• 17 Apr 2021 5:32 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    In cycling, “contact points” are critical: bum on saddle, hands on handlebars, feet on pedals. But the most important one of all is “where the rubber meets the road”. Tires may be the most important component on your bike. The right tire at the right pressure makes a huge difference to your safety - your “grip” on the road - as well as to your comfort, and efficiency.

    Diving into detail on tires, with a focus on tire width, tire pressure, and tire quality, we will discover:

    • Wider tires are just as fast as narrow ones, but safer and more comfortable
    • Tire pressure doesn’t matter too much on smooth roads, on rough roads lower pressures are more efficient
    • Tire quality, specifically the suppleness of the casing matters a lot

    Tire Performance Laid Bare

    Last spring, I took my new Niner RLT9 “adventure” gravel bike out for a spin off-road in Gatineau Park. My Niner is “built for comfort not for speed” - durable aluminum frame, long wheelbase, wide rimmed wheels, 40mm tires at a pressure of 40psi. After cycling some rough trails, I headed back on the pavement from Champlain Lookout. On the Parkway, for fun, I “opened it up” attacking the descent of Fortune Lake Parkway from the “T” intersection to Meech Lake Road. I found the descent fun and easy - the bike felt stable and sure-footed.

    But here’s the thing - Strava recorded my fastest ever descent of Fortune Lake! Faster than on my carbon fibre race bike, with its race wheels and 25mm tires at 100psi. What gives?

    Misconception: Narrower and Higher Pressure is Faster

    Note: I’ve included a list of references and background reading at the end of this article.

    There are two main components of tire rolling resistance:

    1. Energy is absorbed in the tire as it flexes and makes contact with the road (hysteretic losses) This is measured as the “coefficient of rolling resistance” (Crr). Crr ignores the road surface and the weight of the rider. It’s measured by rolling a tire on a smooth metal drum. Narrower tires at the highest pressure possible will have the lowest Crr. Here’s a typical Crr measuring rig:

    1. Energy absorbed by the vibration of the rider and bike (suspension or impedance losses) This is the energy that “rattles” a rider and bike up and down on uneven road surfaces. It’s an energy loss that slows you down just like aerodynamic drag or any other energy loss. This component of rolling resistance is affected by the road surface and rider weight. And it turns out on typical road surfaces this component dwarfs Crr - we’ve been measuring “rolling resistance” incorrectly! We really need something like the measuring rig below:

    When Crr and Suspension Losses are combined, a graph of total rolling resistance vs tire pressure (for a given tire type/width) for different road surfaces ends up looking like the chart below:

    Notice:

    • For a given road surface there is an optimal tire pressure. Pumping up your tires too much results in higher rolling resistance and a less comfortable ride.
    • The optimal tire pressure drops as the road surface gets rougher

    That’s why we invented pneumatic tires - the air in the tire absorbs irregularities on the road and reduces the suspension losses, the “rattling” that steals energy. Let’s think about this intuitively - imagine rolling over a 5mm bump on the road as shown below:

    The tire deforms to go over the bump, so you and the bike don’t “rattle” as much, reducing the suspension losses. The bigger the bumps, the more we would like the tire to be able to deform. So, we want lower pressure on rougher roads. And wider tires can be run at a lower pressure, giving us a speed advantage on typical paved road surfaces, and “win big” on rough roads. But there’s more!

    Safety, Comfort, and Speed - Wider is Better

    1. Notice how the tire stays in better contact with the road! Wider tires at lower pressure have better “dynamic grip”. They are much more tolerant of road imperfections and loose dirt on the road. A narrow tire at high pressure will tend to “bounce”, and small imperfections on the road will significantly reduce its contact, make it more prone to slipping, and you to crashing!
    2. Reducing the suspension losses reduces the “rattling” vibration of the bike and rider. They absorb bumps and irregularities in the road surface. You can be more comfortable which allows you to ride longer with less fatigue!
    3. Wider tires at lower pressure perform much better on wet roads, are much less likely to slip in the wet
    4. They don’t get caught in narrow cracks, or in the tar “snakes” that go soft in the summer heat.
    5. They handle railway tracks, potholes and other road hazards more easily.
    6. They run much better on gravel roads.

    OK, So What Tire Size Should I Use?

    Simply put, as the roads get rougher, your tires need to be wider for optimal performance, safety, and comfort. Yeah, but taken to extremes our arguments break down… wheels and tires do get too heavy, wide and “sloppy”. So for recreational riders like us, what’s the “sweet spot”?

    What do the pros ride?

    Looking at the World Tour professional road racers use will give us a good handle on the minimum size of tire we should be using:

    • World Tour teams use 25mm to 27mm tires for general road racing on good roads. (eg. Julian Alaphilippe rode 26mm tubed clinchers when winning the World Championships in 2020)
    • On rougher roads they will go to 28mm. (eg. Kasper Asgreen won the 2021 Tour of Flanders on 28mm tubed clinchers)
    • On rougher, cobbled races, some riders will go up to 32mm tires (eg. for the Paris Roubaix)

    So that’s a minimum, if you are averaging 40kph and up and want to squeeze the last drop of performance at the cost of comfort and safety. What about us mere mortals?

    What do the “Experts” Ride?

    By “experts”, I mean the high-end sportif enthusiasts, who are competing in events, riding hundreds of kilometres a week and keep current on cycling technology.

    There’s a pretty strong consensus that for general purpose road riding on the sorts of roads we have in the National Capital Region, tires in the range of 32mm-35mm are ideal. For mixed-surface gravel riding, 38mm-40mm is the common wisdom. For rough, unmaintained roads, its the maximum you can fit on your bike (around 48-55mm for gravel bikes). But really, the best answer is: “The widest tires 32mm or larger that you can fit on your bike!

    The Brutal Truth

    If you want to be safe, comfortable and fast:

    • If you can’t fit at least 28mm tires on your bike, you need to buy new bike!
    • If you can, you should be using at least 32mm tires
    • If you are looking for a new bike, you bike must have clearances for 35mm tires as an absolute minimum. 40mm is preferable.

    Tires smaller than 25mm are only suitable for the best velodromes, where the suspension/impedance losses are essentially zero. At the Pan Am Games velodrome in Milton, we use 21-23mm tires, pumped up as high as the tire will allow. (I use a 23mm tire pumped up to 130psi)

    What Tire Pressure Should I Use?

    • First, and most importantly, the pressure numbers on the side of your tire are next to useless. You can effectively ignore them.
    • And remember, as the road gets rougher, the optimal tire pressure for minimum rolling resistance goes down.
    • There is a minimum pressure, based on the tire width and weight, but it’s lower than you probably think!

    There are three main criteria that go into determining the correct tire pressure to use:

    1. The total weight held up by the wheels (your weight + bike weight + what you are carrying) -> More weight, more pressure needed
    2. The tire width -> Wider tires, less pressure needed
    3. The road surface you expect to be travelling on. (When in doubt, you base your tire pressure on the roughest surface you expect to ride) -> Rougher roads, less pressure

    Use a tire pressure calculator to determine what pressure is right for you. Different calculators will give different results. Ones that I’m partial to are:

    On road bikes, the front tire has less weight on it than the rear, so it uses a lower pressure than the rear. Below is my my calculated tire pressures for a wide range of tire widths and riding conditions. The smallest tire I use outdoors is 32mm, so the 25mm and 28mm rows are for example only. Each entry shows the front/rear pressure for a given tire width and road surface, given my total riding weight of 102kg. For example, I’d use a pressure of 60psi on the front and 65psi on the rear when on a typical paved road ride with my 32mm tires. But when I head into Marlborough Forest on my 42mm tires, I’d be down to 30psi on the front and 34psi on the rear.

    What Type of Tire is Best?

    OK, the last subject… what makes a good tire? Given we want a tire that deforms with a minimum of energy loss, “supple” is the name of the game. Supple tires have a very high quality tire casing, with a high thread count. (120 TPI and greater) And that makes them expensive. But it’s worth it, the ride feel of a high-quality, supple tire is quite noticeable.

    Besides cost, the other tradeoff is durability. The most supple tires have a little less puncture resistance, especially in the sidewalls. But unless you are heading off on an epic bike packing adventure on rough roads, the tradeoff is well worth it. And even the sleekest, most supple quality tire will last a full riding season (say 5,000 KM)

    What about the tread pattern? Modern tire compounds make significant tread patterns unnecessary for most riding. You will get the best ride using “slick” tires, or ones with a very subtle “file tread” pattern. Experienced gravel riders use wide (38mm and wider) file tread tires for most of their riding. A significant tread pattern is only necessary when riding in deep, soft materials like mud, sand, and snow, or when riding at very low speeds on rough ground where you make extreme steering actions (think mountain biking or bike packing on rough roads).

    For example, my “go to” tire for road riding is the Continental GP5000 32mm tire. Other manufacturers have similar great tires… but you are in the $90 per tire range. A favourite tire of the gravel crowd are the Rene Herse Cycle Tires Their extra-light casing file treads are amazing and I love them. Their prices are hard to swallow, but I'm willing accept the pain in my wallet for the comfort and performance I get on the road.

    Background and References

    Other Misconceptions:

    But narrow tires and rims are more aero right? Less frontal area. Nope! Another misconception. If you take a simple narrow rim, with a narrow tire and place it in a straight headwind, all other things being equal, narrow wins. But we almost never ride directly into the wind! Most of the time the combination of our forward motion and wind direction means the wheel has bit of a “cross wind” on it. Also, modern materials and manufacturing techniques now allow us to create streamlined rim shapes. This ability to “shape” the rim, means the profile shape of the tire and rim combination matters a lot, and it turns out wider rim sections actually allow for better aerodynamics. But really, the aerodynamic losses from wheels is quite small compared to your position on the bike, your clothing, and your helmet. (If you care about aero, see Biggest Bang For Your Buck In Time Trial Equipment - CyclingTips, Buying Time: Which Aero Equipment Offers the Most Benefits? and Cycling Aerodynamics Time Savings: What Really Works, with Chart )

    But lighter wheels/tires are better, because extra rotating mass slows you down, and is harder to accelerate. Nope! First, once the mass is moving or rotating, its effect on speed and effort is zero. Second, You can do the high-school physics math… the mass of rims and tires compared your your body weight and that of the bike is so small that the extra power needed to accelerate the wheel is so small as to make essentially no difference. (For more information see Will Lighter Wheels Make You Faster When Cycling | Pedal Chile | )

    The Downside … bike handling

    Going wider wins on comfort, safety, and speed. There is one downside… bike handling. The extra angular momentum of heavier rims and tires doesn’t affect your speed, but it does have a small effect on the steering. The steering will feel a little sluggish, especially at high speed. This matters to competitive cyclists who have to negotiate tight corners at 50kph and maneuver in a tight pack. But for us mere mortals, it won’t actually affect our riding.

    Cargo Cults and Placebo Effects

    The slight change in bike handling, and the more comfortable ride makes us “feel” that wider tires result in a slower bike, even though that’s not the case. We are misinterpreting the cues the bike is giving us. Besides, we “know” that lighter, skinnier wheels are better… “everyone” knows that!

    Welcome to the complex world of misconceptions in cycling technology! We repeat erroneous ideas until they become “common knowledge”. We perform testing improperly, or not all. We make invalid assumptions. Jan Heine’s summary at Myths in Cycling (1): Wider Tires Are Slower – Rene Herse Cycles is a good read on why it took us so long to move back to wider tires on bikes.

    Josh Poertner, the former head of R&D at Zipp Wheels, and the current owner of Silca, who has spent years studying cycling wheels and tires, and working with many pro teams to optimize their equipment states:

    "I have often seen in testing that if a rider believes something to be true, he/she will very often ‘feel’ that in the test ride, particularly if the effect in question is relatively small. - The placebo effect is very strong in cycling…"

    Cargo Cults are when we imitate behaviours without understanding how they work in the hope of achieving the same results. It’s common in cycling. Placebo Effects occur when our belief in something creates a real, positive, physical response.

    Josh and his colleagues have produced a couple of podcasts on the topic. If you are interested in cycling technology, these are “must listen” shows - informative, and very entertaining.

    All About Tire Width and Pressure Optimization

    These two sources provide a comprehensive discussion of the topic, written by acknowledged experts:

    Jan Heine at Compass/Rene Herse Cycles:

    Josh Poertner’s series in the Silca Blog:

    What the Pros are Riding

  • 3 Apr 2021 3:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Recognizing that "everyone crashes, even you!", we will discuss what you can do to minimize your injuries if you do crash. Contrary to common belief, you actually do have considerable control over your risk of injury in a crash. In this article we are going to introduce Sport Imagery Training, which you can use to prepare yourself for a wide range of emergency situations.

    You will crash - learn to crash properly

    I’m in the middle of a tight pack of two dozen racers at the Pan-Am Games velodrome, 5 laps from the end of the race, averaging 45kph. There’s a sudden slowing as riders position themselves for the finishing sprint. I hear swearing, and the unmistakable sound of carbon wheels scraping each other as multiple riders make contact at speed. A rider just above me goes down and slides across my rear wheel. My bike bounces and swerves - can I hold it up? No! I’m going down!

    Instinctively I take my hand off the bars and reach out to break my fall.

    A voice in my head cries: “NO! You idiot! Get your hand back on the bars!”. I comply. “Good it says… elbow and knee in, head up away from the ground - Get ready to absorb the impact”. I obey. I’m down and sliding. “Good!”, the voice says, “Now you can use you hands to guide your slide”. Good idea, as I’m sliding at over 30kph with the track’s inner wall beside me. I eventually slide to a stop and get up unhurt, except for some road rash. I head off the track to get on my trainer to cool down and shake off the adrenaline coursing through me.

    “Wow”, I think to myself, “The ‘how to crash training’ I coach to my athletes really does work!”

    Learning How to Crash Might Save You a Lot of Pain

    In the previous article from last fall, we talked about how not crash, in this article we’ll discuss how to minimize injury if to do crash. Of course there are no guarantees, but there are techniques you can use to minimize injuries when you crash. There are 3 aspects to minimizing the seriousness of your injuries:

    1. Fitness: flexibility, joint strength, and balance
    2. Technique: what to do when falling
    3. Training: How to learn to follow the right technique

    The last point is particularly interesting. Many cycling skills can be practiced, but I don’t recommend you actually get on your bike and repeatedly practice crashing! However we can “simulate” crashing and other emergency situations using mental techniques - read on!

    Fitness

    Cycling, hiking, skiing, gardening, whatever sports or physical activities we do, there is an element of risk of injury. And as we age, we are in a battle against the breakdown of our bodies… bones get brittle, muscles weaken, joints stiffen.

    Fitness training will do two things for you:

    1. It maintains bone and joint strength and flexibility…. This makes you less susceptible to injury when you fall.
    2. Equally important, it helps maintain a sense of balance and proprioception (your body’s ability to perceive its own position in space). This allows you to recover from getting off balance and to successfully react to incipient falls so you don’t crash at all.

    This is why it’s so important to “get in the gym” (figuratively) and regularly do a set of “whole body” exercises for balance, flexibility, and muscle tone. You don’t need to “lift weights” - body weight exercises are fine, and in many cases preferable. Weight machines are bad for our purpose, as they isolate specific muscles, and they don’t recruit the many small muscles used for balance and tone. Yoga, Pilates, and fitness classes that offer a whole body workout, including balance exercises, are great. (I’m a fan of the Goodlife BodyFlow and BodyPump classes, for instance) But you can do your own exercises at home, with a minimum of equipment.

    Pay extra attention to your upper body and back! We’re already cycling, hiking, and skiing. And it’s the upper body that typically takes the brunt of our falls.

    Technique

    In cycling and XC skiing, we coach specific techniques for falling to minimize injury (They are similar for both sports). The challenge is we have to “break” (pun intended) our instinctive fall response. The collar bone is most common bone fracture in cycling because people instinctively extend their arms and lock their elbows when falling - this instinct was developed to protect the head when falling while walking/running. But there there are far better ways to protect yourself while cycling (or skiing). Here are the “rules”:

    • Keep your hands on the handlebars! - If you do nothing else, remember this. Glue your hands to the bars. Don’t let go. Never, ever let go while crashing!
    • Keep your feet on the pedals - Once you are fairly sure you are falling, don’t try to unclip. Focus on protecting your body and head from the fall. Being clipped in can help protect you from serious injury! (But read the article on How not to fall)
    • Tuck you head between you arms - Bending you neck forward so your chin is on your chest and your head is between your arms is a good way to protect your head, especially if you are crashing “head over heels” because you hit something on the road, or if the direction of your fall is unpredictable. If you know you are falling sideways, keeping your head up and away from the direction of the fall works best, and is a more instinctive response.
    • Tuck in your elbows and knees - We want to fall on the side of our legs and arms equally and avoid a single contact point like an elbow, knee, or hip when we hit the ground. This protects our joints, and reduces the force of the impact by absorbing it over a larger area of our body.

    OK… now to visualize what’s going on here…. Our hands firmly on the bars, our feet on the pedals, our head tucked in, and our arms & legs “flat” along the bike. The bike is actually acting like a “skeleton” for us! We won’t have a leg or arm fly free where it can get twisted or wrenched, which minimizes the risk of dislocations and muscle/cartilage tears. We won’t absorb the whole impact with an arm, leg, elbow or knee, which minimizes the risk of bone breakages. And our head is protected from direct contact with the ground, so we minimize head injuries. (Sorry about the road rash… there’s not much we can do about that!)

    Training - Sport Imagery Training

    While the crashing technique is pretty straightforward, how can we possibly remember to do it in the heat of the moment… in the split second when we are actually crashing? How do we practice crashing, or reacting properly in other emergencies?

    Humans are very good at learning by simulating an experience in our minds. Popularly called “guided visualization”, a better term is “Sport Imagery Training”. We want to imagine with all our senses from a first-person perspective… sight, sound, balance, body movement, touch, our emotions. We are going to train ourselves by repeatedly simulating a specific sport situation. We “play a movie” for our brains to “trick” our brains into thinking the experience is real. It’s useful to add in some physical movements that coincide with the visualized images. For example, you can put your arms in the position you use to hold your handle bars and tighten your fists, as if holding the bars tightly.

    You can do this anytime… in the shower, or brushing you teeth, or working in the yard… anytime you are alone and can concentrate for a minute. But you want to practice frequently… daily.

    For example…. “It’s a bright fall day. Smell the leaves and the fresh air from the recent rain. Hear the wind as you descend. You are on a left-hand curve on a downhill and hit a a patch of wet leaves. You feel your front wheel slide out as you lose control. Feel your balance shift. Feel the fear… your adrenaline is pumping, you know you’re about to crash, falling to your left. Hold you bars! Tuck in your knee and elbow! Keep you head up and to the right! Ouch! That hurt as you hit! But your hands are on the bars, you kept you head from making contact, and you hit the ground with most of the side of your arm and most of you leg”. You slide to a stop, and get up unhurt, congratulating yourself on your ability to crash safely.

    It’s good to practice different scenarios. And it’s a very useful technique for practicing other emergency situations… A car turns in front of you cutting you off. A dog runs in front of you. A rider in front of you brakes without warning. Simulate those emergencies, and you will train you brain to automatically do the right thing if the emergency occurs in real life.

    As I discovered on the velodrome, sport imagery training really works! That’s why it’s practiced by many elite athletes. For example, the Canadian Olympic medallist bobsledder Lyndon Rush has this to say:

    “I try to keep the track in my mind throughout the year. I’ll be in the shower or brushing my teeth. It just takes a minute, so I do the whole thing or sometimes just the corners that are more technical. You try to keep it fresh in your head, so when you do get there, you are not just starting at square one. It’s amazing how much you can do in your mind.”

    Here are some links with more information on the technique:


  • 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