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5 tips to avoid crashes while cycling

11 Jan 2017

Nobody likes a trip to A&E, so here are some dos and don’ts for avoiding disaster on a bike

1 Stay alert

When you’re riding long distances it’s easy to become distracted or even drift into a near hypnotic state.

To avoid it, regularly check your environment. This is especially applicable at this time of year when visibility is poor.

On busy roads, check the rear windows of parked cars to see if there are people in there about to fling a door open.

If riding in a pack, listen or watch for signs from fellow riders about potential hazards ahead.

Also consider this: just because you’ve ridden a route hundreds of times before and think it’s familiar, other road users, ice patches, day-dreaming pedestrians and runaway dogs can change that in an instant!

Fatigue can also obviously do its bit to make you groggy. Combat this by staying sufficiently hydrated.

Studies show that fluid loss causes a drop in blood volume which makes the heart work harder to push oxygen and nutrients around your body, resulting in lethargy.

So get the recommended 475-825ml of fluids down your neck every hour.


2 Don’t overlap wheels

If you’re riding in a group behind another rider, don’t allow your front wheel to overlap with the rear wheel of the rider in front of you.

If he or she suddenly changes their line, you’ll more than likely go flying, and take out anyone riding behind you out.

When riding in a group, stay around six inches behind the rider in front of you, either to their left or right but not directly behind them.

If you do accidentally bump tyres, avoid the temptation to grab your brakes. Instead, stop pedalling and feather (or lightly tap) your rear brake.

Don’t swerve either, as you may ride into the path of the rider behind. Instead, hold your line using your hips rather than your handlebars. This will give you greater control.


3 Corner correctly

At this time of year, corners can be especially calamitous thanks to dead leaves/surface water/black ice.

So ride slower. Stop pedalling as you approach a bend, braking well before you enter it.

Keep your head up and look as far through it as you can, finding a point to focus on.

Lean the bike into the corner, with the pedal closest to the bend up in the 12 o’clock position to avoid it colliding with the road surface, and shift your weight onto the leg on the outside of the bend – the leg that’s down in other words.


4 Brake better

Remember, 70% of your braking power comes from your front brake.

If you hit your front brake too hard, the back of your bike will suddenly shoot up potentially flipping you over your handlebars.

So don’t grab at your brakes, squeeze them gently so that your front brake does about 60% of the work, and your rear brake about 40%.

Shift your weight over your rear wheel, too, by sliding your backside down your saddle.

This will give you greater balance and the bike better traction with the road surface, meaning you’re less likely to end up making a loud ‘ouch’ sound!


5 Stay loose

While it’s important to be vigilant, if you’re overly tense every movement you make will be stiff and exaggerated, and that will slow your reactions down.

This is a problem that will be amplified if you’re riding in a pack.

If you do feel tense, try sitting up straight and squeezing your shoulders upwards for a few seconds, breathing out hard as you relax them again.

Repeat this movement a couple of times. Also mix up your hand position to keep from hunching up in one position for too long.

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