BIG FOOT, ( TX) and a Day of Lessons Learned: Riding Safety Tips

BIG FOOT, ( TX) and a Day of Lessons Learned: Riding Safety Tips

Let me see if I can keep this fairly brief because I really need to finish up on the Buffalo Springs 70.3 follow up video blog.

I have this lead into the race with video blogging with even a live feed from the night before the race ( some good insight from some seasoned athletes, coach and coach of a coach Live Feed Recording )  But then the week after the race I was worthless, so I haven’t gotten it done yet.  In retrospect, it took a lot more out of me than I thought.  I did well for having basically 3 1/2 to 4 weeks of focused training, but more on that when I post that one.

So I did absolutely nothing all week after the race except ride to work on Fri, a whole 7 miles. Then yesterday I take two of my riders out for a 130 mi ride.  Low zone training needed by both..the distance more needed for only one of them, but I like to take the other along for ‘mental toughness’ 🙂   They both got that and much more.

Might have to look closely ( my phone has been taking rather hazy pics) but this is Carlos post crash with a fully ripped jersey on the shoulder and a divit of skin taken out of his knee.

At exactly mile 50 into a 130 mi ride we are on a section of road outside of BigFoot, TX on a loup I like to do for it’s vast emptiness and long stretches of steady output roads.

It has been a couple years since I rode this route and I don’t remember these dips n the road being so bad.  But after the fifth one and me trying to eat while aero I decide its time to move more to the middle of the road.

As I turn to warn the others, I look right just as Carlos hits the next big dip in the road. With his weight fully on the front wheel, in his aero bars,  he doesn’t have much of a chance at controlling this kind of hit and airborn he goes, bike swiped out from under him.

Unfortunately, Mark is right on his wheel, runs straight into the flying Carlos, and over the bars he goes as well…face plant.

I don’t know if it is from the years of bike racing and seeing /being in my share of crashes, but I am sure they don’t appreciate my casual reaction to what just transpired.  I roll back silently and don’t even remember asking if they are ok..( since they are conscious and asking each other anyway, I have my answer)

But I generally wait until an assessment of the damage is done before I am going to react and decide what to do next. Is the ride over? Do we have to call for a helicopter?  Does everyone’s bike work?

Nobody is writhing in pain with a broken collar bone ( common) nor cussing out in anger. Just a lot of Grrrrr’ ing and arrgggs as the sting of the chip and seal removing skin settles in.  Then we need to look over to see that maybe someone doesnt know how bad they are hurt, with the concern of Mark and his face plant leaving a cut to the eye, nose bridge, and a cracked helmet.  Makes for a sore neck and bleeding forehead.

You don’t want to mess with head injuries but he says no stars or blacking out or anything…so I guess we are good to go.

Carlos’ leg functions and having done it myself before, I suggest we just get going.  I’m sure the missing skin parts will burn a bit when he sweats…I make the assumption,  no one questions it, and off we go.

The rest of the ride they get a few looks each time we stop for water as they are bleeding and jersey’s torn. I (silently) commend them greatly for their push through and riding another 80 miles like this as this is a little new for some. Many just call home and call it good. ( disclaimer: there is nothing ‘tough’ about continuing on if indeed you are injured to a greater extent)

I stated in the title though lessons learned.  I will not mention in the heat of the crash aftermath and hope no offense taken later but simply allowing this situation a time to teach a bit for the ‘next time’.

For those that ride the same routes and the same roads time after time, they get to know all the pitfalls of those sections of road. But as you get into longer distances and exploring new roads as I did through my years of training and racing in many locations across the country, your awareness of assessing and making adjustments become quicker and second nature.

After the first few dips in the road I realized being in my aero bars and a weighted front end was probably not the safest. Again, the realization comes at the split second you wish others realized it , like driving down the road and you realize all the cars in front are stopped, but the guy next to you realizes a split second after you and into the car in front he crashes.

When you see an object, whether a speed bump, dip in the road , 2×4, pothole, or other hazard, a couple of things that can minimize a crash are the following.

1) as much as it helps to point things out, for some the timing is either too late to help the person behind, and for many, they are taking their non-bike handling skilled hands off the bars as they hit or try to swerve around the object thus losing control themselves.

2) shift your weight quickly off the front end , ‘lighten’ your body weight and soften your knees and the bike can bounce over most things.

3) even a slight ‘hop’ of the bike skill can help.  Roll around in a parking lot and practice this.

4) be aware of patterns in the road.  You start hitting a rough patch with lots of potholes or other hazards, then your riding is no longer about being super aero or pushing the pace.  Again, this ‘sixth sense’  generally heightens with experience so don’t feel bad.  Many of us have gone through the same situation in order to ‘learn’

5) Don’t swerve as if you are going around an elephant in your path. I see this when someone sees something in the road. You only need to clear it by a few inches, not jeopardize getting rear-ended at 70mph by swerving out into traffic or taking out the person behind you with the wild swing out.   Riding rollers can significantly help with this skill.

6) Looking through the person ahead of you instead of their rear wheel.  There is no reason to be glued 1″ off the back wheel of the person in front of you.  Use your peripheral vision and the occasional glance down to be where you need to be.  If the rider 2-3 up ‘bounced’ then instantly be prepared to hit the same thing.

7) this goes with the above. The hazard doesn’t seem to need such a sever reaction when you see it sooner than when you are looking down instead of up the road.

8) if you have to hit an object, don’t stiffen up, but rather maintain a firm grip , lighten your weight on the seat, slightly shift back your weight and soften the knees and elbows and absorb the hit.  Stiff parts will generally lead to a more drastic deflection and the bike will go down.

9) Don’t panic.  It is just the nature of riding that occasionally you aren’t going to get the necessary warning out to the rider behind you.  Though it helps, you going down in the process or jeopardizing others to do the pointing doesn’t help either.  Neither does your ‘ oh shit’ slamming on your brakes.

So keep in mind that riding is more than just getting the bike rolling, though this is where a high percent of riders are.  They can get the bike up to speed, but when it comes to cornering, bike handling, hazard assessment etc, the skills fall short.  Practice some bike balancing skills, cornering etc so they become second nature.  Riding with groups will heighten this skill, even if you are jeopardizing the group a bit…we all learned somehow.  Sort of like the doctor learning, he has to be new to working on patients sometime, so off they go and mistakes are made in the process.

Hope that helps a bit, happy and safe riding.  Next time I think I will cover why people think that once on a bike, that stop signs and stop lights no longer apply to them!


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