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Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

Spooked

Old 12-14-14, 04:13 PM
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banerjek
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Spooked

Has anyone found methods for dealing with your head getting messed up following a close call or a bad experience other than just letting time pass?

Twice this year, I've had tires suddenly go down (i.e. needed to boot it to limp home where it could be immediately thrown out) at about 36 and 41mph respectively. Both times, I was able to hold onto the bike though I had my hands full in the moment and it most definitely wasn't fun.

Even though nothing bad happened, I'm finding I can't touch my normal descent speeds anymore -- once I get within 3 or 4mph of what I should be able to hit, I get paranoid about a wide variety of specific threats (blowouts, animals, cars suddenly doing something stupid, etc) so I stop relaxing and have to hold back. Aside from being less fun, the handling is less competent and I have less faith that I'll do the right thing in an emergency so I don't think these lower speeds are even safer than what I used to do.

So is there anything people do that actually works aside from just staying out there until things return to normal on their own? Suddenly becoming an even crappier rider blows.
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Old 12-14-14, 04:16 PM
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Time dulls this partiular edge, I have found. I just keep riding, and gradually my confidence comes back.
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Old 12-14-14, 04:28 PM
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I'd first address the issue of why your tire suddenly went flat during each incident. It sounds like rather than a blow out, you had a short time to notice and stop. Was it a blow out, pinch flat, run over debris, or something that finally found its way to the tube? Putting on a fresh set of tires/tubes might help to get rid of the willies until you get your confidence back.
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Old 12-14-14, 04:40 PM
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Going to more flatproof tires may help.

I don't know that you have your "head messed up" if you're going slower on a downhill, either. Google up that video of the guy crashing going down a volcano. Would you ride down a volcano at 135 mph? Nope? Neither would I. It's not because my head is messed up, it's because I'm a prudent sane individual. Most of us have some unspoken limits that we wouldn't exceed on stuff like that, and if it changes due to experience, that doesn't mean anything is wrong. And if some guy comes flying by you on the same hill, it doesn't mean he's any better or safer than you are- he could just be an idiot, you know?

People that work at heights get comfortable working at heights. People that ride in traffic get comfortable riding in traffic. In either case, it doesn't make it any safer, just makes 'em FEEL safer. You seem to be lacking that feeling, but that could be a good thing, too.
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Old 12-14-14, 04:55 PM
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Originally Posted by FLvector View Post
I'd first address the issue of why your tire suddenly went flat during each incident. It sounds like rather than a blow out, you had a short time to notice and stop. Was it a blow out, pinch flat, run over debris, or something that finally found its way to the tube? Putting on a fresh set of tires/tubes might help to get rid of the willies until you get your confidence back.
I was trying to get too much life out of my tires -- i.e. this was stupid and avoidable. Both were partial separations which slit the tubes and caused me to lose all the air within a half second but they weren't full blowouts. The second failure occurred because I moved my old front tire to the rear when I replaced the first. So now I have new tires on both wheels.

Normally, I get fantastic speeds on fresh rubber but I'm just not finding the same confidence I normally get. Part of it is that the roads aren't as clean due to it being winter. But I can tell my head is not quite in the game. That I washed out on a corner a couple weeks ago isn't helping. I haven't made a mistake like that for a long time.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:02 PM
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How far were you pushing the tires? Beyond when the cords started to show?

Sounds like time to mentally move on is needed, combined with a lesson learned. Even car tires are cheap compared to the alternatives (and thus bike tires are pocket change!)
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Old 12-14-14, 05:04 PM
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Tires, while expensive in the abstract, are much cheaper than skin, helmet, clothing, and ambulance rides. Mine get swapped well before the wear indicators are out. The way I get things out of my head is figure out what happened, and then figure out what I need to do to prevent it from happening again. Once I popped a tube and tire because I pinched the tube. Now I know how to prevent that. In your case, I'd start buying tires in bulk and preemptively replacing them.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:04 PM
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Originally Posted by StephenH View Post
Going to more flatproof tires may help.

I don't know that you have your "head messed up" if you're going slower on a downhill, either. Google up that video of the guy crashing going down a volcano. Would you ride down a volcano at 135 mph? Nope? Neither would I. It's not because my head is messed up, it's because I'm a prudent sane individual. Most of us have some unspoken limits that we wouldn't exceed on stuff like that, and if it changes due to experience, that doesn't mean anything is wrong. And if some guy comes flying by you on the same hill, it doesn't mean he's any better or safer than you are- he could just be an idiot, you know?

People that work at heights get comfortable working at heights. People that ride in traffic get comfortable riding in traffic. In either case, it doesn't make it any safer, just makes 'em FEEL safer. You seem to be lacking that feeling, but that could be a good thing, too.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:04 PM
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From my perspective there are only a couple of things you can do. Number one is to feel comfortable that your bike(s) are up to snuff maintenance wise. I tend to feel more confident when I know that I have done all the preventative maintenance possible to minimize mechanical failure. This would include tire and tube wear and knowing that I am not running any weight weenie race day type stuff that is more prone to unexpected failure. Unfortunately the only other advice is to take it easy on descents and let some time elapse. Trying to hit speeds you previously have achieved is likely to only increase your paranoia at this point and better to back off 10 - 20% and gradually work your way back.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:05 PM
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I toss a lot of tires befor they're worn out, because I'd rather pay for the convenience of not changing so many flats. And the safety factor.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:15 PM
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Originally Posted by banerjek View Post
I was trying to get too much life out of my tires -- i.e. this was stupid and avoidable. Both were partial separations which slit the tubes and caused me to lose all the air within a half second but they weren't full blowouts. The second failure occurred because I moved my old front tire to the rear when I replaced the first. So now I have new tires on both wheels.

Normally, I get fantastic speeds on fresh rubber but I'm just not finding the same confidence I normally get. Part of it is that the roads aren't as clean due to it being winter. But I can tell my head is not quite in the game. That I washed out on a corner a couple weeks ago isn't helping. I haven't made a mistake like that for a long time.
The key to your question is in your gear. I don't race bikes but do build and race cars. You have to be confident in your equipment before you can get all there is from yourself. Put the bike in top condition and keep keep it in top condition without regard to cost. When a tire is showing signs of being even close to end of service life replace it with new. Same for the rest of the bike. Clean, tuned, good tires, good brakes and all the rest that goes into a 100% reliable top condition machine. Only then can you truly focus on that last small % which is the delta between mid pack good and winner.

With the machine condition out of your mind go out and focus on the motor and the ride.

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Old 12-14-14, 05:26 PM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Bah Humbug View Post
In your case, I'd start buying tires in bulk and preemptively replacing them.
This is probably the ticket -- having an incentive to replace tires early is a good idea. Ironically, I'm very good about cables since those always fail when you need them most.

I used to ride much greater distances than I do now and was good about replacing things long before their service life was up simply because I didn't want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now that I live in an urban area, options for getting back in case of failure abound. Curiously, drivers almost always offer me assistance when they see me working on my bike. I'm not sure if I'm happy that they're so nice or disappointed that they don't find me more threatening.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:46 PM
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time will fix your mental wounds
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Old 12-14-14, 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by banerjek View Post
This is probably the ticket -- having an incentive to replace tires early is a good idea. Ironically, I'm very good about cables since those always fail when you need them most.

I used to ride much greater distances than I do now and was good about replacing things long before their service life was up simply because I didn't want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere. Now that I live in an urban area, options for getting back in case of failure abound. Curiously, drivers almost always offer me assistance when they see me working on my bike. I'm not sure if I'm happy that they're so nice or disappointed that they don't find me more threatening.
Cabled happen every spring. I don't care if they need it or not. Too cheap to risk even losing shifting, let alone brakes.

My actual swap pattern for tires is, on the last ride before a major race, check for the central flashing. If it's gone, tire gets turned into a trainer tire and fresh tires get broken in on that ride. The most-worn training tires are then dropped off the back. I've gotten two flats in the last couple of years. One was a piece of glass on a bridge with a huge amount of debris because of the hard curb, the other was a shredded tire from riding over a jagged rock dropped by a construction zone. I'm convinced neither could have been prevented by anything other than avoiding those areas. Guess what? Changed my routes to avoid them.
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Old 12-14-14, 05:50 PM
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The fact that you handled an emergency competently seems like it should increase your confidence rather than decreases it.
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Old 12-14-14, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by bt View Post
time will fix your mental wounds
For some maybe, not me. 5 or so years ago, on the front of a group ride, I went down hard over some RR tracks, caused the rider behind me to go down, lost 5 seconds of my life (concussion), ended up in the ER, etc etc.... to this day I still don't feel comfortable going over certain sections of tracks.
I've never been a confident descender but have gotten better over time, I can completely relate some of the OP's concerns with the unexpected on fast descents.
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Old 12-14-14, 06:38 PM
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what you are experiencing is the self-preservation instinct. it causes us to be more circumspect after a potential serious accident. it serves a beneficial purpose and should probably be respected. it is much stronger if and when a serious accident actually occurs.

my observation is that it will never entirely go away and may well be reinforced under similar circumstances.
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Old 12-14-14, 07:56 PM
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Have a few drinks before each ride - you'll feel invincible.
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Old 12-14-14, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by sced View Post
Have a few tokes before each ride - you'll feel incredible.
fify
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Old 12-14-14, 08:31 PM
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Sounds like you've been spooked from a few close calls. Perfectly normal if you ask me.

And keep in mind, these spooks and lack of confidence is about 10x worse when you actually end up in the hospital with some broken bones. A year later and you'll be back to feeling invincible, so my anecdote is that time heals all wounds, just like in real life.
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Old 12-15-14, 04:05 AM
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One trick that seems to work is to be super cautious for a little while. Overcompensate. Don't quit, but don't just go like 10-20% slower. Go much slower and focus 110% on safety, as they say. Lower your cadence so you don't feel spastic. Don't coast. Find a hill and go down it at 12mph or less, riding the brakes the whole way. Sometimes it just takes a few minutes and you start telling yourself: this is silly, let's go!
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Old 12-15-14, 05:47 AM
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Sorry to say it this way but since no one has said it I will, stop being so bloody cheap! Your messing with your health/life by riding on tires till they fail. What the hell is the point of that? Smarten up and buy new tires, I don't want to read about you kissing the ashphalt! Your health is your wealth.

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Old 12-15-14, 07:39 AM
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I've had a few similar experiences. A few years back I was riding in the 45-50mph range and I got a high-speed shimmy. It was the first time that had ever happened to me and it scared the crap out of me. Luckily I was able to remain somewhat calm, put my knee against the top tube, and slowly apply the brakes. It took me a while to recover from that. I avoided that stretch of road for a few months. I avoided anything over 40mph for a while, but eventually got comfortable at speed again.

This February I crashed and broke my hip, which took all of my confidence away. I was nervous in traffic, scared on descents, didn't trust my equipment, and was basically scared as hell to crash again. It took me until summer to feel somewhat normal again. I feel comfortable on the bike again, but I don't know that I would go 50 miles an hour ever again. I've hit 40mph since the crash, and would the outcome of a crash at 50mph really be that much different than at 40mph? I see it as an irrational fear that I still need to overcome.

This August I was coming down from Tahoe to Carson on US 50 (~8 miles at -5%) and I got a rear flat (a big cut that needed a boot). I was going in the mid 30s at the time. Again, I tried to remain calm and apply the brakes slowly. The problem was that applying the brakes slowly wasn't stopping me, and when I braked harder I could feel my rear wheel slipping out from under me. Everything went in slow motion after that. At a certain point I was 100% sure that I was going to crash. My main goals were to crash on my right side (opposite of my previously broken hip) and to not crash into the traffic lane. I was scared. I wasn't ready for more hospital time and more rehab time. If I had another serious crash I wasn't sure if I would ever ride again.

I got lucky. There aren't any sharp turns on the lower portion of the descent, so I could just ride along on my flat tire. There is a flatter section towards the end with a runaway truck ramp, so I was able to shave off a lot of speed there and I figured I'd just crash into the runaway truck ramp gravel and not get hurt too much. No need- I was able to come to a complete stop just before I hit the gravel. I was super nervous. My hands were shaking and I contemplated calling my wife to come pick me up. I still had 35 miles to go and a 7.5 mile, -5% descent planned. But you know how we are. We always have that urge to get back on the bike. It may not have been pretty (looking at the Strava file, I see that I averaged 25mph on that descent), but I finished the ride.

I had mixed feelings after that ride. On one hand, I was still recovering from the February crash, so this was a huge setback for me. On the other hand, I was somewhat pleased with myself for the way I handled the situation. I'm sure it could have been handled better, but I did manage to stay upright. My approach was the same as before. I just kept riding and didn't care how slow I had to go on the descents. My main goal was to never push it past my comfort zone. As you mentioned, that is an unsafe place to ride. Instead, I just kept riding and improving at a slow pace. With each descent maybe you'll feel comfortable going that 0.1mph faster. Sounds like nothing at first, but it all adds up over time.
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Old 12-15-14, 07:53 AM
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A few years ago my dad was injured pretty bad in a bike accident. So bad that he was basically immobilized for half a year. Since then I've taken my downhill high speed down a notch. I just figure it's just as fun bombing down a hill a few miles per hour slower.
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Old 12-15-14, 08:21 AM
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In the last month I've almost been wiped out 3 times by car drivers not paying attention, twice at roundabouts and once at a junction. Each time the driver stared at me blankly like I didn't exist. The last one stopped inches from me, got the adrenaline going. You Just need to get back on the bike the next day and carry on, it makes you anticipate some of the beautiful people who drive cars
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