Cycling is a fun and safe way to get around. What danger there is comes overwhelmingly from motor vehicles. However, there are a few common causes of single bike crashes, and knowing the hazards may help you avoid them.
May help you avoid them. Unfortunately, this does not always work. We all know that broken concrete sidewalks are a tripping hazard while walking, but I bet we’ve all still tripped on them. Such is life outside a plastic bubble.
This week Mr. Dottie had a crash caused by one of the common hazards: clipping a pedal on the ground while cornering. A patch of irregularly raised pavement brought the ground too close, and his heavy work pannier made correcting impossible. He is sore and a bit scraped on his arm and ankle, but otherwise doing well. A quick trip to urgent care (luckily he has health insurance) showed that nothing was fractured. When someone cycles as much as he does, stuff like this is much more likely.
In light of this event, here is my very unofficial list of the 4 most common causes of single bike crashes:
- Train tracks – I am intimately familiar with this. Danger: Your tire can get caught in the tracks, or slip off wet or gravely tracks. Both will result in you getting thrown off the bike and/or the bike falling on you. Avoid: To keep your tire from getting caught, approach the tracks at a perfect 90 degree angle. (Unfortunately, I did not have my protractor with me that fateful day.) Alternatively, you could do what I do now and walk your bike over the tracks like a baby. Walking will also protect you from slipping off the tracks. Lovely Bicycle has a great discussion on train tracks here.
- Ice – I am also intimately familiar with this. No big surprise! Danger: Ice is slippery. Rutted ice is slippery and bumpy. Avoid: Either avoid riding when it is icy or get studded tires. I got studded tires, Schwalbe Marathon Winters. Other slippery stuff – wet manhole covers, oil – can be grouped here, although studded tires won’t help.
- Cornering – Mr. Dottie’s now intimately familiar with this. Danger: Your pedal can hit the ground if you corner too sharply. Watch out for raised and irregular pavement in the city, where they fix potholes by making potmounds. Another danger is loose gravel causing your wheel to slip if you corner quickly. Avoid: Ride slowly and relaxed. Consider purchasing a Dutch bike ;) And as Evie noted in the comments, try to keep the inside pedal up when cornering.
- Drinking – Drinking and cycling is better than driving, but a bad idea nevertheless. Danger: You are drunk. Avoid: Walk, take public transit, use a designated driver or take a cab.
Am I missing any common single bike hazards? Would you like to share any of your experiences with them? C’mon, we’re all friends here. I have no standing to point and laugh. Trisha, on the other hand, has never fallen and I cannot guarantee that she will refrain from pointing and laughing, although she’s usually very nice. :)