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Old 05-04-09, 12:16 PM   #1
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2 spills in one day on Burke-Gilman...

Greetings everyone!

I've been riding recreationally on an older KHS road bike for about 1/2 a year and have never had any accidents. Yesterday, I decided to go on a 45-mile ride along the Burke-Gilman in Seattle area and fell twice in one ride. I'm a road newbie so I'm hoping to get your input on what I did wrong so that I minimize this in the future.

Background: I'm a heavier rider, 215 lbs. 5'9. The bike is 52cm and I'm riding on GP4000 tires with Candy pedals.

How I fell (both times same conditions) - The burke gilman is a paved trail with some bumps along the way from tree roots and such and in some areas, the shoulder is soft soil/gravel downsloping. I was practicing holding a line as close to the edge as possible since I will be riding along the 1 highway in California in about 10 days and I wanted to stay closer to the shoulder to avoid any car-bike mishaps. As I got to an area with no shoulder, I veered off onto the shoulder and immediately the bike twisted and I clipped out my left leg as the bike fell and I landed on my knee and rolled a few times. The bike was okay and I got a few scrapes but nothing serious. Then on the way back, similar situation I was on the pavement then kinda veered onto the grass and I thought I could just swing back onto the pavement but hitting the small ledge between pavement and grass felt like hitting a wall and the bike twisted again and I fell once more (looking like an idiot). Should I have tried braking instead of steering my bike back onto the road? What's the best way to fall since I was able to free my left leg but my right leg was still clipped in until the bike fell at which point the angle automatically unclipped me. I'm thinking of just using flat pedals on my ride in 10 days since this experience.

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Old 05-04-09, 01:20 PM   #2
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I'm going to make a few assumptions:

1. The shoulder was/is lower than the paved part
2. The shoulder is covered with softer or loose material
3. A turn of some sort was involved, either a long slow one, or a quick one to get back on the trail.

Going from a nice paved surface to an unpaved surface you should try to keep it straight and at a reasonable speed until both tires are on the same surface. Same rules as riding on wet leaves in the fall. I am going to guess what caused the fall is a maneuver or sudden change in speed when you made the transition. Remember that the front wheel is carrying about 45% of the weight of the bike, you and your gear, sudden change in traction is a bad thing.

If conditions permit, try to keep going straight until you can recover nicely. That being said, conditions are not always right, you may take a fall, better on something soft is possible. Everybody falls eventually, you know, stuff happens.

Last edited by yoderman; 05-04-09 at 01:23 PM. Reason: misspelled falls
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Old 05-04-09, 02:17 PM   #3
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As to why you ran off the trail, perhaps you are looking at the shoulder that you don't want hit and you experience 'target fixation'.
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Old 05-04-09, 04:14 PM   #4
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May I suggest that you practice riding a bit farther in from the edge?
+ won't have to focus on where the edge is; will give you more time to enjoy the scenery
+ the edge may fluctuate. You really "want" to ride an even line
+ as you've found out, bad things can happen when you go off the edge
[ I'd suggest braking to a stop/slow, then getting bike up onto the pavement, instead of trying to steer the bike back up over the lip of the edge of the pavement; that's a hard move for anyone to pull off; similar bad things happen when steering up over pavement panel offsets parallel to the path of bike travel ]
+ by riding further from the edge, you're actually gaining yourself more of the road (or shoulder) to ride on. California One won't be as debris-free as the BGT. You may need to be able to move in either direction to avoid junk, or holes, or whatever.
+ if you have bright rear flashers, the motorists will see you, and you will get the space you need; you're really not doing yourself a favor by hugging the edge of the pavement.
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Old 05-04-09, 06:31 PM   #5
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Don't practice holding a line by riding so close to a soft shoulder. Or as you saw, you can end up causing the very same problem you are trying to avoid (crash). Find a road with a bike lane and follow the white line that separates you from the traffic (stay on your side of course).

If that ever happens to you again, follow the advice posted. Let both wheels get onto the same surface and then try to recover. Don't panic and make a sudden move back to where you want to be. Let it go and then find a spot where you can safely get back onto the pavement. If you can't, you can always slow down to a safe speed or even stop.
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Old 05-05-09, 12:33 AM   #6
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Can't make any assumptions but most crashes are greatly contributed to by fatigue. So first piece of advice would be to acknowledge when you are tired and take proper precautions.

Also, I see you're preparing to ride with a small lane of travel but simply riding and getting a good feel for the bike is going to be about as good of preparation as trying to stay in a small lane. I know that's a lot easier to say after you've fallen, because it wouldn't really apply if nothing bad happened. But doing what you did isn't going to help you much, it'll just assess where your control of the bike is at.

Having ridden a BMX bike when I was younger and mountain bike more recently, I had to adjust to riding a road bike. The small tires make handling very touchy and make it a lot easier to take a spill. I've ridden off the trail a couple times on accident and haven't fallen but I feel in danger when it happens. When you accidentally get off the trail, treat it somewhat like you would losing control in a car (hydroplaning, driving on snow/ice, flat tire): try to go as straight as possible as you work toward recovery.

Have you ever crossed railroad tracks or received advice about doing so? I've been on two organized rides (Flying Wheels and STP) and both had railroad tracks and both had crashes at the railroad tracks. Not sure that applies to your crashing, but it might for the second crash. If the front wheel doesn't have enough momentum to get up over the curb it will follow the line of the curb which will most likely cause you to crash. And of course it will take less momentum to get over the "curb" the closer you are to a perpendicular approach.
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Old 05-05-09, 09:11 AM   #7
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this behavior will be much more problematic on your ride down the coast.

get out in traffic, learn to claim the lane. get a rear view mirror, slo moving vehicle triangle for your pannier.
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