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Noob crash likelihood?

Old 09-09-23, 11:01 AM
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Noob crash likelihood?

I hear a LOT of "crash replacement" stories online. If I've never raced anything in my life, how likely is it that I'm going to crash in my first year or two of doing crits? I imagine a lot of it has to do with how aggressive I want to be and how well I can stay off someone's wheel, but I'm trying to get a bit of an idea because:

1. An AL race bike like a Teammachine ALR One with the same groupset is half the price ($2k for an AXS Rival drivetrain) of a comparably-equipped carbon bike.
2. I'm 52, and crashes will hurt a lot more (honestly, might be a one-and-done).

Should I go for cheap frames?

Alternately, in the spirit of "only ride what you can afford to replace," if that applies to my aging body, should I avoid crits entirely and stick to long, less-logjammy endurance races, slow-mo SSCX, and TTs?

Last edited by cormacf; 09-09-23 at 11:12 AM.
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Old 09-09-23, 03:29 PM
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It is very easy to crash if your front wheel overlaps with the rear wheel of another rider. If they move suddenly to the side they can take you down in an instant. As a novice it would be wise to start with open road racing and not short course criteriums with lots of tight turns. Search on "criterium" and "crash" to get an idea of how often they occur even with professional riders.
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Old 09-09-23, 05:39 PM
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As someone who wants to get into Master's racing, I likewise am trying to figure out how to "scratch that itch" and still be able to show up to work not in pain, both physically and financially.

As Calsun suggests, road racing and TTs feel like better disciplines to me. Even the best, highest level criteriums have regular crashes. I can only imagine how ridiculous it can be at Cat5 level where people are both fit and inexperienced.

I've been fortunate enough that my town's bike fitter was a criterium guy before his knees gave out, and he has a lot of great advice on how to stay safe in races. His advice: a) try to get into the breakaway early, as the fewer riders you have around you and are working with, the safer it is; b) don't sign up for races where the finish line is at the end of a descent; c) the more damage you can do to the peloton, the safer it becomes for everyone, as this will stretch the peloton out. A sprint against 5 people is way safer than a sprint against 20 people at the end.
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Old 09-10-23, 09:22 AM
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I will second that. I've been racing elite/open for about 15 years and focusing on Master's racing more recently. There are less crashes in Master's racing b/c people don't take the same risks, and are generally more experienced. Crashing is far last frequent in Master's, especially as you go up in age group.
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Old 09-10-23, 11:49 PM
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I've crashed once. There's definitely risk. But it's not a demolition derby. Annecdotally, some of the worst crashes are road races.
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Old 09-11-23, 06:59 AM
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I wouldn't worry about it too much. (Unless you're at nationals, in which case Masters will definitely do stupid stuff to try to win a jersey.)

I've seen many more crashes in RRs than crits.
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Old 09-11-23, 04:36 PM
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Crashing happens even at the uber-elite level. G Thomas has hit the deck numerous times in this year's Vuelta.

Crashing does happen, It is part of racing.

But learning how to crash is a skill that very few people learn. It used to be a part of training with bumping each other riding on a grassy field. I suspect that is a long lost training exercise.

One thing to learn is to keep your hands on the bars and not to "throw them out". That is how you end up with a fractured collar bone or even worse a fractured elbow. Take the hit and roll with it. Your shoulder can take a much harder hit. That takes learning as most folks initial reaction is to throw their arms out.

And when you fall tuck your head in. You NEVER want your head to take the brunt of a crash even with a helmet.
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Old 09-11-23, 05:20 PM
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If you're racing, crashing is more a matter of "when", than "if". That said. I raced road races and crits for 7 years before my first crash, and it was my own fault (lost front wheel traction in a corner, and took down a teammate).

For bikes, a frame that I could afford to replace was my choice, built with good parts and decent wheels. When I was racing 20 years ago, that choice was aluminum. Today, it would be mid-level CF.
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Old 09-11-23, 05:25 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro
I wouldn't worry about it too much. (Unless you're at nationals, in which case Masters will definitely do stupid stuff to try to win a jersey.)

I've seen many more crashes in RRs than crits.
A friend of mine got taken out in the last lap of 50+ Crit Nats a couple of weeks ago. He was a legit top-5 contender.
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Old 09-13-23, 02:09 PM
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Originally Posted by topflightpro
I wouldn't worry about it too much. (Unless you're at nationals, in which case Masters will definitely do stupid stuff to try to win a jersey.)

I've seen many more crashes in RRs than crits.
And more crashes in your weekly "world's" weekday rides. Too many fit tri-guys show up that have no idea how to ride in a group. My first time riding with our local world's ride (it was a legit hard ride with Phil Gaimon as a regular) one of the established and older riders came up next to me and touched me during the neutral start section of the ride. Of course I did not freak and kept my line like it was no big deal and said "Hello". He was just indicating to me that he was there and gauging my reaction. I had ridden with racers before in group rides and I think that I passed the test and now I was OK.. And being my first time on the ride I rode at the back and observed how it was done. Every "world's" group ride has its own etiquette. You just have to learn the house rules. We had a longer Tuesday ride and a shorter Thursday ride with different conventions. Thursday was more free for all. A few times a rider would have a friend on a motorbike hiding up the road and he would attack on get on the moto wheel. If you were at the tail end of that it was a total sufferfest as rider after rider in front of you create gaps that you have to cover. I think that I quit after six well over 35 mph sprints just to reach the last wheel on my second Hipp Ride.

One of the reasons I hated these rides is that it was hard to incorporate them into training. After a while I approached these rides with "What is my training objective for the day". Usually I would say that I want to make one really hard effort. Sometimes that was early on. Sometimes it was late. I never approached these rides with any idea of "winning". Winning was on the weekend for yourself or for a teammate.

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Old 09-14-23, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by cormacf
I hear a LOT of "crash replacement" stories online. If I've never raced anything in my life, how likely is it that I'm going to crash in my first year or two of doing crits? I imagine a lot of it has to do with how aggressive I want to be and how well I can stay off someone's wheel, but I'm trying to get a bit of an idea because:

1. An AL race bike like a Teammachine ALR One with the same groupset is half the price ($2k for an AXS Rival drivetrain) of a comparably-equipped carbon bike.
2. I'm 52, and crashes will hurt a lot more (honestly, might be a one-and-done).

Should I go for cheap frames?

Alternately, in the spirit of "only ride what you can afford to replace," if that applies to my aging body, should I avoid crits entirely and stick to long, less-logjammy endurance races, slow-mo SSCX, and TTs?
This is a good question: I remember contemplating it a lot when I got back into bike racing.

I'd say your chances of crashing during a season of racing are about 5-10 percent. If it happens, the most likely result is road rash and insignificant bike damage. But a bad one might mean a broken fork and a broken collar bone.

The opportunities to race a road bike, and the field sizes, have shrunk a lot here (in Wisconsin); not sure what the picture is where you're at, but smaller fields are generally safer.

As for the bike, a fancier frame won't help you race; you might as well go with the less expensive one -- not for fear you'll break it -- but to free up some money for great tires and fast wheels.

Good luck. I hope you decide to race. I've broken a bike, a kneecap and a collarbone -- but none of that happened during a crit, and it all healed up. I'm glad every day I decided to race bikes. There's not much else like it.
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Old 09-14-23, 10:10 AM
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Thank you!

I'm glad you healed up.

Yep--everything in life is risk/reward, so a zero-risk environment wouldn't be a whole lot of fun. My local club has a TT series on a super-flat course:


...including a "Merckx" category that's road bikes only, with no aerobars (and usually 8-10 people in that category). That seems about as low-risk a way to enter the sport as it gets, since I won't be crossing up anyone's wheel, and if I fall over, it's totally my fault. I think I'm going to give that a go and use it as justification for an N+1.

Originally Posted by ljsense
This is a good question: I remember contemplating it a lot when I got back into bike racing.

I'd say your chances of crashing during a season of racing are about 5-10 percent. If it happens, the most likely result is road rash and insignificant bike damage. But a bad one might mean a broken fork and a broken collar bone.

The opportunities to race a road bike, and the field sizes, have shrunk a lot here (in Wisconsin); not sure what the picture is where you're at, but smaller fields are generally safer.

As for the bike, a fancier frame won't help you race; you might as well go with the less expensive one -- not for fear you'll break it -- but to free up some money for great tires and fast wheels.

Good luck. I hope you decide to race. I've broken a bike, a kneecap and a collarbone -- but none of that happened during a crit, and it all healed up. I'm glad every day I decided to race bikes. There's not much else like it.
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