GLC: Bike v Bike

& Bike v Object

The most common crashes in the peloton are between bicyclists. These crashes happen when a cyclist touches wheels with another rider, or hits a surface hazard and loses control, taking out other cyclists. Both crash types can be prevented with proper bike handling skills and conscientious communication. (See In-Group Communication in Club Rider Essentials)

Wheel Touch

A touch of wheels can happen if one rider is overlapping the position of the rider ahead and that rider moves laterally. It can also happen if there is a sudden decrease in speed. The risk is high during mass starts (like you find at charity rides) and bunch sprints.

Beware of riders who are beyond their skill level. If you notice a rider getting wobbly, struggling to keep the pace, encourage that rider to stay on the back of the line.

If you do find yourself touching the wheel ahead:

Don’t

Don’t panic! Your instinct might be to try to steer away from the wheel, but doing that will cause you to lose control and fall once the wheels are no longer in contact. 

Do

Stop pedaling and gently steer toward that wheel as you slowly drift back. This will re-center your balance and will likely have no significant effect on the rider who’s wheel you have contacted. Be prepared to correct a possible swerve once the wheels are no longer touching.

Avoid wheel touches by communicating

The rear rider is responsible for maintaining a safe distance and not overlapping wheels. But it is critical that front riders communicate hazards and speed changes.

Be aware that when standing to pedal, the bike may drift back several inches toward the rider behind. Leave a bit more following distance on rolling hills or sprints. Let the rider behind know when you intend to stand.

Surface hazards

A pothole, object or uneven surface can divert the front wheel and cause a rider to lose control and veer into other riders, or crash in front of them. It’s essential for the front riders to scan ahead for possible hazards and call and point them out to the group. Hazards that need to be completely avoided, like a bad pothole or a tree branch should be made visible by the front rider moving as far away from it as possible. Each rider must call, point and move as far away as possible so riders behind can see the hazard.

Surface hazards can also cause a tire blowout that results in the rider losing control. Under-inflated tires are susceptible to pinch flats, worn or overinflated tires are susceptible to blowouts. Of course glass, thorns and other sharp objects can puncture a perfectly good and properly-inflated tire. Any type of flat is more likely to cause a crash if it happens to the front tire.

If you’re in a tight paceline and suddenly find yourself upon a surface hazard, sudden braking is not an option.

The rock-dodge maneuver can help you avoid hitting a small hazard that appears suddenly. This maneuver allows you to miss the hazard with your front wheel without swerving. Just as you’re about to hit the object, quickly flick your front wheel to the left, then back to the right. Your front wheel will steer around the hazard, but your lateral position won’t change. Your rear wheel may ride over the hazard, so be prepared for a bump.

It’s best to avoid the part of the road where hazards are more likely—namely the edge. Lead your group away from debris zones like unmaintained shoulders and bike lanes. Make sure riders know basic communication protocols and emergency skills, like wheel touch technique and rock dodge.

Other hazards

Bollards are a hazard we often encounter on bike paths. We’ll cover those in the lesson on path riding.

In our next video, you will learn the strategies for safely leading a group over angled railroad tracks.