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Old 08-01-07, 12:22 PM   #1
Spokes man
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Crash avoidance

Farrelcollie's mention in this post (question about crashing with clipless versus platform pedals) about hitting a stick that then got stuck in his spokes and sent him over the handlebars made me wonder:

What have you learned from your crashes about what to avoid, either in the way of road hazards, traffic, equipment, weather, you name it?

The information could help alert others about things to watch out for.

I will sure try to never run over another stick, no matter how small, after seeing Farrelcollie's description of what happened to him.
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Old 08-01-07, 12:27 PM   #2
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My one near-miss with a car in 5 years of commuting was from a car that zoomed out quickly from behind and to the right of a line of left-turning cars, into my path as I was turning left opposite them. Lessons learned were (1) watch out for cars behind other cars, and (2) learn how to brake hard w/o going over the bars. I went over the bars that day and landed in the road, fortunately no one hit me, including the a*hole who almost did and then did not even stop to see if I was okay!
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Old 08-01-07, 12:45 PM   #3
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Children(especially with sticks in their hands as I had one child try to throw a stick at my wheels); squirrels; a wild turkey in mating season; if going all the way around a roundabout, get in the inside lane until you pass the last exit prior to your exit and then merge back to the outside lane, watch for people that think car/bike chicken is funny(they laugh as they pass you)...

It sidewalk riding, don't try to go off the sidewalk onto grass and try to get back on the sidewalk when the grass is two inches lower than the sidewalk, especially with road tires.
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Old 08-01-07, 12:50 PM   #4
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Don't run over stuff. Two maneuvers that help are to bunny hop and to flick your hips so that you slalom around the object while the bike goes straight. Basically they're both small swerves, one on the Y axis and one on the Z axis.
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Old 08-01-07, 12:54 PM   #5
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Wet leaves are slippery.
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Old 08-01-07, 01:31 PM   #6
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Dog ran out in front of me from behind a concrete barrier two days ago (tdf anyone?). Luckily I swerved to avoid it but almost crashed in the process. And this was on a nature preserve path where dogs are not allowed, I was so pissed at the owner but I just kept going.
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Old 08-01-07, 01:37 PM   #7
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Don't be aggressive when dodging a stick or what have you. Turn enough to get around it and as far back from it as you can. This way you avoid the quick sharp turn that can cause your wheel to slip from under you.
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Old 08-01-07, 01:50 PM   #8
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Alway go across railroad tracks at a 90 degree angle, or you may get a wheel stuck in one of the rails and go down.

Be very careful of ruts or pavement height changes that run parralel to the street. Try to go across them at as sharp an angle as possible.

Anything metal or painted on the road is very slippery when wet.

Use your front brake only. The only exception is when you are on a slippery surface, like grass, gravel, wet metal etc., then only use the rear brake.

Don't worry about trying to swerve around a big hole in the road at the last minute. You can go over very big holes with no damage to your bike or you. Just steer the bike straight, hold the bars very lightly and don't brake. Just swerving can cause you to lose your balance and if you miscalculate and are turning the bars when you go over the hole, you will go down.
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Old 08-01-07, 02:44 PM   #9
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Watch out for Botts' Dots.
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Old 08-01-07, 02:59 PM   #10
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I will sure try to never run over another stick, no matter how small, after seeing Farrelcollie's description of what happened to him.
Avoiding sticks altogether can be hard- there are lots of balsam poplars where I live, and they tend to lose a lot of small branches to strong winds. The fallen branches can land anywhere in a residential 2-lane street from the curb almost to the center line, and they usually stick up from the surface. If I ride after a windstorm, but before the road is cleaned up, I slow down when I see any debris. Sometimes I have to pick a line that balances not wandering around the street, and riding over the least sketchy-looking debris
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Old 08-01-07, 03:33 PM   #11
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Never assume you are seen, even if looked at directly.

You are Casper the ghost and may be invisible to even those staring right at you.
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Old 08-01-07, 04:15 PM   #12
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If it might be icy or become icy along your route, use studded tires. This is especially important to remember when leaving for work in the morning if you want to be able to ride home in the afternoon.

Avoid riding off the side as much as possible, especially at night and through intersections, because that's where most debris occurs.

If there are many intersections to your right, take the full right lane even if it means avoiding a wide shoulder. The honks feel much better than t-boning a turning car.

Know how to unclip quickly
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Old 08-01-07, 06:02 PM   #13
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Don't forget to unclip!!!!
and oh yeah. Wet bricks suck with smooth tires *any tire, actually)
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Old 08-01-07, 07:16 PM   #14
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This is a non-avoidance story, but it is my last crash. About two years ago when I was still riding DF I was fairly aggressive in taking my place in traffic. On a ride through the University of Central Florida I got to a point where I needed to switch to an inside left turn lane. Traffic was heavy so I jumped hard on an open space and was going a little fast for the lane change, my front wheel kissed the curb and I did a total endo into the median.

A dozen cars passed me laying there semi conscious without one stopping.

The lesson, don't ride beyond your ability or conditions. Sometimes you just lose the opportunity and get held up.
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Old 08-01-07, 08:13 PM   #15
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Animals are something I make it a point to avoid. Also loose gravel strewn along the street; those are the two things that have made me fall while riding my bike (I had a fall when my pant leg got caught on my cage, but that's not really the same).
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Old 08-02-07, 03:12 AM   #16
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Avoid oil slicks. I have seen the entire contents of an engine strewn along 50 yards of right lane. Close up. Too f#$%ing close up!

Avoid confrontation with others, you never know who is off their meds and carrying a gun. Remember "Easy Rider"? Hmmm?

In southern California, the Highway Patrol reports that a whopping 40% of all drivers on the road are driving without a license. Without going into the politics of why, let's just say they don't have a clue what your rights are as a cyclist, and they're willing to blatantly break the law anyway. What makes you think they'll watch out for you?
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Old 08-02-07, 03:58 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
This is horrible advice.
Why? That is exactly what I do. You won't do an endo as long as your arms are properly braced.
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Old 08-02-07, 04:24 AM   #18
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Why? That is exactly what I do. You won't do an endo as long as your arms are properly braced.
Not speaking for Pete, but I do know that you have much better braking power using both brakes at once than either one alone, even just the front, although that is better than just the back. See Ch. 6 of Street Smarts. (Although I must admit I don't think about all that when I brake, and I wish he discussed the technique of transferring your weight back to prevent endo'ing. I personally find that to be the most valuable braking advice I've ever received.)

In the Road I class I took, we all tried stopping as quickly as possibly with just the back brake, just the front, and both. My stopping distances at speed were something like 20', 10', and 6' respectively. Although I almost endo'd the last time because I forgot to move my weight back!

I think getting off the seat and moving your butt back, to transfer your weight, is a better endo-prevention technique than just bracing your arms. Doesn't that risk putting to much pressure on your arms?
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Old 08-02-07, 05:31 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking View Post

In the Road I class I took, we all tried stopping as quickly as possibly with just the back brake, just the front, and both. My stopping distances at speed were something like 20', 10', and 6' respectively. Although I almost endo'd the last time because I forgot to move my weight back!

Good advice. Same thing happened to me once when riding through a quiet, and very dark neighborhood with just my rather inadequate cateye light. I was going maybe 15 mph and damn near ran head-on into a big black rottweiler just standing there in the road. Well,.....needless to say, I locked 'em up, both brakes, and almost endo'd right there in front of the dog.

It was funny because the dog just stood there, not moving, not smiling, nor wagging his tail. Just standing there looking at me the way a cop looks at you when he's asking for your I.D.

Crazy dog
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Old 08-02-07, 09:09 AM   #20
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I am curious as to whether different wheels would make a difference in avoiding the type of accident I had on Sunday - I do not think I ran over the stick - I may have nicked it -or cars passing me may have tossed it up - I was watching road and generally try not to run over branches etc. It was a rather small stick. This is a tree lined street (one of our main bike path streets) and avoiding all tree debris is not possible. But my wheels (ona 2006 jamis quest) have spokes that are somewhat far apart - more so than on my hybrid - it is a jamis quest - would different wheels help with keeping stuff out of spokes? Or was this just a really freak accident that is unlikely to happen again? I ride this street all the time - it is my commute route and route to many of the other places I bike. I have only had the jamis quest fore three months.
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Old 08-02-07, 09:44 AM   #21
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Not speaking for Pete, but I do know that you have much better braking power using both brakes at once than either one alone, even just the front, although that is better than just the back.
From your link:

"For a powerful stop, squeeze the brake levers harder and harder - the front always three times as hard as the rear. The rear wheel will eventually skid. But by this time, most of the weight will be off the rear wheel, so it will skid only lightly. You won't wear a big bald spot in the rear tire - though you will feel and hear the skid."

Your description doesn't match theirs. According to them, the rear brake adds little to max braking power. They don't focus on the physics, but this is because it *can't* - a wheel with virtually no weight on it can't help you decelerate.

Their description seems a bit prone to failure. Is it really worth engaging the rear brake at all, when the sole purpose seems to be adding a fun fishtail to your deceleration?

I prefer Sheldon's method, to which he's added analysis of the actual physics involved:
http://www.sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html

"Conventional wisdom says to use both brakes at the same time. This is probably good advice for beginners, who have not yet learned to use their brakes skillfully, but if you don't graduate past this stage, you will never be able to stop as short safely as a cyclist who has learned to use the front brake by itself.

...

The fastest that you can stop any bike of normal wheelbase is to apply the front brake so hard that the rear wheel is just about to lift off the ground. In this situation, the rear brake cannot contribute to stopping power, since it has no traction."
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Old 08-02-07, 10:30 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
On a slippery surface using only your rear brake is silly given what I have described above. It doesn't serve to slow you down any appreciable amount because there is even less traction available on gravel, wet pavement, metal, etc.
Not really. You don't want to start a front wheel skid, so rear braking on slippery surfaces is a pretty good idea.
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Old 08-02-07, 10:49 AM   #23
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Do yourself a favor and train yourself to use only the front brake, except in slippery situations.

The problem is, that in an emergency braking situation, the rear brake is essentially worthless and if you lock it up, it can cause a crash, so why risk it?. I won't argue that you might be able to come to a complete stop more quickly using both brakes, but many times in an emergency, you don't brake to come to a complete stop, you brake to slow down so you can swerve to avoid something. If you lock up the rear brake, I guarantee you you will not be able to steer and swerve to avoid an obstacle.

The main reason to train yourself to use the fron only is that when you are in an emergency situation, you go on automtic pilot and you do what you are trained to do, what you habitually do, and if you train yourself to use the rear brake, you will use it in an emergency situation. No amount of telling yourself "Do not use rear brake in emergency" will get you to avoid the rear brake if you use it on a daily basis.

As far as not using the front brake in slippery conditions, even in straight line braking, if the front locks up for even an instant, you will likely go down.
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Old 08-02-07, 11:14 AM   #24
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Why? That is exactly what I do. You won't do an endo as long as your arms are properly braced.
Front breaks are where the largest portion of your breaking force come from rear breaks are used to keep your rear wheel in line with the front during a strait stop and are there to slow you on descents and turns when used with the front.


Something else i meant to put in my first reply. Never ever ride your breaks on long (or short steep descents) long (steep or other wise) descents. Your breaks will heat up and cause you to get break fade or total loss of breaking power. Instead feather your breaks alternating between no break and light presure. At the end of the decent apply breaking force to stop if you need to stop.

Ive seen riders ride their breaks all the way down on long descents and end up with no breaks when they needed them. One guy had his breaks so hot smoke was coming off them.
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Old 08-02-07, 11:33 AM   #25
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With all this talk of brakes, no one has said the obvious...

Always give them a squeeze before you ride to make sure they're engaged!

I was reminded of this the hard way last week, seconds after I started my commute one morning. Had to ride straight into a big pine tree to avoid a car parked in my driveway! Hope the neighbors weren't looking.
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