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Two falls/three months...

Old 03-28-23, 02:06 PM
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Two falls/three months...

55 years old, have been riding since I was a kid. Reasonable shape, 5' 9" 170 lbs. Starting tracking miles in 2014 with Map My Ride, just under 10,000 miles since then. So not crazy mileage like some but during spring/summer/fall try to get out at least 2-3 times a week. Live in Newark, DE, pretty good bike town. Have never had a serious injury riding, a couple of falls, mostly when riding singletrack. Had not had a road fall since I could remember.

Road rides are usually 10-15 miles around town, do a lot of loops through developments, try to stay off the main roads. Trail rides mostly up Creek Road gravel-type trail, very occasionally venture onto single track MTB trails. Have a 2014 Trek DS3 hybrid, great for gravel, OK for MTB. 1984 Trek 400 Series for road rides. Pretty old school but dependable.

Took a pretty good fall in December, nothing broken but bruised hip pretty well. Was on my road bike coming down a hill, pavement a little wet, car rolled a stop sign at an intersection, braked a little too hard, skidded and went down. I had been using Gatorskin tires for a couple of years, no flats but I feel like they are a little slicker than tires I have used previously.

Then about a month ago out riding with a buddy, we come to an intersection, there is cross traffic. Start to slow down but my buddy (who has a bad habit of not stopping in this type of situation but turning and riding up sidewalk in parallel to traffic) cuts in front of me. Try to avoid him but we get tangled up. This time a broken wrist, cast for about 5 weeks.

Cast comes off tomorrow, excited to get back out but a little nervous just the same.

Anyone here get to the point where they just feel like their balance/reflexes are shot? I know both accidents had pretty definite causes (too fast for conditions, riding too close/slightly nutty ride buddy) but I feel like a few years ago I would have avoided both.

Also wondering a little if it is time to give up the old Trek, maybe just don't have the balance for that type of bike any more?

Anyone else here have similar story/insight?
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Old 03-28-23, 03:00 PM
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Well, first of all, at some point several years ago, I tried HardShell Gatorskins and was really surprised at how bad the grip is in wet conditions. Fewer flats is nice, but not worth that risk, so I took them off.

I can also relate to other stuff you have there. 3 years ago, I woke up in some guy's car who was bringing me to a hospital. I had apparently crashed. I have no idea why or how. It was speculated that I hit a rock (I still have it), but with no witnesses and no video, I'll never know. There was some construction in the area, but even so, I am really surprised that I missed seeing that rock (if in fact, I did). Result:

Broken left arm
Broken right arm
Broken nose
Hairline fracture of occipital condyle (bone at the base of the skull that your atlas sits on .. very much like breaking your neck)

Pretty nasty stuff. Trust me, breaking both arms is inconvenient for all the reasons you might imagine, and if that occipital condyle fracture was displaced, it could have paralyzed me. My speed could not have been that fast, either ... maybe 12-20 MPH.

Just last year, I was riding with some friends and there was a sudden maneuver to turn onto a driveway and on a bike path. I was paying attention to all the riders in front of me and hit a 1" lip in the driveway at a shallow angle, and I was down in a flash. I thought I escaped injury, but had a broken rib. Also not a lot of fun.

I don't think my balance or reflexes are shot (I'm not sure they were ever all that good), but like you, it has me wondering.
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Old 03-28-23, 04:04 PM
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Apparently we eventually reach a point where even a slight risk of injury from crashing is no longer acceptable. I have found a recumbent tadpole trike can be a reasonable substitute for a two wheel DF bike. It beats relegation to an indoor trainer. It can substantially lengthen your cycling career.
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Old 03-28-23, 06:51 PM
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I think you need a new riding buddy!
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Old 03-28-23, 07:01 PM
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Originally Posted by parksie555
excited to get back out but a little nervous just the same.
IMHO, don't be nervous, just take it easy. Nothing you have said makes me think you are experiencing balance problems and are ready to switch bikes or style of riding. You had a mishap due to wet conditions and seem to have a riding buddy that may present hazards that are not of your fault. Slow down and watch out for your buddy.
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Old 03-28-23, 07:17 PM
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More caution and safer routes may be the alternative. Never did mountain biking but have done considerable single track in some pretty knarly areas. Now days its only light gravel and torn up asphalt. No traffic. No rain. No drizzle. No wet. No dusk. No dawn. No night. no... No... NO!

RATS!...

Of course I could ignore all these geriatric restrictions but at what cost. Luckily I am in an area I can do short rides almost everyday but its just shameful to compare to things I used to do, on my bicycle or otherwise.

I have a ridiculously long Pre-Flight check list now days. And it appears that I am constantly preparing myself for my next landing, planed or not. It's just now part of being careful and surviving. I have been read the act... Next fall and they take my bikes away...

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Old 03-28-23, 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by parksie555

Also wondering a little if it is time to give up the old Trek, maybe just don't have the balance for that type of bike any more?
Is the Trek comfortable ? Shift and brake well ? What size tires are on the Trek ?
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Old 03-28-23, 08:42 PM
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I say when it comes to riding skills, use them or lose them.

The more you practice athletic bike handling, the better you will be at it. Especially as we age.
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Old 03-28-23, 08:58 PM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
I say when it comes to riding skills, use them or lose them.

The more you practice athletic bike handling, the better you will be at it. Especially as we age.
How do you do that? I would think it hard to practice those kind of extreme maneuvers without risking injury from the practice itself.
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Old 03-28-23, 09:32 PM
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I'm 77. I don't think it's so much bike handling . . . I'm not great at it but I've fallen twice in my life, no injuries. It's more being really particular about what's safe to do and backing it way off if I'm not sure. I'm just very careful. Paranoid is good. Maybe it helps that I ride my rollers a thousand or so miles a year, brush my teeth standing on one leg, and put on my pants, socks, and shoes while standing. Yeah, I'm a nut. But it's more about awareness and early action. It also helps to hold onto the bars when you do go down, never put out a hand or arm. Land flat.

So like I'm riding STP with 10,000 of my best friends. About 20 miles out of Seattle, while the bikes are still pretty thick, I see a stop sign a good 100 yards ahead. I move to one side and slow way down. A bunch of bikes go storming past me and sure enough, some think they'll run the stop sign and some prefer to stop, so there's suddenly all this metallic noise. When everything stops moving, I go to the stop sign, stop, and ride on. That's how it's done. When that's not enough, I rely on luck. I'm the world's luckiest man, just ask my wife.

On third thought, maybe it also helps that I learned to drive on ice in Alaska and rode a motorcycle really fast in Europe, where one could back then. I've recovered from a bad multiple fishtail on the tandem, had the rear of my single slide out a couple times, that sort of thing. We used to always do the Sunday group ride, rain or shine, PNW. I never went out if I thought there was a chance of black ice, but we did get caught in a really bad snowstorm on the tandem, did OK.

I agree about the Gatorskins, also Marathons. I had a tandem on Marathons go down in front of us on a wet steepish climb. That team spun the rear going around a turn. We were just fine on our softer tires.

So, stay back if anything looks dicey, don't overcook blind right handers, stay away from cracks and edges or at least cross them at a very steep angle, like tracks, don't watch your Garmin at the wrong moment and especially stop to play with its settings, don't pedal around sharp corners. Thinking of accidents I've watched. It doesn't hurt to dress while standing, either.
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Old 03-28-23, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
How do you do that? I would think it hard to practice those kind of extreme maneuvers without risking injury from the practice itself.
They are not extreme maneuvers.
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Old 03-28-23, 11:37 PM
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I cut way back on cycling a couple of years ago (age 63, I think), mostly due to persistent vertigo. Not sure what causes it. Probably cervical neck stenosis aggravated by the cycling position. The docs checked my skull and sinuses and saw no problems.

Anyway, my cycling mileage dropped from about 5,000 miles a year to 500, and then over the past year much less than that. I've switched mostly to jogging and walking. I still use the indoor trainer about once a week, but I don't think I've ridden outdoors since late 2022.

I've had some bouts with vertigo while running and walking, but figure if I do fall it won't be far, and I can usually aim for grass. I have fallen once while running. I greatly overestimated my ability to hurdle a curb and tumbled onto soft grass. Embarrassing but no injury. I don't do any jumping of any kind while running now, not even curbs. I slow to a walk when approaching curbs. I do some plyometric exercises, modest jumping, one-legged balance exercises, etc. But I had to accept the reality that at 65 I had to let go of the notion of regaining anything close to the fitness, dexterity, mobility and balance I had years ago.

When I was cycling a lot, I had a few falls after resuming cycling in 2015, but no serious injuries. A couple of cracked ribs back around 2016 or '17, but no need for medical treatment. However I was hit by a car in 2018, which set me back for about a year with a broken and badly dislocated shoulder than refused to heal. I regained my cycling fitness quickly and by 2020 was probably stronger than I'd been since I was in my 20s. But the vertigo and neck pain started worsening dramatically in autumn 2021, so I'm not riding much anymore.

I also stopped riding with a local fast club. It wasn't so much the speed as the recklessness that deterred me. I still occasionally join casual group rides with friends. Some of them are a bit reckless, but it's not a big deal at 10-12 mph. At 20-30 mph in a pack, it's a big deal if the leader rides us into chewed up pavement or traffic cones because he's too busy concentrating on his next PR or KOM. And some younger guys I rode with were strong but had terrible bike handling skills. So I'm a lot pickier about who I ride with.

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Old 03-29-23, 05:31 AM
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I sympathize. I'm approaching 75 and crashed a few times in my 60s while on vacations. I broke a wrist mountain biking, crashed in France and ended up with a plate and 12 screws in my shoulder, and crashed in the Outer Banks and broke my hip requiring pining (more like a post and beam). When I analyzed the crashes, they all resulted from lax attention so I slowed down and stayed on two wheels. Now I am almost three years into a Parkinson's diagnosis so I have dialed up the caution and added a lightweight eBike to the stable. So far my balance on the bike has remained good. But, if my balance noticeably deteriorates I will definitely move to a pedal assist trike.
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Old 03-29-23, 06:02 AM
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It's still pretty comfortable. Replaced the saddle a few years ago when the original wore out, got something a little more padded. Shifting OK, probably as good as can be expected without index shifting. Brakes OK, just regular calipers. 32 mm tires. Originally 1 1/8" but replaced wheels 7-8 years ago and went with something a little wider. Definitely thinking about replacing tires though, they seem really slick, especially now with some mileage on them.
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Old 03-29-23, 06:06 AM
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Thanks all for the replies. Will definitely be getting out again, just slowing things down a bit. Probably more riding on DS at first.
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Old 03-29-23, 06:30 AM
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awareness of your surroundings...sounds like you respond too late for survival
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Old 03-29-23, 06:49 AM
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Time for a Trike.
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Old 03-29-23, 08:07 AM
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I have been a bicycle rider all my life and a motorcycle rider since my early 20s. As I aged, I noticed motorcycle riders who were having trouble with balance when going slowly and I decided I should probably stop riding motorcycles at 70 — before I got to be dangerous. However, just before turning 68, the engine of my motorcycle blew up and I decided to not repair it or replace it. I don’t know when I’ll decide to end my bicycle riding. I’ll be 70 in the fall and I seem to be doing well so far.

55 doesn’t seem so old to me now, but when I was around 58, I decided that riding all night on randonneuring brevets probably wasn’t good for me anymore and I stopped that. I have noticed that as I age and can’t do what I used to do, I don’t really miss it as much as I thought I would. I expect it will be the same with bicycles.
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Old 03-29-23, 09:15 AM
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Originally Posted by terrymorse
They are not extreme maneuvers.
What kind of practice do you suggest?

Maybe an example: I was riding home with a friend some months ago, and someone in an auto started to enter the roadway in front of me from a driveway. I was going about 25 MPH. When I saw that, I grabbed the brakes. I overbraked the rear brake, and the back tire started to skid. I let it go (thankfully, in time), and was able to straighten the bike out without falling, but just barely.

I don't think any amount of practice is going to improve my reflexes in releasing that brake. Are you perhaps referring to maybe with practice, being less apt to overbrake the rear?
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Old 03-29-23, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I'm 77. I don't think it's so much bike handling . . . I'm not great at it but I've fallen twice in my life, no injuries. It's more being really particular about what's safe to do and backing it way off if I'm not sure. I'm just very careful. Paranoid is good. Maybe it helps that I ride my rollers a thousand or so miles a year, brush my teeth standing on one leg, and put on my pants, socks, and shoes while standing. Yeah, I'm a nut. But it's more about awareness and early action. It also helps to hold onto the bars when you do go down, never put out a hand or arm. Land flat.

So like I'm riding STP with 10,000 of my best friends. About 20 miles out of Seattle, while the bikes are still pretty thick, I see a stop sign a good 100 yards ahead. I move to one side and slow way down. A bunch of bikes go storming past me and sure enough, some think they'll run the stop sign and some prefer to stop, so there's suddenly all this metallic noise. When everything stops moving, I go to the stop sign, stop, and ride on. That's how it's done. When that's not enough, I rely on luck. I'm the world's luckiest man, just ask my wife.

....

So, stay back if anything looks dicey, don't overcook blind right handers, stay away from cracks and edges or at least cross them at a very steep angle, like tracks, don't watch your Garmin at the wrong moment and especially stop to play with its settings, don't pedal around sharp corners. Thinking of accidents I've watched. It doesn't hurt to dress while standing, either.
All that is consistent with my general thoughts on traffic safety ... whether on a bike or in a car. It is not so much your reflexes or emergency handling skills that count. It's your experience in identifying danger and responding appropriately ... and knowing your limits.
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Old 03-29-23, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by parksie555
Anyone here get to the point where they just feel like their balance/reflexes are shot? I know both accidents had pretty definite causes ...
With your description of those two recent scenarios, I wouldn't chalk it up to your "reflexes" or anything medical (say, wonky blood pressure or balance issues).

Sounds like simple situations of judgment errors. In the one case, wet pavement that wasn't sufficiently guarded against, through appropriate speed, modulated braking through a corner; such as when heading over railroad tracks or painted lines, for example. In the other case, you and your buddy were riding in such proximity that a rapid maneuver became impossible to avoid.

In my own past, though decades ago, I had a similar "judgment" situation. Was riding at a time of day nearly empty of other people (pedestrians or cyclists), on a narrow MUP. I was going about 25mph, an injudicious speed at any time, but there it is. Of course, a pedestrian comes up on a side entry walkway to the MUP, without looking ... and, boom. I hit the brakes and the front wheel came out from under me. Slid a dozen feet and got bad road rash. Wasn't an issue of reactions or balance or equipment; was simply an inappropriate speed and not taking into account the likelihood of another's presence on a multi-use path. My bad, entirely. Result? Never have gone so briskly since, certainly not in ANY situation that involves overtaking or proximity to side-road entry by others, never near dogs on leashes, never when I don't have clear line-of-sight visibility. Slows down the route, sure, but it's far safer for all. IMO, as a direct result, I've been able to avoid any crashes since.
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Old 03-29-23, 09:40 AM
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didn't start crashing until I got a mountain bike. after each crash I learned what to do & not do. I'm getting better at not crashing. not a single fall this winter

sorry to hear about your wrist

my "safe" rides are on paved bike trails. I think they are safer & great to build back confidence

a note about judgement & intuition. it seems that I don't pay attention. I remember telling myself something like "this may not be wise" but I did it anyway & crashed. I'm now try to pay heed to my intuition & correct poor judgement. seems weird for someone in their mid-60s. you'd think I would have worked that kind of stuff out in my 20s ...
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Old 03-29-23, 09:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
What kind of practice do you suggest?

Maybe an example: I was riding home with a friend some months ago, and someone in an auto started to enter the roadway in front of me from a driveway. I was going about 25 MPH. When I saw that, I grabbed the brakes. I overbraked the rear brake, and the back tire started to skid. I let it go (thankfully, in time), and was able to straighten the bike out without falling, but just barely.

I don't think any amount of practice is going to improve my reflexes in releasing that brake. Are you perhaps referring to maybe with practice, being less apt to overbrake the rear?
I think one can practice in their head. Holding the bars when going down is an example. Practice that in your head because you sure as heck can't practice in real life. Worked for me. You could go to a grassy field and do that, but lack of injury would not be assured. We have mirror neurons which enable us to learn by watching. I think we can also learn by thought practice.

A number of years ago, Bicycle Quarterly did a study on emergency braking. It turned out that the fastest stops were done by only using the front brake. The "why" is a bit uncertain, but it seems like it's a matter of concentration and it's easier to concentrate on only one thing. However that's easy to practice in real life, so recommended. A perfect emergency front brake stop would begin to lift the rear wheel off the ground. Because front wheel loading goes way up on a single, it seems that the front doesn't skid as long as we keep the bike going straight. I use both brakes to stop the tandem - can't skid the back wheel with my rim brakes.
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Old 03-29-23, 10:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Carbonfiberboy
I think one can practice in their head. Holding the bars when going down is an example. Practice that in your head because you sure as heck can't practice in real life. Worked for me. You could go to a grassy field and do that, but lack of injury would not be assured. We have mirror neurons which enable us to learn by watching. I think we can also learn by thought practice.

A number of years ago, Bicycle Quarterly did a study on emergency braking. It turned out that the fastest stops were done by only using the front brake. The "why" is a bit uncertain, but it seems like it's a matter of concentration and it's easier to concentrate on only one thing. However that's easy to practice in real life, so recommended. A perfect emergency front brake stop would begin to lift the rear wheel off the ground. Because front wheel loading goes way up on a single, it seems that the front doesn't skid as long as we keep the bike going straight. I use both brakes to stop the tandem - can't skid the back wheel with my rim brakes.
I think it is the same issue as it is with cars ... the front brakes are the ones that do most of the stopping (likely because the way the force vectors work out, the bike tends to rotate when braked, putting more weight on the front tire and less on the back ... with less weight, the back tire skids).

On a bike, it is a tough judgment for me. I tend to panic brake the front more than the back, but obviously, not enough. You can get a bike to stop quite fast if you're able to modulate the braking just short of overbraking the front, but if you DO overbrake the front, you're toast ... no way to recover. At least if you overbrake the rear brake, you can detect the skid and merely releasing it will usually prevent a fall.

I suppose I should have practiced all this before I became an old fart with brittle bones. lol

BTW, my friends know me to be someone not all that enamored with hydraulics and disc brakes, as they apply to bicycles. I live where it almost never rains, and the primary advantage I see in them is the ability to fit wider tires. But if they were to develop ABS for bicycles using that technology, I'd be on it like flies on ****.
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Old 03-29-23, 10:17 AM
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Originally Posted by Biker395
What kind of practice do you suggest?
Here are a few I can think of that help bike handling -- some may get you out of a tough spot:
  • hard "emergency" braking
  • quick "emergency" turns
  • "no hands" pedaling
  • fast descending
  • track stand
  • bunny hop
Something else that will help keep the skills strong is riding in a group of experienced riders.
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