Pointing Out the Hazards
(This month’s Safety Corner comes to you courtesy of guest writer Connie Farb, CRW Board Member and VP of Rides)
I’ve been riding in groups and pacelines for about seven years now. Several times over those years I’ve been right behind someone who has taken a fall. Somehow, I always managed to swerve around them and stay upright. I’d never fallen on my bike until last August. That time, I was all by myself. It was towards the end of a group ride and I had taken off first from a red light so the rest of the small group was behind me. I was going along when I saw a small but deep pothole to my left. I didn’t feel under control enough to take my hand off and point, but the pothole looked nasty enough that I didn’t want anyone not to notice it and I thought it was important to point out. I took my left hand off to point, leaving all the weight on my right hand. The wheel immediately turned sharply right and down I went. I came close to breaking my collarbone, but was lucky enough to wind up with only some road rash and feeling pretty dumb.
When I’m out on CRW rides, I see a lot of pointing and swerving and hear lots of yelling. It’s a good idea to point out road hazards to your fellow riders (this has been mentioned in previous Safety Corner articles). But don’t risk injury to yourself and others trying to be safe! It is better to ride through some things (small, shallow potholes or dry manhole covers, for example) then to swerve around them at the last minute. On a recent Sunday ride a rider went down while trying to swerve around a small pothole that he would have been better off riding through. He suffered some pretty ugly road rash as a result. Keep in mind that when riding in a paceline, one of the most important things is to ride steady and predictably. The leader of the paceline usually directs the group around most road hazards, so pointing and swerving are not generally needed.
And while it is a good idea to alert other riders to road hazards, use your judgment as to what warrants a warning. You don’t have to point out every pebble or bump in the road, nor things that are two feet off to the side if you’re riding in a straight paceline. Taking your hand off the handlebars to point can be dangerous, especially at high speed. Even yelling “hole” can be overdone. If you yell out every time there’s a bump or hole on the roads around here, you’re going to spend the whole ride yelling! After a while, it loses its effectiveness too, so pick your hazards and yell judiciously. And have fun!