Cycling Safety and Education

Post retirement I’ve found myself drawn into cycling coaching. I coach youth in the OBC’s Youth Development Program. I’m a Cycling Canada CanBike instructor, and I teach riding skills, traffic safety, and ride leading to adults.

It’s true that the best way to learn something well is to teach it to someone else. It forces me to reflect deeply on what I think I know. This is especially true of coaching. By approaching coaching with humility and a passion for the subject, I find I’m always learning and growing.

And, to quote from an articles in this series:

“Given the amount of time I spend on a bike, I recognize there is a significant probability that my cycling career, or even my life, could end as a result of a serious cycling accident”. As a cyclist, the risk of injury requiring hospital treatment (per km travelled) is significantly greater than when in a motor vehicle. The more you cycle, the greater the risk

So maybe it’s not surprising that my biggest area of growth in the last five years has been in riding skills and traffic safety. I’ve learned so much through coaching and listening to experts. I now ride very differently from a few years ago.

I help out with the Safety and Education program at the Kanata Nepean Bicycle Club (I’m an active member in three local cycling clubs). As part of that role, I started a “Safety and Education blog on the KNBC Members website. But I realized that many of the articles would be useful to a wider audience, so I’ve started posting them here.

Keep in Mind

Everyone has their own perspectives and biases, so before you dive into this series, you should be aware of mine:

  1. Acceptance of Risk - Everyone was their own perceptions of risk and “draw the line” in different places. I try to find all reasonable ways to minimize a risk, while still participating to the fullest in my sport. For example, I like to descend fast… I’m thrilled if I can hit 80KPH on a descent. But I wear a helmet, make careful mechanical checks of my bike before every ride, careful check my tires and replace them regularly, and will slow down if I don’t know the descent well, or can’t see around a turn. I have no problem riding on busy road in traffic, but I don’t find that fun, and I don’t commute anymore, so I try to avoid them
  2. Not trying to win a World Tour Race - I don’t pour over Formula 1 technology to decide what car to buy. And while what World Tour Riders are using is interesting it has only a peripheral applicability to much of the riding recreational and sportif cyclists do. Many of the finer points of cycling technology make such a small difference that we will never notice them on our rides (Really… you just think you notice! The Placebo Effect and Marginal Gains ) I’m concerned about what really can make a difference to me.

Articles in this Series - Read On!

Tires - Be Faster, Safer, More Comfortable

In cycling, “contact points” are critical: bum on saddle, hands on handlebars, feet on pedals. But the most important one of all is “where the rubber meets the road”. Tires may be the most important component on your bike. The right tire at the right pressure makes a huge difference to your safety - your “grip” on the road - as well as to your comfort, and efficiency. Diving into detail on tires, with a focus on tire width, tire pressure, and tire quality, we will discover:

How to Crash

You will crash - learn to crash properly I’m in the middle of a tight pack of two dozen racers at the Pan-Am Games velodrome, 5 laps from the end of the race, averaging 45kph. There’s a sudden slowing as riders position themselves for the finishing sprint. I hear swearing, and the unmistakable sound of carbon wheels scraping each other as multiple riders make contact at speed. A rider just above me goes down and slides across my rear wheel.

How not to Fall (at low speed)

In the previous article, we mentioned that many serious cycling injuries happen when cyclists are slowing and preparing to stop. So let’s discuss some techniques to prevent low speed falls. Now all this may seem like a lot of effort. But it’s much preferable to broken bones! (As the old aged goes… you can say me now or pay me later!) Cleats and Unclipping How many times have you heard:

Every Cyclist Crashes - Even You!

I’ll be blunt: “Given the amount of time I spend on a bike, I recognize there is a significant probability that my cycling career, or even my life, could end as a result of a serious cycling accident”. As a cyclist, the risk of injury requiring hospital treatment (per km travelled) is significantly greater than when in a motor vehicle. The more you cycle, the greater the risk - You will crash!

After You Crash & Your Helmet Saves Your Head!

BANG! Hisss…! A Puncture! But who? Where? I’m riding in a peloton of 24 tightly packed riders in the middle of the steep banking on the Pan-Am Games Velodrome in Milton Ontario. It’s impossible to stay up on the banking after a puncture. Everyone knows someone is going down, and is going to take other riders with them. I’m a loser of this lottery. The rider with the puncture slides down in front of me and I flip over their bike at 34KPH, as four of us go down.