Why this crash?

The fancy, expensive bicycles and racing clothing are not matched by these cyclists’ bike handling skills.

If you play the video through to the end, you will see that the wheel touch broke 4 of the 8 spokes on the right side of the boutique 16-spoke front wheel.

Detailed explanation:

  1. Boutique wheel, few spokes, spokes necessarily overtensioned, big gaps for things to get in between them.
  2. Rider ahead merged left and slowed (notice backpedaling), oblivious to riding in tight group.
  3. Tri bars and no brake there.
  4. Overlapping.
  5. Spokes broke against QR handle. At this point overlap was by more than half a wheel.
  6. Still a good recovery.
  7. Inability to steer due to unstable front wheel and to need to move hands position to brakes — cyclist heads for ditch.
  8. Attempt to brake on warped front wheel locked the wheel.

Some commenters on the YouTube post have pointed out that the cyclist who crashed was wearing a sleeveless jersey and not wearing socks. This clothing is characteristic of triathletes — who don’t ride in groups while racing and are less likely to learn group riding skills than are road racers. Another point about clothing is that the cyclist wasn’t wearing cycling gloves. He broke his fall with his hands on gravel. Ouch.

5 Responses to Why this crash?

  1. To me, #3 seems to be the ultimate factor here. I agree with all of your points, but I think that the whole thing would never have happened if he had faster access to his brakes.

  2. As a bike shop guy, I often tell folks who want aerobars that riding on them in a crowd is a HUGE faux pas, and quite dangerous. Even so, I see folks on club rides tucking down into add-on bars like those shown trying to get that last millimeter per hour out of a downhill ride in a group of other cyclists.

    It is little wonder that many touring riders shy away from folks with aerobars on their bikes. There is some reason behind the stereotype that generated the term “tri-geeks.”

  3. Wish could say I haven’t seen this kind of thing before. Aero-bars and pace lining is a recipe for disaster. Even pros screw up all the time in TTTs.

    Riding a wheel appropriate to the rider is no problem, either. So I disagree with that assessment. Any wheel choice is a compromise of weight, strength and performance. Riding a 16 spoke front wheel is fine if the rider weigh 120 pounds and is on a prepared course. Also being in the aero-bars exacerbates every bump as elbows deliver no suspension in that position. So the flex comes out on the fork and wheel.

    Also those riders do not look like they understand pace lining very well. Pace lining takes constant attention and one set of rules every rider knows accepts and is practiced in (including no riding in aero-bars during a pace line). I saw that the guy getting his wheel chopped glancing left for a fraction of a second before the incident. Too bad as that’s the moment the guy in front swings over. What’s his reaction? He has to disengage from his aero-bars (which takes over a full second) and he brakes. Wrong and wrong. If he was in the drops, he has leverage to steer away during that second and MAYBE brake if he needed, at 34mph simply sitting up a bit to catch more air and coasting for a second is more than sufficient to slow and be out of the way.

    This is a video of a rider with bad habits making bad choices reaping his reward.

    • Ah, you noticed something I didn’t — the cyclist looking away. As with many crashes, there were multiple reasons this one happened and multiple ways it could have been avoided. In answer to Josh: faster access to brakes, yes. But also, if the rider in front hadn’t been so oblivious.

      I think that the crash still would have occurred with a sturdier wheel, only it would have been different. More likely, catching on the QR skewer would have dumped the cyclist then and there rather than the wheel’s still turning.

      Wheel touches usually don’t get as far ahead as the rear hub of the leading cyclist. The combination of his slowing and the following cyclist’s diverted attention, then being unable to slow made that possible.

      I’ll admit myself to having taking down another cyclist who was pacelining me once, decades ago. He hadn’t informed me that he was on my wheel…I had no idea.

  4. Riding in a tight paceline on tri bars is a recipe for disaster and an indication of lack of paceline training.Riding on tri bars in a tight situation or one requiring bike handling ability is not advantageous. Those things are for riding more or less straight line, predictable courses. I once followed a rider down a fast hill in Honolulu and watched as he tried to make a tight right turn at speed while on tri-bars. He overshot the right and sideswiped an oncoming SUV whose driver went up on the sidewalk to avoid hitting the cyclist head on. Destroyed a carbon monocoque frame.

    My bad paceline crash was similar in some respects. Inexperience and momentary distraction at a bad time. During my first year of racing, I chased down a rabbit from our team, looked down momentarily to check my speed (34 mph), and overlapped and hit the wheel I had just caught. My bad. Went down pretty hard and broke a collarbone in the process of taking down half my team.

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