Beware of any slippery or loose surface: gravel, snow, ice, leaves, oil patches, wet
manhole covers and crosswalk markings. Avoid these, or ride over them slowly. Don't turn,
brake or accelerate. Be ready to put a foot down for balance.
|Check behind yourself for traffic, then cross a diagonal railroad
crossing more nearly at a right angle.
Be especially careful of diagonal railroad crossings, trolley tracks, a
row of raised lane-line dots or a step between the shoulder and the travel lane. Any of
them can push your front wheel to the side and sweep your bike out from under you. When
you can't avoid them, cross them as nearly as possible at a right angle.
Beware of steel-grid bridge decks, which, especially when wet, will steer your bike
parallel to the gridding, making balancing difficult. Test a grid deck at a low speed, and
walk or use the bridge sidewalk if necessary.
Drainage grates with slots parallel to the road pose a special hazard. Most often you
will be riding to their left, but if not, be sure to avoid going over one. Your front
wheel can fall into the grate, causing you to go over the handlebars. It's a good idea to
notify the applicable road or public works department of these and other hazards, as they
are dangerous to bicyclists, and a liability issue.
Any bump, rock or pothole more than an inch high can squash your bicycle's tires flat
against the rims, damaging the wheels. Avoid the bumps if you can, and walk your bike if
the going gets too rough.
Avoid a rock by turning the handlebars to one side; then correct your
balance by turning them the other way.
||Now for the good news: Thanks to your bicycle's small size and quick
steering, you can prepare yourself for situations like this one:
It's a pleasant,
two-lane country road, just wide enough for cars to pass you in your lane. You look up at
the scenery and then down at the road. There's a rock directly in front of you. And
there's a car just behind you. You can't swerve left into the traffic and you don't want
to swerve to the right, into the gravel and dirt. What to do?
Make your wheels weave around the rock while riding in a straight line - the rock-dodge
maneuver. Just as you reach the rock, steer quickly left, then right to correct your
balance, then straight again.
Because you correct the balance quickly, your body doesn't have time to follow the
bike's weave. You continue nearly in a straight line. To give yourself better odds against
rocks and potholes, go to an empty parking lot and practice the rock dodge until it
Twitch the handlebars to the left first to start your lean to the right
for a quick right turn.
||Picture yourself in another pinch: You're riding along a street,
approaching an intersection, and a car on your left suddenly begins a right turn. You are
about to crash into the side of the car! You have to turn quickly alongside the car to get
out of trouble. To begin a turn quickly, you have to lean your bike quickly. But how do
you do that?
Your bicycle balances the same way you balance a yardstick upright on the
palm of your hand. If you want to move the yardstick to the right, you move your hand to
the left. Then, the yardstick leans to the right, and you follow it with your hand.
Just the same way, if you steer your bicycle out from under you to the left for a
moment, you can then turn to the right. You must first steer momentarily toward the car
you're trying to avoid.
Try this technique in your parking-lot practice area. At slow speeds at first, yank the
handlebars quickly to the left. Your bicycle will lean to the right, and then you can
steer right. Practice first at slow speeds, then at faster ones. The faster you go, the
less sharply you have to steer.
Quick turn to avoid a car
running a stop sign.
Quick turn to the right
of a right-turning car.
Quick turn ahead of a
that failed to yield.
The quick turn is useful in many situations. If a car coming toward you
begins a left turn, turn right into the side street with it. If a car pulls out of a side
street from the right, swerve into the side street. It's best to turn to the right, behind
the car - but if it's too late for that, turn left with the car. Even if you hit the car,
the more nearly you are traveling in the same direction, the lighter the impact.
On a winding downhill, brake before you enter the turns, so you don't lose traction
while turning. But sooner or later, you may find yourself going around a downhill curve
too fast. If it's too late to slow down, a variation on the quick turn can get you through
this situation in one piece.
The usual, panic reaction is to steer straight and brake. But then you're likely to go
headfirst off the road before you can stop. Instead, steer with the curve. Don't brake.
Straighten the handlebars momentarily, as in the quick turn, to drop your bike into a
Usually, you'll make it around the curve - your tires have more traction than you
normally use. If you do skid out, you'll fall on your side and slide to a stop.
If you're going around a curve too fast, straighten
the handlebars momentarily to drop into a deeper lean.
If you're about to ride into a wall or over a cliff, you may decide
deliberately to skid out. Lean into a turn, then hit the brakes. The fall may hurt - but
not as much as the alternative.
There is a pothole straight ahead, and no time for even a rock dodge. You were so busy
looking up at the traffic that you didn't see the pothole, and now you're about to trash
your wheels. If only you could fly . . .
Unfortunately, you can't fly your bike like the kid in the movie E.T., but you can jump
your bike. Holding the pedals horizontal, squat down and pull up on the handlebars. Then
jump up and yank your legs up under you. You'll be past the pothole faster than reading
"squat-pull-jump-yank." You can't easily get your back wheel over the
obstruction unless you use toeclips or clip-in pedals, but getting your front wheel over
will usually prevent a crash.
Jumping is the quickest last-resort way to avoid a pothole or other road-surface
hazard. Once you get good at it, you can even use it to climb low curbs or to cross
diagonal railroad tracks. In your empty parking lot, practice jumping your bike. You must
lift first the front wheel, then the rear wheel as it takes its turn with the bump. Your
timing depends on how fast you're riding.
Once you know your emergency maneuvers, you'll gain a much expanded sense of security,
confidence and style. You'll be able to "ride loose," to use the language of
California all-terrain riders. It's a sign of an experienced rider, and it saves you and
your bicycle a lot of wear and tear.