QUESTION: I’ve biked for multiple decades, and had my first bad accident last November. I had a bike go down in front of me at 23 mph. I went over the rear wheel, and thought I would have come down on my side afterwards. People behind me stated I did a high somersault in the air. Luckily I landed on my shoulder (Type V AC separation, surgically repaired), not my head / neck. What is the best way to respond in this type situation. I’m just now getting back on the road, and am very worried about riding in a group again. — Brad B.
RBR REPLIES: Sorry to hear about your injury. We’ve had a few trips over sprawled riders, so we 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.