Today I’ll continue where I left off last week, providing additional post-crash first-aid tips for that all-important two-wheeled crash victim.
Check the frame and fork
If you have a steel or aluminum bike, and you had a front-end impact, like riding into an obstacle or hitting a large pothole, it’s possible you bent your fork or frame. To check for this, lean your bike against something, step back a few strides and look at the front end to see if all looks okay. A front end bend shows up in a fork that appears pushed back and out of line with the head tube and/or, a front wheel that’s too close to the down tube. And/or there might be visible bulging or bends in the frame’s top and down tubes. Bent frames can usually be ridden carefully to get home, but in most cases you’ll want to replace the frame.
Carbon frames and forks are tough, but if they take a good hit they can get damaged, too (ditto for carbon components). Carbon parts should be solid and hard, not flexible. If a spot looks like it got compressed or hit hard (for example, from a handlebar swinging around and smacking into the top tube), squeeze it and see if it’s firm or soft. Another trick is tapping the edge of a quarter on the area to listen to the sound it makes. A sharp, hard knock is right. If you get little noise, it’s a sign that that frame tube (or the components) could have been damaged.
Tip: If you’re not sure about something that doesn’t seem right on your carbon bicycles (frame, fork or component), get an expert opinion. Cracked carbon parts can break without warning so it’s not worth risking using them. And, keep in mind that it’s possible to repair most carbon frame damage. Calfee Design is a great resource: http://www.calfeedesign.com/repair/
Check the seat and pedals
When a bike hits the ground, the side of the seat and one pedal often take the brunt of the impact. It’s also possible to break them. Look closely for scratches or scrapes and make sure the seat is still strong enough to support you if you plan to ride home. Ditto for the pedal. If either got bent, you’ll want to replace them.
Check the rear wheel, rear brake and drivetrain
Finish the bike check by inspecting the rear wheel as you did the front, making sure it’s true and centered in the frame and attached securely. Usually rear brakes escape injury, but if its lever was knocked off, make sure the brake is still working nicely.
Then run through the gears to check the shifting and make sure nothing got bent. As I mentioned here a few weeks back, the rear derailleur hanger is especially susceptible to damage. The rear shifting will be out of whack if the hanger got bent. You can also tell if it’s bent by sighting from behind to see if an imaginary line that passes through both derailleur pulleys also bisects the cassette cog they’re beneath. If not, the derailleur or the hanger got bent and will need to be fixed. If you decide to ride home on it, shift gingerly and avoid your lowest gear or you could shift into the spokes.
Check your gear
Other important things to check include your helmet, shoes, glasses and repair kit. If you know you hit your head and/or you can see helmet damage, you should replace your helmet. Then, inspect your shoes. I’ve seen buckles ground away by the pavement. Cleats, too. As long as you can pedal, you can keep riding. But you wouldn’t want your foot to slip and cause a second crash, so it’s good to know if your shoe or cleat is compromised. You might break or scratch your glasses in a crash, too, and have to piece them together. Or they (or a lens) might fly off and you may want to hunt for them rather than lose your expensive eyewear.
Jim Langley is RBR’s Technical Editor. He has been a pro mechanic and cycling writer for more than 40 years. He’s the author of Your Home Bicycle Workshop in the RBR eBookstore. Check out his “cycling aficionado” website at http://www.jimlangley.net, his Q&A blog and updates at Twitter. Jim’s streak of consecutive cycling days has reached more than 8,000. Click to read Jim’s full bio.