike, you're avoiding cracked-out car drivers on their cell-phones.

    2) Speeds are generally lower on mountain bikes.

    3) Mountain bikers are in environments where spills are inherently more likely, so they remain more vigilant and alert.

    Or, consider the following reasonable arguments why road biking is safer:

    1) You don't have to worry as much about road-surface obstacles, which are the dominant cause of mountain bike crashes.

    2) You can choose to ride on bike paths, quiet rural roads, and other places where there is little or no danger from automobiles (the dominant danger on the road), and little or no danger from obstacles (the dominant danger on a trail).

    3) Mountain biking may attract people who are willing (or enthusiastic) about accepting larger risks in order to experience greater thrills. Road cyclists, on the whole, tend to be less motivated by adrenaline.

    In my own (unscientific) experience, it seems that my gung-ho mountain biker friends regularly come home from a trip nursing minor injuries. In fact, it's unusual when they come home without any story to tell about at least a near-miss. (I may, however, happen to have particularly insane friends.) My roadie friends, on the other hand, rarely seem to come home with harrowing stories or actual injuries. My conclusion is that there are likely more fatalities in road biking, but many times more injuries in mountain biking. My (unscientific) conclusion is that the over-all safety is higher for road biking, in the sense that you are less likely to get injured on any particular road trip than on any particular mountain trip.

    - Warren

  19. #19
    JRA
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    Safety isn't about the bike.

    It's not about where you ride, either.

    Forget looking for statistics to compare different types of riding, on road or off, on different types of bikes. What few statistics that exist are inconclusive. There are so many different ways to ride and so many different types of people riding bikes that it makes statistics meaningless.

    Statistics do show that riding a bike is, in general, a fairly safe activity, no matter where you ride.

    For me, a major appeal of off-road riding is that it's challenging. I enjoy it partly because of the danger. It's not a question of whether I will fall; it's a question of when. My major worries are keeping sensitive parts of my body from landing on unforgiving parts or my bicycle. I fall because I try things that I know are dangerous. If I didn't do those things I wouldn't fall, but what fun would that be?

    On road cycling is a totally different animal. The last thing I want to do is take chances. I haven't fallen (or had any accident) while riding on the road in over 40 years.

    The point is that it is possible to ride safely almost anywhere, on virtually any kind of bike. Safety depends on the rider.
    Last edited by JRA; 07-13-05 at 10:04 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JRA
    Safety isn't about the bike.

    Road cycling is a totally different animal. The last thing I want to do is take chances. I haven't fallen (or had any accident) while riding on the road in over 40 years.
    You are either very lucky or very different from the bikers I know. These guys are competitive bikers and stories of injuries are part of the course. (That includes me and I am not nearly as competitive as they are)

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    feros ferio John E's Avatar
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    The best ways to reduce risk on the road are to ride defensively and to dress visibly. I have to believe that slightly wider tyres, such as 700x32s, are marginally safer than 700x20s if one encounters an imperfection in the road surface. Under less-than-ideal weather and road conditions, the Bianchi stays home; my other bikes are not that much slower, and they do feel a bit more secure.
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    Road biking and it's referance to safety

    I greaty advise a clearity in the word safe. I believe in my experiance that someone who is one the road is safer if safeer means less chance of an accident. however, if you crash, on the road, it is much more likely you will die compared to MTB. You see, when mountain biking you should not assume the crashes will comenly result in death. most have to do with a fall, not a crash. your body is desinged to sustain falling impacts naturally. you can fall at speeds of up-to 25 m.p.h. and survive. hitting opsticles or falling off/with your bike often can result in broken bones, but hitting a car is much different while it is less common. When you are hit or hit another vehicle on the road it can cause interier bleading because an automobile can impact between your ribcage and hips, where as falling off-road lets your bones take the impact. The nature of awareness and the accident is often different too. When you are hit buy a car, you rarely know for shure it is about to cream you, thus your natureal reactions to put your hands up and unclip your pedals rarely help you in time, off road you commenly know you just messed up, and are ready for the impact even a full second or more before it occurs. Bottem line-if you call safety chance of crash, road os safer, but if we are talkin' chance of death, cross cuontry mountain biking is less deadly than road cycling.

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    P.S. I know this post is old i just felt bored so i wrote in it.

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    Ive crashed my mountain bike numerous times. I have gotten up and ridden home every time.

    Getting hit by a car much different.

    There are too many people who arent here to tell their stories of being hit by a car.

  25. #25
    The Rock Cycle eofelis's Avatar
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    My bf started riding a bike when he lived in San Diego, bike commuted 17 miles to his job in Coronado.

    He likes to tell the story of the only time he got hit by a car. He was mountain biking on a Forest Service road on Mt Palomar and hit/got hit head on by a USFS vehicle. No serious injuries, but he did go to the ER.

    On a road ride he did get hit by a raccoon on a night ride a few years ago. Got a concussion from that one.
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