In the last couple of years many of my friends have been hit by cars, but just as many of us have crashed in the peloton where no cars are involved. So lets take a brief look in the mirror.
Yesterday I got an email from a friend.
He said, “WTF I was waving and yelling and you completely ignored me”
Yes, I do that. Stay focused that is …Because I have had more than my share of crashes and near misses that could change my life forever.
So many lives are irrevocably changed by distraction, panic and loss of focus. I am as guilty as at the next guy in the peloton. Humans are very easily distracted and prone to panic. All we can do to stay safe out there is to learn from somebody else’s tragedy. People talk to me in the peloton all the time. I engage to be polite and get back to focusing ASAP.
WE must NEVER EVER take our eye off the MULTITUDE OF HAZARDS that await us. As cyclists, we must also act like those Police horses who are trained to walk or trot into crowd of rioting humans.
We cannot panic at the slightest distraction. WE MUST NOT PANIC and swerve out when a car starts backing out of a driveway 50 meters ahead. If we panic so will everybody else and there will be a pile up of broken bones.
Stop pedaling, DO NOT BRAKE, keep our eyes looking ahead while pointing out the hazard to following riders, shoulder check before making your evasive maneuver as smoothly as possible and everybody will avoid tragedy. We know it. We must remind ourselves of it. All. The. Time.
Cars are only half the problem. WE are the other half of the problem.
Let’s become immune to all the hazards out there. Before the Hardman ride, let’s take a moment to remind ourselves to STAY COOL and there is always a way out of tight jam. A cool headed cyclist can maneuver out of almost any jam. Panic and there is NO WAY OUT except carnage. And when there is no way out of a tight jam, RELAX before impact. Just like a drunk driver rarely gets seriously injured, a relaxed rider heading for a crash can reduce their injuries significantly by embracing the inevitable crash.
It scares the hell out of me to think that my own distracted, panicky, riding could KILL my best friend who is sucking my wheel …. So yes it may seem like I am boring and got nothing to say and I am ignoring you but maybe I am just trying to stay alive on Lakeshore which is probably one of the most dangerous stretches of road.
Here are my TOP TEN TIPS TO STAYING ALIVE ON A BIKE.
1. Always look ahead. Far ahead. Look for changing traffic lights, Look for cars backing out onto the road, debris, potholes, Look for pedestrians etc. etc etc, NEVER stop LOOKING.
2. Trust only your eyes and your awareness and your own judgment of what is happening ahead. We are not lemmings following a strong rider into a dangerous intersection.
2. Know who and what is behind you at All times. When it’s safe ahead glance back every few hundred meters.
3. On bad roads full of potholes and cracks, slow down, keep your distance from the rider ahead and LOOK through their legs.
4. Its safer to keep your hands on the bars to avoid potholes than to point them out every 30 meters. Shoulder check and find a safer line rather than taking your hands off the bars every 30 seconds.
5. Don’t Panic! Stay Cool! Think fast and Take evasive action to avoid a pile up. Riders will always follow you because they trust you. So don’t do anything stupid.
6. Be Predictable! Indicate 100 meters before the turn to warn other riders and cars where you are going. Indicate AGAIN 50 meters before the turn.
7. When possible and necessary OWN the ROAD and take the whole lane. It is your legal right to take a whole lane. Act Like a CAR and you will get respect from motorists.
8. I know this one is hard, but Don’t lose your shit when motorists threaten your life. Road Rage is treacherous and pointless. Nobody wins.
9. Shut up and Ride.
10. Don’t act like a Cyclist!! You are a road user. Hold your line.
Not everyone is comfortable riding in a super tight pack and we’re not out on a team time trial in the Tour de France. Space yourself comfortably, never overlap wheels, and if you’re riding 2 abreast, pay attention to your partners line as much as your own. Try to avoid accidentally mashing your partner against an upcoming narrowing shoulder, curb, or pothole. Be aware of their comfort level; it may not match your own.
If you notice that you’ve flatted, either slow deflation or (more likely, and more importantly) a fast one: DO NOT HIT YOUR BRAKES. I know it’s extremely tempting, and I’ve been guilty of this too, but resist the urge as best you can and coast until you know everybody behind you is aware of the problem. If everyone else is paying attention, they will probably know almost as fast as you as there are all kinds of audible cues, but it’s worth assuming the worst in this case.
Listening to music with headphones is an impediment to you absorbing a tonne of contextual information from the world around you, and many times from places you can’t see. Your eyes are great for specifics, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Let your ears fill in the gaps.