Coach Fred Matheny Replies:
I’m sorry to hear about your injury. I’ve had some shoulder woes and a few trips over sprawled riders, so I can empathize!
Coming back from a crash like yours has three components: physical, technique and psychological.
Physically, you need to be sure you’re healed up before you try to regain your confidence in group riding. A sore shoulder can compromise your bike handling skills.
In terms of technique, if you’re tentative, I’d suggest easing back into it. Ride with one or two friends and practice riding a wheel, having one buddy ride beside you, etc. Riding with someone you trust is helpful for regaining the reflexes and skills needed to be confident in a larger group.
The biggest problem after a crash is the one you mentioned, ease in a big group. There’s no denying that pack riding is dangerous and you have little control over what happens right in front of you. You just have to accept that danger as part of pack riding. Be aware of other riders and avoid obviously unskilled people in the group.
Look at least 3 or 4 riders up the road. If you focus on the rear wheel of the rider just in front of you, that’s often the last thing you’ll see before you hit the deck. Sit just to one side of the wheel in front of you so you have some room to maneuver in case of a problem.
It’s really important to not overlap wheels. Think of your front wheel as occupying sacred space. Nothing is allowed in that bubble surrounding your front wheel!
I like to show riders some simple tumbling drills they can do on grass in their backyards to build the reflexes necessary to roll on impact to avoid more serious injury. It doesn’t take many reps to ingrain those reflexes. Also, some simple bumping drills you can do with another rider at slow speed on a grassy field would help you get more confident if you contact another rider.
I hope this gives you some ideas for getting confident in the peloton again. I went into more detail on this topic in my eBook, Road Bike Training, available in the RBR bookstore.
Coach Fred Matheny is an RBR co-founder who has four decades of road cycling and coaching experience. He has written 14 eBooks and eArticles on cycling training, available in RBR’s eBookstore at Coach Fred Matheny, including the classic Complete Book of Road Bike Training, which includes 4 eBooks comprising 250 pages of timeless, detailed advice and training plans. The Complete Book is one of the many perks of an RBR Premium Membership. Click to read Fred’s full bio.