Falls. They’re going to happen. It’s not something you can ever take completely out of the equation. We hope some if not all of the suggestions below can help to lower the chances, though.
We’ve all suffered slips and spills. I’ve certainly had more than I’d like to remember. Probably the worst was on my way out of the city of Bangkok towards a very promising tour through Cambodia to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Unfortunately, luck was not on my side. A sharp turn led me right to a set of railroad tracks set into the road at the worst possible angle. My wheel slipped into the groove, I was flung over my handlebars at speed, and my fully-extended arms absorbed the entire impact of the fall. Two sprained elbows, a broken finger, and a broken wrist. Worst of all, the tour was over as soon as it had started.
But what can you do, right? Actually, there’s plenty you can do.
First off, without question, always wear a helmet! Anytime you’re walking towards your bike with the intention of getting on it, you ought to be strapping on a helmet in the process. They’re there because they save lives. Here at URG, we’re so deadly serious about this one, we feel it deserves its very own blog down the line.
Watch out for railroad tracks. They are one of the most dangerous stationary obstacles on any road. And study your maps carefully before going through a city you’re not entirely familiar with. I really wish I had that day. You can usually plan much safer and faster routes if you just take some time to familiarize yourself with what’s out there before you begin. Fifteen to twenty minutes of careful planning can save weeks of annoyance, trust me.
What about the weather? This should be pretty self explanatory: if it’s raining or precipitating in any manner, check your speed a bit. You’ll get there. Why not get there in one piece? Feet slip on pedals, tires slip in puddles and on ice, and your visibility is not what it was on those clear days once it starts coming down.
If you’re more interested in getting off the asphalt and onto the trails, you might want to think about taking a skills course. Do an online search and you should be able to find something in your neck of the woods, especially if mountain biking is popular there. Another great way to learn necessary skills for mountain biking is to go with friends who know their stuff. You’ll be pushed harder to do things that you might not be comfortable with, but you’ll have help mastering them. If neither of these options is available to you, set up your own skills course in a parking lot or driveway using parking cones. There are videos on YouTube explaining this quite well. Really the best way to avoid crashes on the trail is to have confidence - in what you and what your bike can do. That way, you’re more focused on what’s actually ahead of you rather than what may or may not happen if you lose your balance. Confidence is key! It comes with increasing basic skills and pushing yourself.
Lastly, get to know your bike! Understand how it works as a machine and the quick, little things you can do without a mechanic’s help to maintain it. A bike that isn’t well kept and maintained can be a dangerous one. When a piece or part falters, it can be a wreck waiting to happen. So take some time to get familiar with your bike. Ask a mechanic what he or she thinks are the most important things you should know to keep your bike in safe and rideable position. Good places to start: know about tire pressure, keep a clean and well lubed chain, routinely check the sturdiness of your seat post and handlebars, ask a mechanic to let you watch what they do next time they true your wheels, routinely check out your brakes to make sure they’re clamping the wheel rims or rotors (if you ride with disc brakes) properly.
Spills will still happen, but you can take steps to reduce their frequency and severity. Hindsight is 20/20 and those of us who have plenty to go around will tell you to take the time to prepare, slow down a bit in inclement weather, get to know your bike a bit, and ALWAYS WEAR A HELMET.