• 4 Oct 2020 10:04 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In the previous article, we mentioned that many serious cycling injuries happen when cyclists are slowing and preparing to stop. So let’s discuss some techniques to prevent low speed falls.

    Now all this may seem like a lot of effort. But it’s much preferable to broken bones! (As the old saying goes - you can pay me now or pay me later!)

    Cleats and Unclipping

     How many times have you heard:

    • “I couldn’t get unclipped and I fell”
    • “My right leg was unclipped, but I leaned to the left and fell over”

    There are several things you can do to pretty much eliminate these two reasons for falling! 

    Cleats and Their Maintenance

    The market is dominated by two types of cleats:

    • The small metal Shimano SPD type, which are commonly used for touring, mountain biking, and gravel riding. They are very durable, sit recessed in the shoe, and are easy to walk with.
    • The Look Keo and Shimano SPD-SL types, which are large plastic cleats, commonly used for “performance” road riding. These cleats are exposed and easily worn and damaged by walking on them.

    The SPD cleats look like this:


    The SPD-SL cleats look like this. Look Keo cleats are very similar. (Note the shoe cover!)


    Here are some hints for preventing the dreaded “can’t unclip because the cleat is stuck” issue:

    • Use SPD cleats! Really… they are much more durable, are easy to walk on, and tend not to get clogged by mud, dirt or stones. (That’s why mountain bikers and gravel riders, even competitive racers, use them)
    • If you must use SPD-SL or Look cleats, put on shoe covers to protect them when walking in them. Inspect them regularly, and replace them at least once a year. Even slight nicks and wear on the front part of the cleat can cause it to get stuck.
    • Keep the attachment tension on your pedals very loose, so it’s easy to unclip. Remember that SPD pedals are often two-sided and both sides need to have the tension adjusted. There is zero benefit to having the tension tight!
    • Inspect your cleats after every ride, and clean out any dirt or stones that may have got caught around them
    • Don’t oil or lubricate your pedals or clips! It won’t help with releasing from your pedal, and dirt will stick to the lubricant, potentially clogging the release mechanism. 

    Test That You Can Unclip Every Time You Start to Ride!

    It’s a simple thing… when you get back on the bike after walking in your cycling shoes, test that you can unclip both feet. And test each foot twice! Better you know you have an issue when you are prepared for it, instead of when you have to make a quick stop! If things seem a little “off” try banging the bottom of your shoe against the pedal to dislodge any accumulated gunk, and test again. Often the act of clipping and unclipping a couple of times will help get rid of any issues.

    Become an Ambidextrous Unclipper

    Most people always put the same foot down, (usually the right foot). We get so we favour that foot in an emergency, even if we are leaning the other way.  We get so used to having the same foot down, and starting with that foot down, that using the other foot is very awkward and unnatural.

    You have to train yourself to be equally comfortable with unclipping either foot. Otherwise, if you go to fall “the wrong way” you won’t be able to unclip in time to save yourself!

    There is a simple drill to address this: Alternate which foot you use every time you stop. First time unclip and put your left foot down, next time use your right. Then your left. When I taught myself this, it took me 2 full weeks to get comfortable using either foot. So it will take time… keep at it. This is also a great attention and memory drill - you need to consciously control which foot you are putting down, and remember it so you can use the other foot next time!

    Unclip before you need to

    If you think you are going to be stopping, you can always unclip early. Better to discover you can’t unclip when you have a few seconds to try the other foot, try a few times, and have time plan your “escape” (see below)

    When I’m off road riding, I will sometimes unclip when I see a very rough or problematic surface ahead… deep sand, mud, or large loose rocks. You will sometimes see pro road riders unclipping on slippery corners, anticipating they will need to put a foot down to keep themselves up. 

    Practice Slow Speed Riding

    Balancing a bike at slow speed (or when stopped) is very different from balance when riding, and requires significant practice. Given that falling at low speed is so common, it’s really worth practicing! The best, and easiest, thing is to “play like a child” at slow speed riding. Just try stuff, practice riding slower and slower, practice making sharp turns while riding slowly. Ride slow standing and sitting. Can you stop for a second then continue to ride forward? Here are some specific drills:

    • Tight turns at a walking pace: In a parking lot, within a single parking space, try to make a complete 360 degree circle while staying within the parking space. Don’t lean the bike, keep it parallel to the ground. Go as slow as you can. Try it standing up, as well as sitting down. Don’t worry if you can’t stay within a single parking space… the point here is to practice balance and turning at low speed.
    • Stop and Go: Stand out of the saddle (it’s easier to balance out of the saddle). While riding slowly, use you brakes to come to a momentary complete stop without putting a foot down, then ride away again. It helps to be riding slightly uphill so the bike slows naturally. If you can’t come to a complete stop that’s OK… just try to make your “stop” slower and slower as you practice. If you ever feel yourself losing balance ride forward! Don’t try to put a foot down.
    • Track Stand:  This is a terrific balance drill! And, yeah, it’s pretty hard to learn as an adult. But that doesn’t mean you can’t practice it! This short video is very good  How To Track Stand Like a Pro - YouTube Important! If you feel yourself losing balance - ride forward! Don’t try to put a foot down. 

    Losing Your Balance - Ride Forward!

    The tendency when we lose our balance on our bike is to try to put a foot down. But it’s often better and safer to recover from an “incipient fall” by riding forward. Sometimes this is not an option… you obviously don’t want to ride out into traffic at a busy intersection! But often that’s not an issue. When it doubt, if it’s possible, just move forward. This requires some significant mental training, which we will talk about in a future article.  And the slow speed riding drills above will really train you to avoid falls by moving forward to recover your balance

    Uneven Surfaces

    Another common way to lose your balance is encountering a significant surface problem at low speed… a pothole, large crack, hitting a rock, a curb, etc.  So practice! At a walking pace, ride off a curb. Find some big bumps in a parking lot and ride over them You will find that when you do this consciously, and at a walking pace, it will be easy to keep your balance. The trick is to practice enough so that when you have the issue unexpectedly when stopping or starting you will have the confidence to handle it.

    If You Really Can’t Unclip!

    So what if you really can’t unclip? This just happened to me. I was fitting cleats onto a new pair of shoes, and I went for a ride to test my cleat position without tightening the cleats on the shoes! So twisting my foot just twisted the cleat against the shoe… it was impossible to unclip either foot! (OK, that really was dumb!) 

    • Don’t panic! You need your head clear to make some decisions.
    • Don’t stop! Ride as slow as possible. Look for a clear path you can ride. If you are at an intersection, make a right turn. Or maybe see if the road is clear enough to loop around. Just look for some space to keep moving slowly.
    • While you are moving, you can work on trying to unclip… Eventually you will probably succeed.
    • You can also look for something to lean against. Another rider, a signpost, a parked car. That will give you lots of time to work on getting a foot unclipped.

    In my case, there were cars coming that prevented me from turning into my driveway, so I kept riding slowly until the road was clear. Then I turned around and rode back to my driveway. Next, I found a wall to lean against so I could stop. Then I leaned over and undid a shoe, so I could get my foot out and put it down. Phew! Then undo the other shoe so I could get off the bike. Now I could take my time to figure out how to get my shoes out of my pedals!

  • 26 Sep 2020 5:09 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I’ll be blunt: “Given the amount of time I spend on a bike, I recognize there is a significant probability that my cycling career, or even my life, could end as a result of a serious cycling accident” As a cyclist, the risk of injury requiring hospital treatment (per km travelled) is significantly greater than when in a motor vehicle. The more you cycle, the greater the risk. You will crash!

    There’s three options:

    1. Ignore the risk.
    2. Worry, be anxious and fearful. Ride less, and curtail some of the more risky riding that I love.
    3. Turn the concern into action, and learn to be safer on the road. Move the odds in my favour.

    Blunt again: “The majority of cyclists choose the first two options!”. I’ve chosen to manipulate the odds, which is why I’m a CanBike instructor, a trained cycling coach under the National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), why I spend so much time off the bike learning about cycling safety, and why I’m always practicing my bike skills, and teaching them to others.

    The facts of cycling accidents - You’re probably barking up the wrong tree!

    • Bad drivers are not a significant issue! The data on cycling accidents requiring hospital treatment indicates:
      • 50% of all cycling accidents do not involve a motor vehicle
      • Of the accidents that involve a motor vehicle, half are the clearly the fault of the cyclist.
      • Of the remaining 25% of accidents where the cyclist is not at fault, a significant percentage could still have been avoided by actions on the part of the cyclist.

    There’s good news here… Cyclists have the ability to significantly reduce the probability of over 80% of the cycling accidents causing injury!

    • Cyclist speed is usually not a factor, and is not related to the seriousness of the injury. This is especially true as we get older and bones get brittle and joints weak. In fact, many serious cycling injuries happen when cyclists are slowing and preparing to stop. Particularly dangerous are:
      • Intersections, especially where slowing or stopping may be required
      • A group of cyclists stopping (eg. taking a break), or significantly slowing (eg. construction, train tracks, etc)

    Cyclists I know have fallen at a walking pace and:

    • fractured pelvises
    • broken collar bones
    • got serious concussions
    • hurt hips or knees badly enough to be off cycling for weeks.

    Slowing down won’t significantly reduce your risk, and many common, benign cycling situations are the most risky!

    Where to Start: Acceptance, Anticipation, Attention

    Before we get into specific tips and techniques, I’ve learned there are 3 things that are critical to cyclists improving their chances on the road:

    • Acceptance: If you don’t think there is anything you can do to reduce your risk of  a serious cycling injury, or you don’t think you can learn the techniques and skills, if you believe “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, or you are more comfortable “burying you head in the sand”, then you might as well stop reading now! (And I know who you are - when I’m riding with you, I’ll be anticipating that you will do something that will put me in danger, and I’ll be paying extra attention to you on the road!)  You have to have a willingness to put some effort into learning techniques and trying to improve your safety!
    • Anticipation: Train your mind to anticipate what can go wrong. Think about what might happen and what your options are to prevent the issue, or what options you have to react to it.  Think about what you don’t know. Talk about accidents and near misses and how they could be prevented. Learn and practices skills. “Be Prepared”. This is a never-ending process! (We could call this preparation, but I wanted a word that started with “A”!)
    • Attention: All the anticipation, preparation and training will do you no good if you don’t recognize a danger when it arises on the road! “Distracted cycling” is as dangerous as distracted driving. Yes, this is hard… we want to enjoy the scenery, chat with our friends, and have a good time. With training and care, we still can, as long as we always keep our heads up (literally!) and part of our brain scanning our environment for potential issues.

    The bottom line is “As a cyclist, using your brain can save your body a lot of pain

    In future articles, we’ll add the fourth A Action and talk about specific things we can do to minimize the odds of a serious injury on the road.

  • 14 Sep 2020 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    BANG! Hisss…! A Puncture! But who? Where? I’m riding in a peloton of 24 tightly packed riders in the middle of the steep banking on the Pan-Am Games Velodrome in Milton Ontario. It’s impossible to stay up on the banking after a puncture. Everyone knows someone is going down, and is going to take other riders with them. I’m a loser of this lottery. The rider with the puncture slides down in front of me and I flip over their bike at 34KPH, as four of us go down.

    We untangle ourselves. No damage done I think … I get back on my bike to ride off the adrenaline and avoid stiffening up. WITHOUT CHECKING MYSELF OR MY EQUIPMENT! As I calm down I realize I need to carefully assess my bike and myself… I get off the track and check. Me, well I have a contusion the size of a tennis ball on my shin, must be from hitting a bike, but not really a medical issue. And my bike is OK.

    BUT MY HELMET IS DESTROYED! (See the photo). I didn’t even realize I’d hit my head! Obviously I hit it hard, and the helmet did its job. Now I had to assume head trauma could be a possibility. I removed myself from the training, borrowed another helmet, fitted it to me, made sure I was always where someone could monitor me, and I rode slowly on my own, off the track.


    A Checklist for After a Rider Crashes

    The adrenaline will be pumping… an injured rider will not necessarily feel pain, and often will say “I’m OK” and want to get back on their bike. NO! Take it slow and do a thorough check:

    • Check the rider carefully for possible injury. Have them move all their limbs, stretch, bend. Move their head around. Check for any discomfort, disorientation or dizziness. 
    • Did the rider hit their head? Did anyone see if the rider hit their head? 
    • Check the helmet very carefully for any dent or crack, no matter how small.
    • Check the bike very carefully for any damage. 
    • If there is any indication the rider hit their head, you must assume that a concussion or other head trauma is a possibility:
      • If at all possible, the rider is “done for the day”.  Stop riding, pick them up in a car. Have someone stay with the rider at all times.
      • But in the middle of nowhere, that may not be possible… If the rider is not showing any symptoms, OK, ride slowly and carefully to where they can be picked up. Keep space around the injured rider, and watch them carefully, never leave them alone.
    • You should not ride with a damaged helmet! Another good reason to “be done for the day” if you hit your head in a crash. 

    Treat Your Helmet With the Respect It Deserves

    • Helmets are “single use”… once they have done their job protecting your head in a crash, they are no longer effective and must be replaced. (even if you don’t see any visible damage)
    • Check you helmet regularly for any cracks or dents… replace your helmet if you see any damage
    • Bicycle helmets must be replaced even 5 years. If you ride a lot, every 3 years is best.
    • Be sure your helmet fits properly. Follow the 2V1 rule:
      • 2 fingers spacing between your eyebrows and the edge of the helmet
      • side straps form a V between the front and back of your ears, and join just below the ear.
      • No more than 1 finger of  space under the chin strap.
    • This video does a terrific job of explaining everything CAN-BIKE Helmet Check