Crash on the commute

This was a couple months back, but sharing so you can learn from my mistakes.

Unless you are racing in precarious conditions, crashing on your road bike should be any extremely rare occasion. And it's a rude awakening when it happens!

I was riding my normal commute route, chatting it up with a friendly guy on a mountain bike. About 2/3 of the way into the ride I approached a sharp intersection turn on a narrow path. It's a relatively famous turn among Marin-to-SF bike commuters -- informally known as happy-old-guy-turn. There's a gentleman out doing his exercises every morning, and he stops to wave and greet each passing cyclist with a melodic "Gooood morning! Have a nice day!" He's the best ... but back to the story. I've ridden through the spot 100+ times before, and I didn't think twice. Within a split second I was down, sliding across the pavement. 

Source: Google Maps (location link)

So what happened? I could jump to lots of contributing factors, but the primary one was on me: complacency. I was riding the same stretch every day, and not 100% focused on staying safe and watching for trouble areas. I didn't sense all the little things that were adding up to be a big problem:

  • New tires (still with the factory waxy layer on them)
  • Riding on the inside line of the turn since I was chatting to a guy next to me
  • Wet pavement leading up to the turn
  • Distracted by conversation and rolling in a bit too fast
Any one of these and I might have been just fine, but all four together meant my wheels were slipping out from underneath me and I was going down.

Luckily I was wearing arm and knee warmers so that took the brunt of the scrapes. I was much luckier that others who have fallen at this exact same locations and fared much worse: bruised hips, concussions, etc.

I now am taking that corner much more cautiously, but also generally trying to shed complacency when I feel it creeping in. I am experimenting with one technique drawing from FAA pilot training. Pilots are taught about 5 hazardous attitudes that undermine decisions making and impair risk assessment. They are taught to recognize a thought as hazardous, label it as one of the 5 hazardous attitudes, then state the corresponding "antidote." It sounds a bit hokey, but I try to do the same with complacency: recognize that I am tuning out, label it as "hey, I am getting complacent", and playback the antidote "I need 100% focused to stay safe" (the antidote). Give it a try sometime, it might just help.


Popular Posts

A growing sea of blinky red lights

Riding at night

Worlds cheapest cycling glasses