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  1. #1
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    Common causes of falls/crashes, how to prevent?

    Hi,
    I'm a newbie grandmother who's trying to ride around her quiet but hilly neighborhood just for fun and light exercise. I love reading the forums and have read several posts regarding falls and crashes. I am pre-osteoporosis, was full-blown but it has improved with meds, so I don't need any falls.

    So far, I've learned these things:

    Don't jam on the front brake and go over the handlebars!
    Let the brakes off and on going downhill.
    Avoid sand, rocks, potholes, etc.
    Keep tires inflated correctly.
    Keep the inside pedal up when turning and put weight on the outside pedal.
    If the rear derailler breaks, it can cause a fall. (How to prevent this?)
    Of course, try not to run into trees, cars, etc.
    Don't wear shoes such as flip-flops that could easily come off and get caught in the spokes.
    Wear a helmet--which I'm ashamed to admit I don't usually do, but I will if you say so.
    Avoid traffic--there is practically none on the residential streets that I ride.

    I am very inexperienced and would appreciate any tips on avoiding falls. I don't try for speed and in fact use the brakes a lot on the downhills. My bike (Trek 7100 women's) seems to like to go faster than I want to go.

    For example, if a tire blows or goes flat while riding, how to stop safely? How to handle any common equipment failures, road hazard, etc.? And any other things I should know or take care to avoid. Assume I know nothing! Thanks so much-

  2. #2
    Crispy Member ahsposo's Avatar
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    Fortunately tires rarely blow catastrophically. Typically that happens when the tube gets pinched when mounting the tire.

    It's your head. If a helmet gets in the way of your pleasure on the bike don't wear one. I do recommend gloves. Putting your palm down to break a fall is instinctual. You'll regret not wearing gloves if you do that.

    Practice (i.e. ride lots) and pay attention to the road and your surroundings is the best thing you can do. If you do fall try to roll with it.

    Good Luck.

    BTW the 50+ forum is a very civil and helpful forum.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Something to be aware of is cycling has been shown to decrease bone density and strength in avid cyclists who do it to the exclusion of "impact" exercising like running. Probably nothing for you to be concerned about, but you should at least be aware of it.

  4. #4
    Senior Member Billy Bones's Avatar
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    Watch your inertia as you go up hill. In other words, predict how low you need to shift so that you're in a good low gear before you need it...not needing to down shift quickly while at low speeds. We call the phenomenon of falling over at low speed while desperately trying to downshift the "Artie Johnson"...remember him from 'Laugh-In'?

    Watch debris on the trail/road. In my experience, the worst offender is the wily walnut hiding under the Fall leaf drop! I've been un-horsed several times by those.

    Alas, you will fall...it's in the script. Stay strong and fit so that you can handle a fall. Learn to fall. Roll into a ball to expose 'meat' [shoulder, butt, hips] rather than 'bone' [fingers, elbows, chin]. Wear your helmet! Keep your speed down to the level that your skill, the terrain, and the traffic suggests.
    AUDENTIS FORTUNA IUUAT
    - Virgil, Aeneid (Book 10, Line 284)

  5. #5
    Single-serving poster electrik's Avatar
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    That is a long list, you're better off to pay good attention to what you're doing since we're talking bicycle riding not space shuttle launching!

    So put this one on top of your list and then scratch it off and enjoy your rides.
    1) Pay attention and ride the bicycle.
    1a) Look where you're going.

  6. #6
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Your rear derailleur won't break if it is kept adjusted to avoid shifting it too far inwards - into the wheel/spokes. Also, don't let your bike fall onto the right side, which can harm the RD.
    Gloves or not, try not to stick your arms out to break your fall if you do fall. Kind of a natural reaction, as previously mentioned.
    Wear a helmet even though they don't always prevent injury. Sometimes they do. They never prevent injury if not worn.
    Unless you are a very big grandma, don't fill your tires to the max psi. They should deform just a little bit when you get on the bike. Which will help you stay in better control.
    Have fun!
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  7. #7
    Life is good RonH's Avatar
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    WEAR YOUR HELMET!!! If/when you fall your head will hit the road/curb/ground. The helmet will save your life and may save you from serious injury. Many folks on here can testify that their helmet saved them and they escaped with only a headache and minor scrapes.

    The rear derailleur will not break unless you hit it against a curb, boulder, etc. Don't lay your bike on the right side. You'll bend the derailleur hanger. Not good!

    Your tire will not explode. If you get a flat you will know it and you'll have plenty of time to safely stop your bike.

    Stop being so paranoid about riding. Just enjoy yourself. I'm 66 and enjoy all of my rides -- even the "bad" ones.
    My bikes: 2001 Litespeed Tuscany---2015 Cannondale Supersix EVO carbon 105

    Life is like a 10-speed bicycle. Most of us have gears we never use. ~ Charles Schultz

  8. #8
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    Thanks, all who've posted so far. I'm not sure I can learn *how* to fall, but I'll try to remember your tips if I do. I'm hoping to avoid it if I can, of course. My neighborhood streets don't have much traffic, just an occasional car, and the pavement is usually very clean, so far, and smooth. I do try to watch where I'm going and not go too fast. I had read that cycling doesn't help with bone density, but I'm riding mostly just for fun. I'm not exactly paranoid, just thought I'd ask for tips. I am enjoying riding and wouldn't do it if I didn't. And I guess I'd better wear that helmet after all, and some gloves. I remember Artie, Goldie, and the phone operator.

  9. #9
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    Just a reminder to everyone... "grandmother" doesn't necessarily mean all that old anymore. I remember that at one time, everybody's grandma was really old. Now it seems like most of the grandmas I know are my age, some of them pretty foxy, and their grandchildren are just really young.
    All bikes are good bikes, the most remarkable machines. :) Mine are a Dahon Speed TR and a Brodie Once, but I wouldn't mind having "one of everything."

  10. #10
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    I have a bit of advice. CHECK YOUR TIRES/TUBES REGULARLY. I bought a Trek Madone 4.5 from a guy last summer. I rode it the last Aug/Sept of 2010, then pulled it out in May 2011 to ride again (I live in East Idaho, LONG winters!). I rode the bike with no problems until Mid July. On my last mile of road between me and home, coming off about a 25 mile ride, I was turning a corner about 15-18 mph when my front tire went flat. My bike slid out from underneath me and slammed me to the pavement, still clipped in, in a matter of 2 seconds. I have had sever knee and shoulder/back pain for a month and am healing very slowly. When i came out of my daze staring at the clouds in the sky, spread eagle in the middle of the road (without a helmet, I'd probably be dead) I sat up and realized my front tire was flat. I wasn't sure if the flat caused the fall or the fall caused the flat. About 2 weeks later i pulled the tire off the bike and found a leak in the innertube right at the seam where the 2 halves of the tube were fused together. I've now decided that I will be replacing my tubes at least once a year. That was a seriously painful event that has messed up the last 2 months of summer riding for me. Plus upon closer inspection I noticed the sidewall of the tires were becoming slightly cracked. I still can't walk without limping and i still can't use my left shoulder. painful lesson to be learned...

  11. #11
    Senior Member catonec's Avatar
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    keep the rubber side down.
    watch for gravel on the turns. if you have to ride through it take your foot off the inside pedal so you can dab the ground if needed.
    avoid water when you can, rain/puddles...the road is most slippery when the rain is just starting.
    even a cheap $20 helmet will protect your head well. wear it every time you ride.
    Id also suggest some sunglasses or clear lenses to prevent bugs from getting in your eyes.
    2010 Kestrel RT900SL, 800k carbon, chorus/record, speedplay, zonda
    1997 Trek ZX6000, 6061w/manitou spyder, xt/xtr, time atac

  12. #12
    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Personally I disagree with the advice about the helmet, and I certainly disagree with the statement that if you fall you WILL hit your head. Most times when people come off they do not hit their heads. However, you're clearly a low-speed cyclist and it can't hurt, and may help, if you wear one.

    Much more important is to avoid falling off in the first place. As others have said, you're worrying unnecessarily about derailleurs breaking or catastrophic blow-outs. They're rare. The key is confidence and practice. If I were to recommend anything specific it would be to go somewhere quiet and practice low- speed manoeuvring, because it is much more difficult to maintain your balance at very low speeds, and if you feel comfortable doing this you're much less likely to come off when having to avoid obstacles, reacting to the unexpected etc. When teaching kids to ride we used to put then on a football field and ask them to race across, with the winner being the last one to arrive. It quickly developed their bike- handling skills.

    Oh, finally, don't be afraid of the front brake. The front brake is the more important, and I use it on its own most of the time. At the speeds you appear to be going you aren't going over the handlebars, and over-emphasising the rear brake is likely to cause you to skid. Use them both together, more front than back, and get used to the feel of them so you can adjust the pressure as required.

    It's all about confidence. Just keep at it and in a few weeks you'll forget you were ever worried about falling off.
    Last edited by chasm54; 08-08-11 at 01:20 AM.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

  13. #13
    Sprockette wabbit's Avatar
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    be careful of gravel and watch out going over railroad tracks! slow down a bit. Feather your brakes while descending.
    Lean into corners with your knee out.
    You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. That's great...if you want to attract vermin.

  14. #14
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    Thinks about traction, it sticks the tyres to the road and when you lose it, you skid.
    Traction is a limited resource, some conditions reduce it further, eg wet or greasy roads and sand.
    You use up traction when you accelerate, brake and turn. If you try to do all at the same time, you may run out and skid. Braking when turning is tricky, brake in a straight line.

    There are specific conditions to beware:
    Outside camber. camber is a slope across the road, eg for drainage. As the road slopes out, it reduces traction, the complete opposite of those banked racetracks. Be carful if you turn as the road slopes to the outside.
    Curbs and linear bumps, eg roadworker pneumatic pipes, speed bumps, railway tracks. Yu have to cross these at right angles. If you cross at an acute angle, one side of the tyre will be tipped sideways and this in un-recoverable.

    After a storm there may be branches in the road. beware of tangling them in the spokes.

    Master the front brake, it does all the stopping. As you brake, brace your arms firmly but try not to lock them up. Move your weight a bit down and back on the saddle. Practice emergency stops under good conditions. Newbie riders grab the brakes hard in an emergency and slam them on; experienced riders have learnt to be more gradual with braking power, even in an emergency.

    Very rarely you may have a blowout or chain hangup. The natural reaction is to slam on both brakes. Dont panic, dont brake on the wheel with the problem, dont try to turn. Brake slowly in a straight line. In my 40yrs riding, I have had one explosive blowout and one chain jam up the rear wheel. It is not a normal experience.
    Last edited by MichaelW; 08-08-11 at 05:08 AM.

  15. #15
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    Watch out for rail tracks. The recessed ones the tire can slip inside and you may not have the skill to get it out without stopping or falling. In the worst case, the front wheel gets caught and you fall or flip. When crossing such tracks, cross as close to perpendicular as possible. When wet, tracks will be slippery.

    In the fall, leaves can be treacherous especially if they are wet. Wood can be very slippery when wet also.

    Sand and dirt are fine to ride on, just take it slow and don't make aggressive maneuvers. I've had the front wheel, with street tires, slide out on an aggressive turn on a hard dirt path. The bike fell down and I landed on my feet but that's possibly the best case scenario. Admittedly I can attribute this to inexperience.

    If your shoes have laces, take the bow and free ends and tuck them under the threaded portions of the laces on your right shoe or tuck them inside the shoe. I've got my laces caught in the gear and chain before and while it did not make me fall or stop, it did tear or shred the laces. I hate to admit it, but I've ruined more than one set of shoe laces this way.

  16. #16
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    Unclip one foot and stand over the bike at a stop/light instead of just hoping you will lean to the correct side.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by dolanp View Post
    Unclip one foot and stand over the bike at a stop/light instead of just hoping you will lean to the correct side.
    Newbie grandmothers with osteoporosis who poottle around the neighbourhood should be using plain platform pedals. I seriously doubt that clipless pedal systems are on her horizon.

    There is a good guide to starting and stopping.

  18. #18
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Wet wood is slippery so watch out on those boardwalks especially if there are wet leaves. (I see someone mentioned that, so take this as emphasis. It IS a gotcha that will nail you eventually if you're not super careful).

    Keep your head about you, when some cyclist is barreling down at you from the other direction for example. Stay right! Make him find room on his side.

    Falling or crashing is not inevitable, and most often happens from pushing one's limits or not thinking ahead. Just ride your own ride and enjoy.

  19. #19
    The Fat Guy In The Back Tundra_Man's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
    Newbie grandmothers with osteoporosis who poottle around the neighbourhood should be using plain platform pedals. I seriously doubt that clipless pedal systems are on her horizon.

    There is a good guide to starting and stopping.
    +1

    I would imagine a very high percentage of cyclist falls are due to clipless pedals. Almost everyone falls at least once while trying to learn to use them. I don't think the OP's riding style will benefit from the use of clipless pedals. Simple platform pedals would be the correct choice for her.
    '81 Panasonic Sport, '02 Giant Boulder SE, '08 Felt S32, '10 Diamondback Insight RS, '10 Windsor Clockwork

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  20. #20
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    Thanks, everyone! These are the kind of tips I was hoping for and I will keep all of them in mind.
    Yes, even thinking about having my feet fastened to the pedals is like a nightmare. None of those in my future.

  21. #21
    Senior Member nathan.johnson's Avatar
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    If you ride further from your home than you'd be comfortable walking back, make sure you either know how to change a flat or bring a cell phone so you can call someone to pick you up because sooner or later you will get a flat.

    I think you're worrying too much about crashes. Go out and ride. Have fun.

  22. #22
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    I won't be venturing that far from home on my bike, but I do bring my cell phone if I go farther than around the block. I just needed some basic tips for avoiding *stupidity-caused* falls! I don't know all the factors that affect bike stability, etc. Thanks, all--

  23. #23
    Senior Member Loose Chain's Avatar
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    This is one of my biggest issues of late. After a lifetime on a bike and never having a problem it seems people have a fascination with owning dangerous dogs:



    After breaking my femur thanks to two pitbulls similar to the one in my photo above (which BTW got a facefull of Bear Mace) I have now known since my crash and dog attack, five people seriously injured with broken bones and other damage as a result of dangerous dogs.

    Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to outmaneuver a dog on a bike. Stop the bike and place the bike between you and the dangerous animal. Shoot the dog in the face with Mace or use a horn to startle him. Mace will usually stop most dogs, a horn will not always, of course, I have a CCL but don't want to go there unless-----. I warn you now, even Mace will not reliably stop "friendly will not hurt a flea" pitbulls or similar dangerous/killer type dogs. So you have a choice, do hand to hand battle with a killer breed of dog which I did against two pitbulls while laying in the road with a broken femur sticking out of my leg or shoot the sXb. You can guess what I just may do if God forbid it were to happen again. Of course, I just try now to avoid the things but they are EVERYWHERE. What happened to a golden retriever, at least if he knocks you off your bike he will only lick your wounds and wag his tail and not try to get his jaws around your throat. I been there, and I am not going to put up with it. This what happens when dangerous dogs attack people on a bike:



    And yes, I sued them and don't feel bad about it at all.

    LC
    Last edited by Loose Chain; 08-11-11 at 10:00 PM.
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  24. #24
    Senior Member Monster Pete's Avatar
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    1) Look where you're going, and be aware of hazards all around you.
    2) Ride defensively. This means claiming some road space rather than squeezing yourself against the edge of the road. Other traffic can wait if necessary.
    3) Keep your bike maintained properly. You'll have a less stressful and safer ride if everything's working properly.
    4) Master the use of the front brake. It's the most important and can give the shortest possible stopping distance by itself if used properly.
    5) Use a good set of lights at night. Reflectors aren't enough.
    6) Wear protective equipment if you feel it appropriate. Gloves will give some hand protection if you come off, when you'll instinctively put your hand out to break your fall. A helmet will not prevent concussions, nor will it help if you get flattened by a bus, but it can reduce or prevent minor injuries.

    In my opinion, protective equipment is the lowest importance of these factors: far better to prevent the accident by good riding technique than to have to rely on safety gear. There seems to be a common assumption that wearing a helmet is the be all and end all of safe riding. It isn't.
    I've got a bike, you can ride if you like it's got a basket, a bell that rings and things to make it look good- Pink Floyd, 1967

  25. #25
    Starting over CraigB's Avatar
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    I don't think anyone mentioned this so far: be extremely careful of any kind of pavement paint when it's wet. Lane striping, crosswalks, turn arrows, you name it. When water gets on them it might as well be oil.
    Craig in Indy

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