Fear of falling off

Discussion in 'Cycling Training' started by willothewisp, Sep 9, 2014.

  1. willothewisp

    willothewisp New Member

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    Hi,

    I've recently got into road cycling, after many years away from cycling, I've fallen in love with it again.
    But recently I've come to realise that what holds me back most is fear of falling off. I've recently installed clipless pedals, and although I love the extra connection they give me with the bike, I'm afraid I won't get my foot unclipped in time if I have to stop. I did actually manage to fall off this way a few weeks ago and badly bruised one of my hands.

    A typical example was last night. I went out for a ride on country roads, at dinner-time. I thought it would be quiet on the country roads, but as it turned out, it was busy as there was a local traffic diversion set up which I didn't know about. The drivers were absolutely manic, charging around narrow country lanes with no regard for anyone else. I had to stop three times in the space of a mile at one point as the drivers wouldn't slow down so we could both get past safely! I nearly fell over at one point when stopping on the bike due to the uneven surface, and nearly went into the path of one of the cars and they would not have stopped in time if I had.

    I guess my question in this case is, how can I get over my fear of falling off? My clipless pedals are new and quite stiff even though they're fully loosened off. So my other question is, is there any way I can make them a bit looser?

    Cheers,

    Willo
     
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  2. Felt_Rider

    Felt_Rider Active Member

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    Regarding the fear part

    Would help you to know that even some of the most experienced cyclists have this happen to them on occasion? I watched one of the best cyclists in my group who had been a veteran racer roll up to us and waited too late to unclip. As he lost momentum he discovered that his Speedplay cleat was locked in and he fell over right in front of us. No one laughed because we have either had it happen to us or had near misses. We had another experienced cyclist in our group have a Speedplay pedal lock in due to stepping mud. After she crashed we had to take her foot out the shoe and work by hand to clear the mud and finally broke the shoe loose. Fortunately in both cases they were not hurt other than being embarrassed.

    I recently replaced the LOOK Keo pedals on my TT bike that are super stiff. The first ride I almost waited too late when I discover just how tight they were and almost could not get unclipped as I approached a traffic stop. I have to say it was a moment of panic attack.

    The best thing to do (for me anyways) until the new cleats / pedals loosen up a little is just coach myself as I approach different traffic situations or if I am in a group ride and I see the ride leader give a hand signal that the group is slowing significantly or coming to a stop. I go ahead an unclip in advance and let my shoe rest on the pedal. I can still pedal lightly with it unclipped, but I am also ready for the uncertainty. If the pace picks up quickly my shoe will clip back in the moment I put enough force. Do this until it becomes a natural reaction and the next thing you know the fear and anxiety will diminish.

    My advice until you get comfortable is just keep telling yourself to go ahead an unclip in advance.
    _______________

    Regarding the making the pedal loose

    You don't mention which brand of pedal you are using. The LOOK Keo's that I use have a dial to either loosen or tighten. I choose to leave them tight because if I end up in a sprint or a steep hill climb I don't want that shoe to break loose.

    Which brand of pedals are you using?
     
  3. willothewisp

    willothewisp New Member

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    Hi Felt_Rider,

    Thanks for your advice. I've been trying to anticipate, but there's always that emergency panic situation such as I had yesterday, with a manic driver heading straight for me! I'm sure most of them have no clue as to what we're going through, and don't care either.

    RE my pedals, they're Shimano double-sided SPDs. I got double-sided ones so I wouldn't have to worry about which way up the pedal was until I got used to them. They're brand-new at the moment and so quite stiff to unclip from, even though I think I have them on the loosest setting. It's quite an effort to unclip at the moment.

    I must admit that I haven't tried a group ride yet - I didn't want to embarrass myself until I got used to the pedals and road-cycling! But thanks for the tips.

    Cheers,

    Willo
     
  4. maydog

    maydog Well-Known Member

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    Fall off. Tipping over while stopped is more embarrasing than anything your chances of injury are pretty low. In a panic situation, you are better off saying clipped in to maintain control.

    I participated in a large riding event last weekend and I saw at least 6 people tip over. At least a few of which appeared to be fairly experienced cyclists. None were hurt badly, they just needed a dusting off.
     
  5. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    We've all tipped over before. I tipped over earlier this year a good five minutes after we had stopped because I was chatting and distracted. I thought my foot was unclipped and it wasn't; went to put it down and over I went. I tipped over in a hill climb race a couple months ago because I missed a turn and I u-turned so fast I didn't get my inside foot out in time to put it down. I have a scar on my ankle from the QR from that fall.

    The good thing about cleat related falls, as everyone else has pointed out, is that they don't happen at speed. Your chances of actually getting hurt from tipping over are slim.

    SPDs can be loosened up to the point that they release with the slightest foot movement. Have you tired reducing the tension as low as it will go? Also, if you don't feel comfortable enough to ride them steadily and safely in traffic, don't ride in traffic. Go ride on bike paths until you're more stable and confident. Your description of that road makes it sound like a road I'd want to avoid whenever possible. Find quieter roads if you can. Even experienced people don't like riding on dangerous roads.
     
  6. willothewisp

    willothewisp New Member

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    Hi all,
    Thanks for the advice and reassurance. I will certainly think twice about going out riding on narrow country roads from now on and pick my route a little more carefully!
    Hopefully I'll get used to the SPDs and not have so much trouble with them as well.

    Thanks again, and safe riding!
    Willo
     
  7. RapDaddyo

    RapDaddyo Active Member

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    You received some good advice above. I'll offer a couple of the suggestions I make when I run new rider clinics for my club. About the first thing you need to learn and become comfortable with is riding at low speed. You can do this in a protected environment such as a large parking lot. You will quickly learn that staying upright is all about balance, keeping your center of mass balanced over your wheels. You'll also learn that you initiate turns opposite from what seems logical. If you want to initiate a turn to the left, you pull in with the outside hand (e.g., right hand). Now, you're probably thinking I'm pulling your leg. I am not. When you pull in with the outside hand, you move the center of gravity of your body to the inside of the turn. So, you might think, "To turn left, I should turn the front wheel to the left." Wrong. To initiate a left turn, turn the front wheel to the right, then left after the bike begins to turn. Same principle when you are in a turn. To tighten the turn, you pull in (slightly) with the outside hand. I know this sounds illogical, but go try it and you'll see. You also want to learn to do uphill starts. These are tricky because the bike will quickly slow down as you are trying to clip in your unclipped foot and you can fall over before you can get clipped in. I teach a stutter-stroke approach. To do this, you push down with your clipped-in foot, bring that foot back to the top in reverse, and repeat as many times as necessary until you can build up enough speed to safely clip in the other foot. I know this sounds corny, but I have seen some very good riders fall on uphill starts when they can't get clipped in on the first try. Good luck.
     
  8. AyeYo

    AyeYo Member

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    True story. This is something you learn very fast in cyclocross races, because proper turn-in is critical to not falling over when making tight, low speed 180 degree turns.

    Stutter start works well for hills also if you're quick enough with it. I prefer being 2-3 gears up from where I'd normally be and starting in a standing position. Because you're geared higher, than initial half turn of the crank gets you up to speed quickly, as which point you can clip in the other foot, sit down, (downshift if needed) and keep going.
     
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