Bike Safety — A Racer’s Perspective

This video was shot via helmet cam during the Portland Twilight Criterium. The insight below comes from Robert Burney, a seasoned Portland rider and racer. This gives you a good idea of what it is like to ride — as well as crash — in this type of race.



This video was filmed with a camera attached to the racer’s helmet and shows where is face is looking. The racer has peripheral vision although this camera does not. I am sending this out to everyone to reinforce several ideas we have discussed on our rides:

1.  Ride a straight line, even if you might bump over an obstacle. It is safer for you (and the people near you) if you verbally tell them of the obstacle. We should all pay attention to the road in front of us and steer around obstacles, but we must do so in a controlled manner. Abrupt motions create additional hazards.

You can see what can happen at about 1:20 into the video. At that point someone throws a tennis ball into the pack as they round a right hand corner. Several riders try to dodge the ball and cause a crash on the left side of the road. Had they ignored the ball and ridden a straight line, the crash probably would not have happened.  that crash.

2.  Watch what is happening ahead of you on the road and try to leave an escape route for unforeseen emergencies. At about 3:19 in the video a racer crashes on the left of the screen, ahead of the camera. The rider with the camera does not see it happening in time and has no place to go when a bike flips out into his path. Although the rider crashes (and it may look scary through the camera), he is able to continue the race after a ‘free lap’.  Most of the other riders were also able to continue.

3.  Riders who have crashed should be watched. Note how dazed this rider is for the next few minutes of the video. He even inserts an editorial comment making fun of himself.

4.  Check all equipment after a crash. It is best to have a rider who has not crashed do this for you. This rider forgot to check his rear wheel and it was rubbing the brakes for the rest of the race.

5.  Always wear a helmet. Check to see if the helmet broke in the crash. If the helmet is broken (as was this rider’s helmet), it may be wise to stop the ride and get a lift home.  If there was enough road shock to break the helmet, your brain may have suffered shock causing slowed thinking for a time. Buy a new helmet if yours has taken an impact — helmets are designed to withstand only one crash. Destroy and discard the old helmet.

6.  Look where you are going, not where you are or where you have been. Early in the race the rider is watching where he is riding, but late in the race, when he is very tired (and after he has crashed), he starts to look down at his front wheel. We have all done this sort of thing when we get tired in a pace line or on a climb. When we get tired, our reaction time is worse as well.

Remember that when you look down, you can’t see what is happening ahead of you and it is much harder to react to circumstances you do not see coming.

This is a great video despite the rider crashing.  It gives a great feeling for riding at 28 miles per hour in a pack of riders, plus we get to learn from another person’s mistakes instead of making our own. Mike Sheppard, Darroll Batke, Shari Shanks and I have made all of these mistakes (and more) when we were racing. When we suggest things in our coaching rides it is with the hope that riders will be able to learn better skills (without checking to see for yourself if pavement is still tougher than human skin. Note to self: pavement is still tougher than skin).

Robert, feel free to send stuff like this any time.

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