Road rash and lessons learned

We all tend to think of cars as being our most dangerous potential for injury (or worse) but last Tuesday was a stark reminder how dangerous this sport is even when cars aren't involved. We were going down Yarnell near 30mph in a tight double pace line. My rear tire suddenly went flat. I was on the inside sandwiched between the outer row and no shoulder to my right. As my rear tire lost all air, the bike became a bit unstable at those speeds, so while I did a quick hand motion to indicate I was stopping, it was very fast as I wanted my hands on the bars. I said "I have a flat" and stopped pedaling. With no air in the rear tire I decelerated pretty quickly. The rider behind me slowed (I was not hit) but this started a chain reaction and by the time it reached 6-7 bikes back, brakes were locked and people were sliding. Brian Mahoney's front tire/rim was likely caught between the wheel and the rear skewer of the rider in front of him, shearing spokes and causing him to crash and go down, taking Mary out to the left of him. Everyone walked away with only some bruises and road rash, but it could have been much worse considering cars were coming the opposite direction. Suffering from a bit of "survivor's guilt," I put some thought into what I and the rest of the group could have done differently to prevent this from happening:

1. I should have yelled "SLOWING" as soon as I had indication that I had a flat. It really doesn't matter why, so saying "I have a flat" is useless to the rider behind me. Whether it's due to a dog, flat, stop sign or UFO, all the rider behind me needs to know is that I am slowing.

2. Just because one person says slowing doesn't mean that people 6-7 bikes back heard it. Messages should be repeated back throughout the peloton.

3. People behind me should have modulated braking as much as possible (instead of locking up the brakes), and if there was room, they should have gone left/right of the rider in front of them to give the person behind them more time to react. It's tough to know if this played a role here, but my point is all it takes is one person over-braking to cause an accident like this.

4. Rear skewers should be positioned so that they don't "catch" a wheel. I looked around after the ride and about 50% of riders had rear skewers positioned incorrectly. See the pic below for how it should be.





Very useful guidance;  thanks for providing first hand perspective.  Fortunately everyone involved seems to be up and riding. 

By Mark Peet

Good information.  Fortunately there were no major injuries and only minor damage to bikes.  Hopefully we can learn a little from this one and maybe prevent a future crash.  It was not fun!

By Brian Mahoney