Published on the USA Triathlon website
The probability of crashing on your bike increases with the time you spend training. Cyclists say: “there are those who have crashed and those who have yet to crash.” There's something to be said about riding inside on the trainer, riding solo on back roads and playing it safe. And then on the other hand, there’s something to getting out there on the roads, riding in a big group and jumping in head first. There's a balance to be sure.
You don't want to be a daredevil all the time, you want to be smart. But at the same time there’s an exhilarating feeling that only comes when you are out there in the middle of a fast group ride kicking butt, heart pounding out of your chest and you’re going for it hanging on for dear life. (Do you know what I’m talking about?)
Crashes, falls, scrapes, bruises and broken bones are bound to happen. It's part of the game. The more riders out there, the more variables there are. And I know plenty of cyclists that have gotten into scrapes biking alone minding their own business when pesky things cross their paths- -animals (squirrels, anyone?) or inanimate objects (trees, potholes, curbs...). So there’s risk whichever way you look at it. Heck, I bet there are some athletes out there who have fallen off their trainer! When you bike, there’s risk, period!
Why put yourself out there in a group ride? Well, for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) style of racing (the kind done in the Olympic Games) the bike portion is draft legal. You ride in packs at fast speeds around sharp turns and need to be able to handle your bike well. Group riding can help athletes become more comfortable riding in a pack and more proficient at bike handling skills. In addition, riding with others requires you to anticipate their moves and react accordingly. A large focus of the USAT Collegiate Recruitment Program is to help athletes develop strong cycling skills to compete in draft-legal races.
This topic rings close to home for me as I took a fall last weekend. I was on a group ride with about 20-30 other cyclists who were all pretty strong and road savvy. We were going along at a good clip when I got out of my saddle on a small roller. A rider next to me got out of his saddle and we must have been going for the same opening because before I knew it, he collided into my left side sending me and my bike airborne.
I landed hard on my right side and tucked thinking I was going to get plowed into by the other riders. Thankfully they had enough time to react to avoid a pile up. I landed on my joints (ankle, knee, hip and elbow), but must have evenly spread out the weight of the impact because nothing shattered or broke (hooray! My last crash put me in the ER with a broken rib). I have some nice road rash to show for it, some scrapes and lovely colored bruises (so attractive I know!).
The bike took more damage than I did. The force of impact crushed my pedal, bent my cleat, rubbed a hole in my shoe, bent the derailer, bent my front shifters (and not to mention, injured my pride). Needless to say, the bike wasn't road worthy. I think every athlete wants to fall, shake it off and hop back on and keep on riding, but I couldn't do that this time. I had to swallow my pride and take a kind rider up on his offer to drive me home.
Now a couple days removed from the incident, I’m feeling better, getting the bike fixed, and planning to race at the Capital of Texas event on Memorial Day followed by an ITU Continental Cup in Dallas. I might look a bit battered and bruised, but it's a part of the ball game. If the game were easy, everyone would do it. I’m excited to get back out there and face the challenges of the road.
Mistakes happen out there and accidents come with the territory of cycling and training. It's a miracle we don't get hurt more often considering the amount of miles we put in. When you do take a fall, it’s a good time to give your body some extra TLC (as I’m learning!). If you treat your body well, it will treat you well.
Ride safe, ride confident, and face your fears. See you at the races!