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  1. #1
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Took a Tumble Today

    I had a fall today for the first time. It was a stupid mistake on my part, but fortunately there were no cars anywhere near, and the damage wasn't too bad.

    I come over a really rough set of four railroad tracks along my route. I always stand on my pedals and go really slowly (like 4mph), which I did today too. I thought I had cleared the last track, so I put my rear down on the saddle, but I guess the back tire was still on the last rail. The back of the bike slid out from under me and down I went.

    Holy smokes did that hurt. Plus, it's really disorienting to fall like that. The only thing I could think was "don't hit your head!" My left hip and shoulder took the worst of it and will probably be pretty badly bruised tomorrow. The bike looks okay. The chain came off and got wedged between the chain ring and the chain stay, but a little patience and muscle got it back in place. Is there anything in particular I should look for when I inspect the bike tomorrow morning?

    Anyway, I survived and will be back on the bike tomorrow. Be safe everyone.

  2. #2
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    I guess you know the brakes work, that's the main thing.

    I went down on icy railroad tracks a couple of decades ago, and it was over so fast I barely had time to notice the fall. I am very cautious about crossing them now, I see people going across at acute angles and just cringe.

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    Senior Member Rudz's Avatar
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    Yeah I cross railroad tracks like you do. Off the seat and slow.

    Glad your okay.

    Be certain you didn't knock the derailleurs out of wack, be sure the bars/front wheel are still aligned, check brake alignment, check seat alignment and make sure you didn't hurt your pride.
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  4. #4
    Senior Member jfowler85's Avatar
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    A number of years ago, I was bombing a deep downhill bank in the hills of Santa Barbara on my way to college, when I hit a stretch of smooth pavement with running water flowing freely across...broken sprinkler or something like that. I tried to brake smoothly to scrub some speed but before I knew it, my back wheel went out from under me and I went down on the pavement, then into a gravel driveway. I slid for about 20 ft on my chest and hip. As I lay writhing pain and bleeding through my clothes thanks to plenty of broken superficial vascular tissue, a good number of cars just drove by me without a second glance (side note: southern Californians are very apathetic toward their fellow man). I embedded plenty of gravel in my dermis and exposed a nice patch of fascia on my left hip....I was swollen and limping for a couple of weeks, and climbing the ladder to the loft in my apt was hell. The best part was that I had no health insurance of my own at the time (turns out my student health insurance plan was only a supplemental). That was fun to deal with. Staved off any infections but took a hit on my credit report when I couldn't pay the bill for a while.

    Glad you didn't end up like me!
    Last edited by jfowler85; 04-19-14 at 12:12 AM.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Dave Cutter's Avatar
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    Hope you aren't hurt anymore than you know of... and that you heal quickly.

    Best way I know of to inspect a bicycle is a good washing. Clean and re-lube every inch of the bicycle... and you'll have a good opportunity to completely inspect it at the same time.

  6. #6
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    Glad you're OK. I cross 7 sets of tracks on my work commutes, and try and cross them slowly after I almost went down like you did.

  7. #7
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    The back of the bike slid out from under me and down I went.
    this is exactly the kind of accident that learning how to track stand can help prevent. a slide out at low speed is completely preventable for anyone who has basic bike balancing skills.
    This is why motorists hate us, and why I've given up riding on the road...You should be ashamed yourself, and you should be reviled by cyclists everywhere.

  8. #8
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Thanks for the expressions of concern and sympathy, everyone. I feeling remarkably well. I got back on the bike the very next day, and, except for my shoulder, haven't felt any residual effects. My shoulder is still stiff and doesn't like when I extend my arm above shoulder level. I've taken ibuprofen a couple of times and have been doing some gentle stretches.

    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    this is exactly the kind of accident that learning how to track stand can help prevent. a slide out at low speed is completely preventable for anyone who has basic bike balancing skills.
    What an interesting idea. If you know of links to any especially good resources for learning to track stand, I'd like to learn more. One my favorite things about biking is that you can enjoy it as a complete newcomer, but there are always new skills to learn no matter how long you've been doing it. I'm currently on a hybrid and will be riding a dutch-style city bike soon (bike is on order and should be here within the week). Can you track stand on these kinds of bikes? If not, is there another way to learn the balancing skill needed to prevent this kind of accident?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    Thanks for the expressions of concern and sympathy, everyone. I feeling remarkably well. I got back on the bike the very next day, and, except for my shoulder, haven't felt any residual effects. My shoulder is still stiff and doesn't like when I extend my arm above shoulder level. I've taken ibuprofen a couple of times and have been doing some gentle stretches.



    What an interesting idea. If you know of links to any especially good resources for learning to track stand, I'd like to learn more. One my favorite things about biking is that you can enjoy it as a complete newcomer, but there are always new skills to learn no matter how long you've been doing it. I'm currently on a hybrid and will be riding a dutch-style city bike soon (bike is on order and should be here within the week). Can you track stand on these kinds of bikes? If not, is there another way to learn the balancing skill needed to prevent this kind of accident?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRR4paQnUsQ

    you can track stand/sit on any kind of bike:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSH59xuy8iY

    generally the wider the tire the easier it is to track stand.
    Last edited by spare_wheel; 04-19-14 at 01:48 PM.
    This is why motorists hate us, and why I've given up riding on the road...You should be ashamed yourself, and you should be reviled by cyclists everywhere.

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Glad you're not hurt too bad. Can you cross the tracks at anything close to a 90 degree angle?

  11. #11
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRR4paQnUsQ

    you can track stand/sit on any kind of bike:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSH59xuy8iY

    generally the wider the tire the easier it is to track stand.
    Thanks! I'm not completely clear on how this skill would have helped me, but it does seem right intuitively that I might have recovered before going down if I had acted quickly enough to employ some balancing skills. To get to that point, though, balancing will need to become almost reflexive for me. That'll take a lot of practice.

    Quote Originally Posted by downwinded View Post
    Glad you're not hurt too bad. Can you cross the tracks at anything close to a 90 degree angle?
    Yes. The tracks run across the road at an angle. Because there is usually no traffic on this stretch of road, I can move to the far left of the road just before getting to the tracks in order to cross at 90-degrees. I end up on the far right side of the road by the time I get to the other side of the tracks.

  12. #12
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Sorry to hear of your mishaps!!

    Just curious, what kinds of tires were you all riding on at the time? I switched from cruiser tires to ones with inverted tread to a pair with minimal, directional tread on front, and a more complex tread for grip on back. I still slide on those plastic white marks (crosswalk/road line) in the wet, but i never had a problem with tracks though...?

    I recently had a bike retiring crash 3 weeks ago. Just in the last day or so pain & swelling/lack of full range of motion seems to be back to normal, but it was not tracks or rain related. Wishing all safe rides & speedy recoveries!

    - Andy
    Last edited by TransitBiker; 04-19-14 at 03:33 PM.
    I can't wait for the next pint of good chocolate milk after a long ride.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    Thanks! I'm not completely clear on how this skill would have helped me, but it does seem right intuitively that I might have recovered before going down if I had acted quickly enough to employ some balancing skills. To get to that point, though, balancing will need to become almost reflexive for me. That'll take a lot of practice.
    Track standing is a relatively harmless trick that can tremendously improve balancing skills (reflexive motor learning). Riding on rollers is another similar skill -- albeit one with less real world application. If you are accustomed to correcting your position/posture and center of mass while trackstanding these kind of movements become instinctive when your back wheel begins to slide out at slow speeds.
    This is why motorists hate us, and why I've given up riding on the road...You should be ashamed yourself, and you should be reviled by cyclists everywhere.

  14. #14
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    Yup, consider it a normal part of the learning curve/paying dues. Also accept that at some future point in time you WILL drop your bike AGAIN.
    Would strongly suggest checking with local community college / university and or bike shops for bike skills/handling courses.
    L. A. B. (League of American Bicyclists) would also hold these types of classes. Such classes were amazing at flattening out my personal learning curve.
    Last edited by HvPnyrs; 04-20-14 at 09:59 AM. Reason: added 'paying dues'
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  15. #15
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    I'm surprised that sombody would fall in a situation like this. Could your tires be quite old and worn with no grip? Or is there slippery material running adjacent to the tracks? Were you going at an angle other than 90 degrees ie. the tire is riding up a little ridge at an angle that forces it sideways?

    I'm not sure why you and others recommend going so slow. Surely some forward momentum would have got you on to firm pavement before you went down.

  16. #16
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post
    Sorry to hear of your mishaps!!

    Just curious, what kinds of tires were you all riding on at the time? I switched from cruiser tires to ones with inverted tread to a pair with minimal, directional tread on front, and a more complex tread for grip on back. I still slide on those plastic white marks (crosswalk/road line) in the wet, but i never had a problem with tracks though...?

    I recently had a bike retiring crash 3 weeks ago. Just in the last day or so pain & swelling/lack of full range of motion seems to be back to normal, but it was not tracks or rain related. Wishing all safe rides & speedy recoveries!

    - Andy
    Sorry to hear about your crash. I hope the recovery is speedy. My tires are puncture resistant 700cx35 with directional tread. I don't think that was the problem.

    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    I'm surprised that sombody would fall in a situation like this. Could your tires be quite old and worn with no grip? Or is there slippery material running adjacent to the tracks? Were you going at an angle other than 90 degrees ie. the tire is riding up a little ridge at an angle that forces it sideways?

    I'm not sure why you and others recommend going so slow. Surely some forward momentum would have got you on to firm pavement before you went down.
    My tires have about 1000 miles on them and the tread still looks pretty good to me, so I doubt that's the problem. I'm not entirely sure why I went down either. It happened so fast! I think when the rear wheel slipped on the rail, I leaned in the wrong direction and then couldn't correct when all the momentum was pushing me toward the left. This is one of the reasons I'm intrigued by the track stand suggestion. If I had better balancing skills, I might have been able to recover.

    As to why I go so slowly: This is a *really* rough set of four tracks that run at about a 45-degree angle across the road. It's almost like going over a series of low curbs. Taking them with any kind of speed at all would wreck my rims in no time.

  17. #17
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    Sorry to hear about your crash. I hope the recovery is speedy. My tires are puncture resistant 700cx35 with directional tread. I don't think that was the problem.



    My tires have about 1000 miles on them and the tread still looks pretty good to me, so I doubt that's the problem. I'm not entirely sure why I went down either. It happened so fast! I think when the rear wheel slipped on the rail, I leaned in the wrong direction and then couldn't correct when all the momentum was pushing me toward the left. This is one of the reasons I'm intrigued by the track stand suggestion. If I had better balancing skills, I might have been able to recover.

    As to why I go so slowly: This is a *really* rough set of four tracks that run at about a 45-degree angle across the road. It's almost like going over a series of low curbs. Taking them with any kind of speed at all would wreck my rims in no time.
    Ah, ok. I have similar on my old bike.

    I know a tiny bit about grade crossings, so here goes...

    I think A. Railroad that maintains the crossing should be advised that it is due for panel replacement. B. Grade crossings where the rail is above the panels (be it Tarmac, concrete, stone, etc are a hazard, and should be avoided on bicycle, especially in the wet. Wet steel is extremely slick. If the panels between the rails are also steel, a slip initiated on rail will likely not be recovered by panel due to forces all ready in motion..

    Myself personally, id walk it across, because I'd be stopping anyways. Grade protection systems rarely fail, be it mechanical or human error, but if it does, I don't wanna be staring down a 400 ton thing going 60 mph...

    - Andy
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  18. #18
    Prefers Cicero cooker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    As to why I go so slowly: This is a *really* rough set of four tracks that run at about a 45-degree angle across the road. It's almost like going over a series of low curbs. Taking them with any kind of speed at all would wreck my rims in no time.
    Okay, I think the angle is what got you. As you go up a ridge diagonally, it creates a lateral force. I there any way you can turn to cross at 90 degrees?

  19. #19
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TransitBiker View Post

    Myself personally, id walk it across, because I'd be stopping anyways. Grade protection systems rarely fail, be it mechanical or human error, but if it does, I don't wanna be staring down a 400 ton thing going 60 mph...

    - Andy
    Yeah, that's a scary thought. I don't think I'll start walking across just yet. This is one spill after eight months of commuting, crossing those tracks twice a day, five days a week. If it happens again, then I think about dismounting.

    Quote Originally Posted by cooker View Post
    Okay, I think the angle is what got you. As you go up a ridge diagonally, it creates a lateral force. I there any way you can turn to cross at 90 degrees?
    I do cross at 90-degrees. See post #11 for the explanation of how I do that. I think the main thing is that I need to make sure I stay up on my pedals until I'm certain I've cleared all of the rails.

  20. #20
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    just curious... what is your pedal situation? do you go clipless, or use toe clips ?

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    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by e0richt View Post
    just curious... what is your pedal situation? do you go clipless, or use toe clips ?
    Right now I'm using platform pedals with no foot retention. I asked a question about how to get faster at acceleration from a dead stop a week or so ago and got some good advice. As a result of that discussion, one of the changes I've been considering is switching to MKS Lambda pedals with Powergrips.

  22. #22
    Senior Member TransitBiker's Avatar
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    Some freight railroads and transit agencies do not maintain their grade crossings as well as they should. Near me, they replaced several worn out & uneven nylon panels back in 2005 with extremely sturdy steel framed concrete panels. All of the crossings they worked on are far safer to ride/drive etc over, not only because it's more level, but the concrete gives you traction. Here's hoping they will do same with crossing in question, especially since those at more extreme angles tend to be more problematic than those at 90 degrees. Only other option is to build a bridge or underpass, or some combination or both, but not always a option due to cost, clearances, geology etc.

    Bike tire/wheels are very stiff compared to automobile/truck/light truck tire/wheels, so they are going to be more prone to have things guide them off in a particular direction.

    - Andy
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  23. #23
    Senior Member no motor?'s Avatar
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    The rails are very slippery too, so going slower helps maintain your balance as you cross.

  24. #24
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Giant Doofus View Post
    I had a fall today for the first time. It was a stupid mistake on my part, but fortunately there were no cars anywhere near, and the damage wasn't too bad.

    I come over a really rough set of four railroad tracks along my route. I always stand on my pedals and go really slowly (like 4mph), which I did today too. I thought I had cleared the last track, so I put my rear down on the saddle, but I guess the back tire was still on the last rail. The back of the bike slid out from under me and down I went.

    Holy smokes did that hurt. Plus, it's really disorienting to fall like that. The only thing I could think was "don't hit your head!" My left hip and shoulder took the worst of it and will probably be pretty badly bruised tomorrow. The bike looks okay. The chain came off and got wedged between the chain ring and the chain stay, but a little patience and muscle got it back in place. Is there anything in particular I should look for when I inspect the bike tomorrow morning?

    Anyway, I survived and will be back on the bike tomorrow. Be safe everyone.
    I suspect, given that your rear wheel slide out, I suspect that you weren't crossing the tracks perpendicularly as you should have. You may have been trying to hurry that last track and get back to the right so you turned your bike while the wheel was still on the tracks. Don't try to maneuver the bike before you clear the tracks.

    Also don't slow down to walking speed to cross tracks. Cross them at right angles but get it over with! There is a maxim in mountain biking: "Momentum is your friend." Momentum will carry you over obstacles before the bike has a chance to get knocked off its line of travel. Get over the tracks at a right angle with a reasonable amount of speed.

    It also sounds like you need to learn to fall correctly. A 4 mph fall shouldn't result in any kind of injury. It's going to hurt but you really shouldn't have had anything lingering other than the injury to your pride. Anytime you find yourself in the middle of a crash, relax and let it happen. Don't try to put out an arm or leg to catch yourself because you can't and will only end up hurting your arm or leg. If possible, try to rotate a little so that the flesh on your hips and buttocks takes the impact. These are large muscles and will take more of a beating without breaking the underlying bone.

    You'll heal but try not to let the crash go to your head.
    Last edited by cyccommute; 04-22-14 at 09:58 AM.
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  25. #25
    Senior Member Giant Doofus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    I suspect, given that your rear wheel slide out, I suspect that you weren't crossing the tracks perpendicularly as you should have. You may have been trying to hurry that last track and get back to the right so you turned your bike while the wheel was still on the tracks. Don't try to maneuver the bike before you clear the tracks.
    Good points. That sounds plausible. I'm very intentional about being at 90-degrees at the beginning, but I wonder if I might have been anticipating straightening out by the time I got to the fourth set.

    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    Also don't slow down to walking speed to cross tracks. Cross them at right angles but get it over with! There is a maxim in mountain biking: "Momentum is your friend." Momentum will carry you over obstacles before the bike has a chance to get knocked off its line of travel. Get over the tracks at a right angle with a reasonable amount of speed.
    I need to go that slowly here. I should get out there and take a picture to show everyone. These tracks are *really* rough. Like I said above, it's almost like going over low curbs. Even though the tracks are so awful, I prefer this route because it keeps me off of two major arteries (five and seven lane roads).

    Quote Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
    It also sounds like you need to learn to fall correctly. A 4 mph fall should result in any kind of injury. It's going to hurt but you really shouldn't have had anything lingering other than the injury to your pride. Anytime you find yourself in the middle of a crash, relax and let it happen. Don't try to put out an arm or leg to catch yourself because you can't and will only end up hurting your arm or leg. If possible, try to rotate a little so that the flesh on your hips and buttocks takes the impact. These are large muscles and will take more of a beating without breaking the underlying bone.

    You'll heal but try not to let the crash go to your head.
    Yeah, I probably didn't do a good job of falling, but that's one skill I hope I don't have too many opportunities to practice.

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