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My first road spill, a doozy. Q re: braking before a crash(7 posts)

My first road spill, a doozy. Q re: braking before a crashET at home
Aug 26, 2001 8:26 PM
On Tuesday, I was doing a tough hilly timed course during my lunch break. Started pedalling hard at beginning of descent with a steep hill to follow, reached probably around 30 when the truck that had passed me and I thought was long gone stopped at the bottom to turn left. It took up the whole lane, even narrow shoulder. I slammed on the brakes and my bike fishtailed, with the rear wheel seemingly moving all the way to the left and right with a mind of its own as if I wasn't there, and I didn't have a chance. (Funny, but I did not get the feeling of going over the front of the bike, just the fishtailing.) Down I went, to the left first, then the right. Banged my left butt and thigh, burst a blood vessel there (now have purple bruise making its way down my leg), kinked left back and sore ribs, cuts on left elbow and right hand, two deep abrasions on right knee (using Second Skin), road rash on upper left butt and lower left back, as well as right shoulder. Both shoulders are sore. I know almost everything will heal, but am most worried about right shoulder, which has a little numbness running through to fingers, a feeling I had before getting surgery for dislocated shoulder. I did not re-dislocate it but I had not had that feeling since pre-surgery, so am scared about that. I think I'll know for sure in a few days. Glasses flew off into brush, which I later found with help of co-worker upon returning later to scene. Mind a little fuzzy about crash details. Rear wheel popped off, front brakes were jammed. Two SUVs stopped to help, one gave me and bike the 6-mile ride back to work (see, we need SUVs!). Missed a day and a half of work due to severe soreness, which was at its worse on Friday. Bike (Lemond Zurich 01) needed wheels truing, new rear derailer, hangar bent back in shape (I was told this is a good thing about steel) and some other looking over, and is now fixed up again. Can't see any frame scratches. LBS charged me only $64.

I have been hearing conflicting advice about what to do to avoid loss of control, fishtailing and the like, when braking suddenly to avoid a collision. Are you supposed to brake quickly and let go, then (rinse, lather and) repeat, or should you brake and hold, or what? Depending on time and focus, are there different instructions for front and rear brake? I presume you should adjust your weight to be back as far as possible. No doubt there's some heavy but practical physics here. Please advise. Thanks.
Yes, weight back, and as low as possible ...Humma Hah
Aug 26, 2001 8:46 PM
... but you've gotta understand, a bike's only got so much to brake with. Also, you can't get the CG down far enough to compete with most motor vehicles. Sometimes the only thing is to steer to avoid a crash, or at least hit the softest possible obstacle. You were in a very bad situation and there may not have been any way out of it under the circumstances.

On a motorcycle, 80% of your panic-stop braking capacity comes from the front wheel. On a bicycle, with a higher CG, its probably more than that. As your weight transfers off the rear wheel, and you continue to squeeze the brakes harder, there's a high likelihood that the rear wheel will lock up. I did it three times last week, all unintentionally (this is very rare for me ... I usually take pride in avoiding skids).

With a car, where you can afford to lock the wheels for an instant, pumping the brakes works. If they start to skid, releasing them re-establishes traction. But pumping the brakes on anything but a slick surface is for amateurs -- the best drivers learn the feel of their brakes by practicing hard braking, and learn to modulate pressure, releasing it only if they feel a little slippage.

On a bike, the tires losing grip is a disaster. When both gyroscopes stop turning at the same time, you're going down. Since the rear is very likely to lock, and the front is doing all the work, it is vital to concentrate on learning to modulate front braking pressure, and to recognize rear skids and release them instantly to get the wheel turning again.
re: My first road spill, a doozy. Q re: braking before a crashSTEELYeyed
Aug 26, 2001 8:54 PM
If you didn't have enough room to avoid the truck,and not enough distance to brake,laying the bike down was probably the only option,BTW how much damage did your helmet recieve? Do you think it saved you from a head injury?
helmet had only minor scratches on itET
Aug 27, 2001 10:23 AM
I'm replacing it to be safe. According to Sheldon Brown's site given by another poster below, I guess I was supposed to use the front brake exclusively to avoid fishtailing and compensate with weight moved back and stiff arms to prevent going over.
re: My first road spill, a doozy. Q re: braking before a crashjtolleson
Aug 27, 2001 7:52 AM
Sounds like you were lucky and handled it as well as you could under the circumstances.

Hard braking can definitely cause loss of control. I pump the brakes whenever possible (desperation can make it impossible) and leave the road in a straight line if necessary, continuing to slow in the grass/gravel, trees, whatever. Any sudden change in directions will basically guarantee a biff (at least for me).

But there is no great solution when being forced off the road at high speeds.

Good luck and take care of that road rash. It hurts more while healing than in the getting (that dry and crackly achy feeling... blech). And it must be aggressively (read "painfully") scrubbed within a couple hours of the crash to heal the best.
good article on braking....speedchump
Aug 27, 2001 8:16 AM
Ow, ow, ow, ow, ow!!!!Spinchick
Aug 27, 2001 8:36 AM
Reminds me of the spill I took 3 days before my highschool prom. I looked oh so lovely in my ruby red spaghetti strap dress with my right arm, shoulder and chin looking like ground chuck. Not to mention the cast to my knee. Thank goodness it's almost too long ago to remember. I can assure you I NEVER look at those photos.