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When Not to Stop!

Safety Corner logoBy Eli Post


The faster you go, the more important it is to be able to stop quickly, and so you need good, properly adjusted, brakes. While you should always be sure that your brakes are working up to their full potential, it is just as important to know when not to stop. That is, recognize those situations when applying brakes can be asking for trouble.

We’ve all seen someone drop something from their bike, like a water bottle. Your tendency is to stop and retrieve the fallen object, but on a group ride, when you are never sure if other cyclists are nearby, you must first signal that you are stopping so others can react in time and not crash into you. This may sound obvious, but when you sense the object flying off your bike, the urge to retrieve it may make you forget to signal and slow down, and instead stop without warning.

The same logic applies when you miss a turn, and at that moment can’t be sure there is no one behind you. Stopping short is asking for trouble. And let’s not forget the irresistible ring of a cell phone. In general, you should limit sudden, abrupt or unexpected stops to truly dangerous situations. Remembering this safety rule now could help you sometime in the future.

A “not to stop” situation that is more difficult to handle involves contact with another cyclist, especially if you should overlap and bump the wheel in front of you. It is important to have strategies to cope with this usually unexpected event, as you can’t be expected to work out a solution on the spot.

This is somewhat akin to driving on snow and ice, where some “practice” in controlled situations can help deal with the real event. Generally speaking, the rider in front will merely feel a bump, and be able to maintain control. The rider in front should not stop suddenly for fear of causing a pileup, but continue to move forward. The rider behind, whose front wheel touches, is in a more serious predicament.

The correct response will give you a much better chance of staying upright. First, of course, don’t overlap anyone’s rear wheel i.e., keep your front wheel completely behind the rear wheel of the person you are following. If your front wheel makes contact, your instinctive reaction may be to steer away. However, this reaction will throw you off balance, as this is also the direction the wheel you touched is pushing you.

This is the reason riders lose control and crash. Instead, if wheels touch, steer toward the rear wheel to keep your bike upright. This is done with a slight movement of the handlebar, not a hard turn. You may wish to practice with a friend and not wait for a real situation. Intentionally bump your friend’s rear wheel so you can learn the reactions it takes to stay upright. Then trade positions and let your friend practice. Caution—a fall is likely if you experiment with bumping, so this should be done on grass in a controlled environment. Wear your helmet!

Safety is about choices, and sometimes they’re not the obvious choices!

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