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What do you do to avoid crashes?

Old 02-01-12, 08:57 PM
  #1  
Monkeyclaw
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What do you do to avoid crashes?

In the RR thread, there's been a lot of discussion about early season crashes (mine included, which had me in an ambulance and CT scan at the hospital).

What kind of things does everyone do to avoid crashes during a race? Some crashes just can't be avoided if you want to be part of the race. I have tried a few things which have worked pretty well.

1) I avoid being in the middle of the pack, instead opting to be on the edges. This gives me more of an 'out' if something happens. Sometimes this leaves you in the wind a little more (or a lot in a cross wind).

2) I try to stay to the front of the pack if possible. Not always easy with the way the pack moves.

3) If I can't be near the front, I stay near the rear. Staying in the rear takes a lot more effort, but lets me see things happen well before I usually get to them.

4) Stay to the inside of as many turns as possible. When someone falls in a turn, they slide to the outside. Staying inside means less likelihood of someone taking you out (but increases the accordion effect if you're not near the front).

My crash was caused by someone swinging out into my teammate on a straightaway, whom I was drafting closely. We were coming up on the left of the pack to get near the front at the start of the final lap (pack was pressed against the left side of the track). Someone swung out quickly as if they were launching or something. My teammate went down, and his bike swung out to the right. I couldn't swerve far enough to avoid his bike. That's all I remember, but I ended up on the other side of the track with a shattered helmet and no memory of what was going on. My GPS read 33 MPH at it's last reading.

Looking back, I could have (a) left more room behind my teammate; and (b) been further away from the pack. Since it was a cat 5 race, I probably should have done both!

I still blame the guy for not looking before he launched (w/ 1 lap to go???) but it's my job to anticipate this kind of thing. I'm curious what other strategies people employ?
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Old 02-01-12, 10:01 PM
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Don't race or upgrade out of 5's ASAP. There are still a lot of crashes in the 4's. 3's are sorta better. Masters are the way to go.

Save your GArmin for training it's expensive to replace after crash. I found out the hard way.

Staying inside can also mean getting pinched and you can still crash.

Ride the front 5-10 wheels the whole time.

It's racing you are going to crash. Learn to read the riders around you. If someone is coughing blood on the bell lap probably shouldn't follow his wheel.
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Old 02-01-12, 10:02 PM
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I haven't crashed in a race since 1995. They've happened all around me and on/off of me. I even had EDR (former member and current teammate) crash off of my rear as I pinched him without knowing it while I was pinched.

I have stopped in the middle of the road avoiding crashes. I have slid sideways. I have gone into the grass. I have dropped out of races that were too dangerous.

I keep my eyes active. I have practiced bump drills on grass and on the road. I have a kinetic sense about what's going on around me -- much like you would in Frogger. I don't carry lateral tension in my arms. If you bump my elbow, it will flop sideways initially -- when I tense up and send them out to hold position, I'm prepared for the contact. I look where I want to go, not where I'm trying to avoid. I pretend I don't have a rear brake if I'm cornering at all -- it can cause crashes. When I catch a pedal in a corner (once per crit or so?) I don't react at all -- I've never gone down because of one and it happens often. If the race is too slow, my team will speed it up -- fast races are an order of magnitude safer than slow races. I never overreact to anything that happens in front of me -- a guy once went down in front of me, and I never got further than 1 foot behind him as he slid to a stop -- I ended up stopped as well, and just matched his deceleration to give the guys behind us a chance.
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Old 02-01-12, 10:17 PM
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What WR said.

I only have to add: I believe that mental state matters. I decline to participate in crashes.
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Old 02-01-12, 10:18 PM
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To elaborate a bit: experience helps, a lot. Just like car driving experience... you develop a sixth sense that something is not right, and take evasive action before the actual wreck even gets started.

Sorry if that's nebulous.
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Old 02-01-12, 10:55 PM
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Originally Posted by chefxian View Post
Save your GArmin for training it's expensive to replace after crash. I found out the hard way.
I was wondering about that. In order of things likely to be destroyed in a crash, I was thinking brifters, RD, RD hanger, Saddle, kit, helmet. If the Garmin is mounted on the stem wouldn't it not be likely to take too much damage? Especially for me since I have enough excess steer tube sticking up to be as high up as the Garmin itself.

I know anything is liable to take damage, but I try to race with what I train with. I'd rather not race without a power read at this point (lack of pacing experience).
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Old 02-01-12, 11:11 PM
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#2 & #4 are my usual approaches. A little bit of #1 too, except I try to avoid being on the right/shoulder side in an RR, since you may not have anywhere to go if you need to.

Something else I do is when hands are on the hoods and someone's butt is getting close, stick my index finger out as a buffer. That way no hands come off the bars and when they touch my finger they back off.

But let's face it; no matter how "awesome" you are at avoiding crashes, it just happens. Even to the pros. It's part of the game.
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Old 02-01-12, 11:54 PM
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Originally Posted by kindablue View Post
I was wondering about that. In order of things likely to be destroyed in a crash, I was thinking brifters, RD, RD hanger, Saddle, kit, helmet. If the Garmin is mounted on the stem wouldn't it not be likely to take too much damage? Especially for me since I have enough excess steer tube sticking up to be as high up as the Garmin itself.

I know anything is liable to take damage, but I try to race with what I train with. I'd rather not race without a power read at this point (lack of pacing experience).
Mine exploded and it was on the stem. I don't know if there is anything really preventive. I should clarify my race experience is mostly crit racing (30+ races a year) for me plus a handful of rr's. On RR's I will keep my Garmin on but in a 50 minute crit, I am focused on racing as hard as I can. I know my power and heart rate and it's all redline.

We have some of the best racers and bike handlers out here. Good guys go down all the time. If someone rolls a tubie and goes down there really isn't anything you can do. It's awesome that WR hasn't crashed in that long. I guess I need more experience to avoid these pitfalls. Bump drills are fun as hell though. On the grass.
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Old 02-02-12, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by mattm View Post
#2 & #4 are my usual approaches. A little bit of #1 too, except I try to avoid being on the right/shoulder side in an RR, since you may not have anywhere to go if you need to.

Something else I do is when hands are on the hoods and
someone's butt is getting close, stick my index finger out as a buffer. That way no hands come off the bars and when they touch my finger they back off.

But let's face it; no matter how "awesome" you are at avoiding crashes, it just happens. Even to the pros. It's part of the game.

I'm not sure exactly what you're talking about, but I gotta tell you...it sounds
awful.
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Old 02-02-12, 07:57 AM
  #10  
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I'll add a thought or three. What WR said. What the OP said is a good beginning. I'll expand on what Creak said.

"Sixth sense" is a trained response. So, for example, blind people have claimed to be able to feel walls from a couple feet away. Their skin tingles and they turn away. Under normal situations the blind people so affected seem to be able to back up this claim. However, when the folks running the experiment put on ear protection (ear muffs), the blind people slammed into the walls.

What happened? The blind people heard minor differences in the echo of sound of whatever they and others were doing (footsteps, breathing, etc) and instinctively turned away from the wall. The skin tingling was a conditioned response to this stimuli (or rather to this different stimuli).

What was really happening is that the blind people heard different echoes.

Likewise a sixth sense for avoiding crashes is more about being able to read the riders around you, body language, faces, pedaling style, group riding style/skills, etc.

Other than a mechanical (unclipped sprinting out of a turn) and having a guy swerve across my front wheel intentionally, as far as crashing because of other racers in a race, I haven't crashed since the early 90s. I've gone off course, stopped, etc, but not crashed.

(And to be totally honest, I've unclipped probably 10 times in that time period without crashing so that one crash was kind of my fault).

I think there are two things that make the nebulous stuff - reading others and technique practice.

Reading others - I'll back off another rider for any number of reasons. At the same time I'll sit 1-2-3" off of a non-racer's wheel on a shop group ride if I feel like it's okay. I avoid squirrely riders, even working to get ahead of them. I'll follow smooth ones. Ironically I think that following someone too closely is a red flag - if I see someone too close and they don't look super savvy, I avoid the cone area behind them where the mayhem will occur when they crash.

"Super savvy" - ever seen a master at something? Musician, martial arts, car driver, bike rider? They have a quiet, steady confidence, very fluent, automatically do things that others have to concentrate on doing. Those are the riders you want to follow.

Rough pedaling style (not a particular cadence, in fact more high cadence riders scare me than low cadence because it's harder to control a bucking bike at high cadence and solo type riders seem to focus on cadence quite a bit) is a big sign. Poor form means the rider will be tired.

I take my own experience into account. When I'm totally on the limit I get dizzy if I look around too quickly. I don't think it's just me - I just watched a Het Volk where a tired rider looks back, brushes someone, and falls over. Julian Dean once led out Hushovd, turned back, and fell over. It happens. So when I see a rider who looks like they're on the limit, not looking around much, I figure they're at that dizzy stage.

Guys who turn in too early are scared of turns. Huge warning flag, runs across all levels of the sport. I totally avoid them, or stay inside of them on the exit because they'll go wide. In SoCal on some winding descent I'd never been on before (Lilac? near the Lawrence Welk place), I started it near the back (because we just finished going up a hill), and only stopped blasting by passing riders because I got to the first guy. Since I didn't know where we were going I just followed him. Later my friend overheard some comment like "That guy from Connecticut knows how to descend." No, that's not right. I know how to corner, therefore I can descend.

I'm extremely risk averse. Based on some of that nebulous stuff, I feel much more comfortable in a crit than a road race. I see more poor riding in road races than in crits, probably because a lot of guys who don't like crits don't like them because they don't handle their bikes well/properly in a group. Road races also hit much higher speeds, 55-60-65 mph in my personal experience. Crashing at that speed could be life changing; even a minor problem could be beyond a good bike handler's capabilities.

Therefore I stay with the slow crits, where we rarely exceed 40 mph and normally ride 25-30 mph on the straights. It's easier to read people when they take the same turn a few times; within a few laps I'm comfortable with who I'm comfortable with, and I already have flags on the riders I don't want to be near.
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Old 02-02-12, 08:35 AM
  #11  
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I slid out in a corner once in a crit once. Not enough weight on the inside handlebar drop. I felt pretty bad because I took out a few others. That was my only crash.

I feel I've avoided a lot of crashes by being hyper aware of who's around me and what things look like from their eyes. For example: There are four riders I'm concerned about. One is even with me on my right side, I'm overlapping the rear wheel of the guy on my left, and he's only slightly overlapping the guy directly in front of me. If the guy directly in front of me moves forward, this guy on my left may move up to follow and I can't move right because that guy is blocking my exit. So what do I do? either move forward and right, forcing the guy on my right to drop back, or move back and left behind this guy that I'm overlapping. The lesson there is: Don't overlap wheels, but now take all that and apply it to situations that don't even involve you - Start looking at the riders around you that are putting themselves in poor positions. Where are the dominoes going to fall? I'm pretty sure I think about this stuff more than most riders around me, but that's probably because I'm still racing in the 4's
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Old 02-02-12, 08:48 AM
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For me, it boils down to being aware to what's going around you. Being aware of what's happening up the road, and beside you, not just watching the wheel in front of you.
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Old 02-02-12, 09:10 AM
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Racing enough with the same group of people lets you (or me anyways) make note of who the sketchy riders are and avoid situations where you are near them. I won't hesitate to sit up or drop out when the field is extremely nervous or if I get the feeling that something bad is going to happen (which it usually does). My life outside bike racing is worth more than risking staying in a sketchy $35 cat 3 crit.

-Stay with someone who you know has good handling skills.
-Don't fixate on the crash/obstacle... look where you want to go otherwise you'll ride right into it. Ask a good motorcycle rider about this.
-Anyone running their mouth gets avoided like the plague.
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Old 02-02-12, 10:22 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
For me, it boils down to being aware to what's going around you. Being aware of what's happening up the road, and beside you, not just watching the wheel in front of you.
This is crucial. You should be looking up to the front of the group at all times, both from a racing awareness perspective and from a crash avoidance perspective. I once watch 40 Cat 4's pile into each other in one corner...they all were looking at the wheel in front of them.

Keep your hands in the drops and a finger on the brake...old habit I developed while motorcycle racing. This position gets you low and solid on the bike. Stay loose...freezing up causes a lot of crashes. Practice avoidance when you're out on training rides; learn to countersteer, bunny hop, and ride with your body out of it's normal balance position. Go ride a mountain bike or BMX bike, ride up and down curbs and driveways.

Bottom line is you can send a bike without a rider down a hill and it will stay upright until it hits a bump or a solid object. Bikes do not want to crash.

But mostly keep your eyes up the road.

Or go OTF at the gun.
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Old 02-02-12, 10:32 AM
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yeah i was gonna say...

just stay off the front

it kinda helps if you have the luxury of racing the same fields every week too.

theres guys and teams i love to follow around cuz theyre well drilled and attentive. and theres other guys and teams i avoid like my life depends on it cuz well...
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Old 02-02-12, 11:38 AM
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Definitely keep your eyes up the road for the reasons Ex said. I also have my fingers on the levers most of the time. If you can't see the front, be looking at least 3-4 riders ahead of you. With a 3-4 rider buffer you have at least a chance of avoiding a wreck without slamming on the brakes and getting punted.

I race mostly criteriums. If there is time I will walk the course while another race is going on and look for two main things - obstacles and escape routes. During warmups I will clarify them at speed. It's amazing how much more detail you can get about these two things if you do what I suggest. Last year there were two incidents where this came in handy. On the last lap of the 3-4 race at New Britain, I was shoved off the left side of the road into the grass. I knew where the tree roots were and was able to ride over them and get back into the field. Riders crashed behind me. I didn't do well as I moved from the front to mid-pack so I didn't contest the sprint. With 2 laps to go in the M40+ race at Exeter, I was chopped by a rider that some of us know around here as being famous for that and has caused serious harm to others I know. It was in turn 3 which is a downhill off camber turn. Before the race I had scouted the escape routes and noted that just before the light pole on the inside there was a handicap ramp. The rider chopped me hard. I blasted over the ramp and back into the front of the field with no disruptions. Thank gawd I missed the pole.

Situational awareness is the key. Support it every way you can.
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Old 02-02-12, 11:50 AM
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Originally Posted by chefxian View Post
Don't race or upgrade out of 5's ASAP. There are still a lot of crashes in the 4's. 3's are sorta better. Masters are the way to go.
.
Masters are better, but not perfect as I found out last year, getting caught in a stupid pile-up.

Better than the terrible 3s around here, though.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:03 PM
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Yeah, that was a dumb crash. The only factors I can think of that may have contributed beyond stupidity were the wind (headwind into the corner) and the road conditions (lots of obstacles).
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Old 02-02-12, 12:09 PM
  #19  
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Originally Posted by Racer Ex View Post
But mostly keep your eyes up the road.
So simple, but huge. Your front tire should not be in your field of vision. You should be able to judge your distance to the bike in front of you by how far the rider is in front of you, not by constantly staring at the gap between your front wheel and his rear. Don't watch a row ahead of you. Scan as far up as you can see. Watch for any quick movements that are out of the ordinary. Don't get lulled into complacency. 90% of this game is 1/2 mental. You have to stay sharp.

I've had 2 racing crashes and one on a hard group ride that is sort of a Saturday morning race simulation.

1. I put myself in a bad position and paid for it when others crashed. I saw it coming, but couldn't extract myself from the situation before all hell broke loose. It was early on and I was following a sprint (not really sprinting myself) too closely. I should have pulled the plug much earlier. If I'm not in position for a good finish now, I just roll in. I really don't care if I'm 15th or DFL, they feel the same and DFL has a lot less risk.

2. I was a bit gassed after a prime and faded back in the group to recover. A crash happened ahead of me on the inside. It continued to the outside. I watched it all happen and stopped with guys on the ground in front of me. A-hole #1 hits be from behind while I'm stopped and I stayed vertical. A-hole #2 &#3 hit me from behind at the same time and sent me flying. I ended up with a small wrist fracture. No biggie, but you know where those guys were looking, don't you? I shouldn't have let myself fade back in the group.

3. On the group ride which make a big loop. Lap 2. I'm about 3-4 wheel covering a really stong TT-type guy. He made a subtle move to the left that I didn't copy. I hit a big chunk of asphalt that wasn't there 20 minutes prior. He didn't point or call it out. I went flying and broke my collar bone. I never had a chance to see it, ironically, because I wasn't staring at my front tire. That one sucked, but it's part of the hazard of riding on open, public roads. I made the assumption the road was clean based on the previous lap. It wasn't. Buyer beware.

In all cases, it was my fault. I was doing something stupid and got caught out. It's just a matter of personal responsibility. You have to be ready for anything.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:09 PM
  #20  
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Originally Posted by chefxian View Post
It's awesome that WR hasn't crashed in that long. I guess I need more experience to avoid these pitfalls.
I think I have a lot to do with my race crash record, but I think I've been extremely been lucky. The crash in 1995 is my only race crash too. I know a lot more skilled and talented bike handlers crash more than I do, so luck has to play into it.

I make up for it with pretty bad training crashes.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:19 PM
  #21  
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first, you want to be a loudmouth in the group. when riding along, yell at everyone for everything, be sure to yell "hold your line", "turn the bike not your body", and "pedal" at least 3x every race. loudly. if you do, you'll never fall down. you know you're doing this enough if you're voice is nearly gone after a 35 minute +2 lap crit. if you still have a voice, you need to yell louder and more often.

second, blame everyone for anything that happens to you when racing/riding, except if you win, you did that on your own. this is a self confident attitude that will prevent crashing.

third, after every race, stand around with others and talk about how sketchy everyone else was, especially the guy on the serotta or u/a rider. just pick someone different. everyone will agree. this will help you establish yourself high in the pecking order and get you respect when you need some space on race day.

fourth, while discussing how sketchy everyone was, make sure you mention that you tried to organize a breakaway, but no one wanted to race today. say it in those exact words. this will also gain you the admiration of your peers and be helpful to you on raceday.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:25 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

I make up for it with pretty bad training crashes.
Same here. No race crashes yet, that's in 75 or so races. I've been bumped off the road multiple times and even had to bunny hop a rider and bike on the ground.

But I've had two ugly crashes in group rides. Both of them were when, wait for it, I wasn't looking all the way up the road at the front of the group.
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Old 02-02-12, 12:53 PM
  #23  
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Staying away from "Fred" rides is rule #1. I do one such ride every year and I'm amazed at the amount of crashes.

Don't ride on a crowded MUP is rule #2. I have been crashed out by clueless nitwits and forced off the pavement numerous times. Also dodging critters (wildlife, not crit racers - squirrels, armadillos, alligators, deer, water moccasins, rattlesnakes, foxes, coyotes, bobcats, etc.) is often required.

CDR is right about developing a "sixth sense". It has saved me from lots of crashes.
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Old 02-02-12, 01:00 PM
  #24  
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I thought you did the Fred ride every Sunday?
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Old 02-02-12, 01:07 PM
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mollusk
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Originally Posted by kensuf View Post
I thought you did the Fred ride every Sunday?
Ha.
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