Cycling safety is a high priority for any club. We want to see members stay safe and also make sure that the Club is viewed positively when it comes to the way they use the roads.
Last week I highlighted “Group Riding and Drivers” things to focus on when riding, this week I want to report back on a few observations I made as well as a few extra thoughts on risk.
One thing I probably didn’t highlight enough last week was that the biggest hazard on the road is not pot holes, cars, buses, taxis, other riders it is in fact our self. The risk is not our ability to ride a bike, rather it is the choices we make. While I did observe plenty of good riding over the week there were still a number of risks I observed that we can learn from, i.e.
- People doing a turn at the front when they were the weakest rider in a bunch. All beginners do this as they feel they have to, however the reality is your aim as a beginner is to do everything in your power to make sure that you are still with the bunch at the end- this means hiding in the peloton as much as you can. If you get to the front, peel straight off and save yourself for the long haul
- People getting to the front and then putting the hammer down, racing the person next to them, rather than simply riding next to them. It is not up to the slower rider on the front to try to keep up with the faster rider, rather it is the role of the faster rider to work out what pace they can both handle. As soon as you half wheel your ride partner this spreads down the line and suddenly we have gaps and people crossing over throughout the bunch
- Surging is also a sure fire way to affect the rhythm of the bunch and cause people to have to speed up quickly and then slow down, especially when people take off from traffic lights
- The same too goes in the peloton. I was amazed that in darkness and in a group of 15 riders people thought the risk low enough to ride within 30cm of the wheel in front of them. While this is a risk I wouldn’t take unless I was 99% confident in the skills of those ahead, it also meant that half wheeling often occurred when the partner rider didn’t want to ride that close. Again it is up to the rider who is riding ahead of the other to come back next to their partner. I would think 1 m is a safe distance to ride apart for most triathletes in most group rides.
- Likewise when going up a hill, do you know what tends to happen to a person when they get tired, they get out of the saddle. And unless they change into a bigger gear the bike will stall a fraction as their cadence drops and your 20cm gap becomes zero and wheels touch. So try to read what the rider ahead is going to do. This can be hard if you are already fatigued, and if you are going to get out of the saddle move to a harder gear.
- People trying to start from a standstill in too big a gear meaning theytake too long to get going at lights which spreads the bunch out too much. Make sure you are in a gear you can get up to 90 rpm in quick time and then change
- Other issues at lights are people not being able to click in, if this happens just do a few one leg strokes to get up to speed before you have another crack at getting your foot in. Panicking and slowing down only spreads the group out all over the road
- People riding on their aerobars in the middle of a pack (unless you are at the front, I would ride with my hands on the brakes)
- As soon as we start racing, especially up a hill, we become oblivious to the rest of the world and tend to ride wide or take unnecessary risk.
- Likewise when we get tired our better judgement falls away, and weplace our self into riskier situations, so really try to be extra cautious later in your ride if you are struggling to keep up with the bunch due to fatigue. Be happy to let them go and catch them at the bakery
- Read the traffic, look ahead at all times to see what the traffic, road surface, traffic lights are doing and what you are riding up towards. I don’t mind riding fast through town, but I measure my effort depending on if there is traffic around me. I will always be super cautious especially when I am riding on my own, when I go past a shopping centres, thru roundabouts, past buses and taxis or if I see someone driving slowly or braking a lot. People simply do not look out for bikes (or runners for that matter) . They look for cars only and then turn. In fact anytime you ride in daylight hours simply assume that motorists are not going to see you. Both of the times I have been hit by a car was around 5pm, both drivers failed to give way (one turned out of a side road and the other turned right in front of me). So even if you think you have eye contact still be ready to take evasive action.Finally the A grade ride had a challenging moment on the weekend where we made up a lot of ground and overtook another bunch of cyclists. This bunch instead of falling back and just accepting they had been passed, thought the open road was the perfect time to show the world how big their ego was and they started to race us with riders passing everyone all over the place. After a few minutes of having 30 riders spread across the road, we made the call to pull up let them go, wait 5 minutes before recommencing our ride. We could have got into a full on verbal and physical assault with them, but we chose to steer clear of the danger even if it did mean Bozza didn’t get his strava record! So if ever you are passed by another group or rider, don’t draft off them and then try to pass them back. Accept the free ride they are giving you and just sit safely off the back, or better still just let them ride off.
Extract from the Lakers “BTW” by N.Pietsch