how to prevent injury when cycling

How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling?

I’m starting this article with a short story which can be summed up by the fact that I had a bad mountain biking accident.  And that is why biking safety is so important to me.  Extremely important.  I know accidents are going to happen and we still want to go out and have fun.  However, we all need to take appropriate safety actions to ensure we minimize the damage (injuries) that happen at the time of an accident.  So, how can you prevent injury while cycling; with the biking safety tips below.

My husband, two boys and I headed to Winter Park, CO for a downhill biking day.  On our first trip down the mountain, I popped one of my back tires.  I walked, or should I say dragged, my bike back to the lift and rode down.  My husband and the boys met me after their ride down. My husband was going to take my bike to the bike shop at the resort to fix the tire.  He had purchased a new bike the prior day, a Cannondale Jekyll, and wanted me to take a ride down the mountain with it.  The boys and I headed back to the lift for my next attempt at a downhill adventure.  

scenery while cycling you cannot see if injured

And, it was fun!  The boys and I had ridden most of the way down.  There was a lookout point that we stopped and I sent my husband a text that we were almost down from an amazing ride.  We were almost back to the resort and on a wider gravel road traveling at a fast pace.  My middle son was riding ahead of me and my youngest son was behind me.  The last thing I recall was thinking that I needed to make sure my youngest son was keeping up with us.  The next thing I recall was 4 to 5 hours later in the emergency room.

Another biker witnessed my crash.  She rode the rest of the way to the resort and called for help.  My husband happened to be in the vicinity and had a feeling it was me.  He headed straight up the mountain along with mountain medical.  The witness said that I started fishtailing, I flew over the handlebars, my head hit the ground which knocked me out and I started rolling.  Mountain medical transported me to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with a concussion, a broken scapula, three broken ribs along with stitches in my elbow and cuts and bruises all long the right side of my body.    

How To Prevent Injuries While Cycling: Tip #1 – Safety Equipment

On our Winter Park trip, I had planned to wear one of our normal biking helmets.  I don’t know what made us switch.  Fate?  At the last minute, my husband said he was going to rent me a full face helmet.  He may have saved my life with that simple decision. There are two major innovations in helmets. The first is MIPS, and the second is WaveCel from Bontrager. Read more on MIPS vs WaveCel helmets here.

Tip #1 is to wear all the proper riding gear.  Helmets can be a large expense.  However, I cannot stress enough how important they are.  Life saving.  Having a concussion was not fun especially when your husband enforces the doctor’s rule of no electronics for a week.  It could have been worse so I am thankful.

Using the proper equipment for the type of riding you do is important too. A full faced helmet is perfect for downhill mountain biking, but it is not the helmet to wear when taking a 20 mile road ride. When riding in the street having full visibility is far more important than lower jaw protection.

Preventing Injury On Bikes: Tip #2 – Ride A Bike Sized For You

When I think back to how the accident happened, I don’t know.  I do not remember.  The last thing I do remember is that we were booking at a decent speed and I wanted to make sure my youngest son was able to keep up with our speed.  I went to turn my head.  As I was riding my husband’s new bike, I was not entirely comfortable.  It was a size large but I have ridden a size large before.  However, I did not have a great understanding of how to work the gears and the brakes were much different than I was accustomed.  

Had I been on a bike that fit me and that I was comfortable riding, maybe I would not have wrecked.  Now, we always recommend renting equipment when visiting a downhill park if you do not have the proper equipment.  However, I headed straight to the lift and down the mountain.  Before I did that, I should have ridden my husband’s new bike around the resort at a slower speed until I was comfortable with the gears and the brakes.  Getting to know the feeling of the bike and how to properly operate it is tip #2 and is as important as having the proper equipment.

Tip #3 – Safety Equipment For Your Body

The picture below honestly just hurts me.  I feel sad and wish I would have done something different.  We purchased new pedals for our middle son’s mountain bike  It took him a while to get accustomed to the new pedals and obviously tore up his legs while wearing shorts.    We have gear for our boys for riding dirt bikes.  On our next downhill biking trip, I plan for the boys to wear this equipment.  It includes a large jacket with arm pads and front and back shields.  In my accident, the gravel may not have scraped and cut my arms and legs so badly had I been wearing more padding.   

how can you prevent injury while cycling

Cycling safety is such an important and popular topic that even the CDC has chimed in. In 2015 it was estimated that 467,000 cyclists were injured and 1,000 bicyclists died. While downhill mountain biking might seem like the most dangerous method of biking, almost 80% of deaths come from commuter biking and road biking due to incidents involving vehicles.

Tip #4 To Prevent Injury While Cycling – Know Your Surroundings

While biking, you always must be aware of your surroundings and be alert.  However, whether you are road biking, downhill biking or trail biking, you must be aware of your surroundings for cars, pedestrians, and other riders. 

While downhill biking, bikers have different skill levels and travel at different speeds.  Make sure you are alert to bikers coming behind you and whether you are coming up onto other bikers.  Switchbacks and turns are frequent and you need to be aware of bikers that are currently out of sight but could close in quickly.  

On the road, even though you hope that drivers are paying attention, I never take that for granted.  I confirm a car has acknowledged that I can cross in front of them before crossing.

You need to be aware of what is in front of you to ensure you are able to react and maneuver as needed. 

How Can You Prevent Injury While Cycling: Tip #5 – Keep Your Bike Properly Maintained

While bike maintenance is not the most fun task, it is extremely important to do.  While in my bad accident, I may have squeezed on the brakes a little too hard, I cannot imagine what would happen if you squeezed on your brakes and they did not work.

Before any ride, you need to ensure that all parts of the bike are properly working.  A broken chain, broken brakes or any other issues could cause an accident or injury.  Keep your bike maintained.

Riding is one of our favorite hobbies.  It will continue to be enjoyable as long as we stay safe! Hopefully these tips helped you learn how you can prevent injury while cycling.

Until next time, enjoy the ride!