It’s terrifying and inevitable, but there are tricks to avoiding the fall

By Mon Garcia |Photo by Simon Connellan/Unsplash

Former racing driver Mario Andretti famously said, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” For cycling, does this translate to, “If you’re not crashing, you’re not trying hard enough?”

1. Poor road quality and potholes

Potholes and poor road surfaces, unfortunate common features in Manila, can make you crash and worsen falls by providing a very abrasive surface for your skin to skid on. Sometimes, these are hard to spot while following a car or avoiding traffic, so always keep your fingers near your brake levers. It’s always best to be cautious, even more so when you are riding on unfamiliar roads. The location of some potholes may surprise you.

2. Road debris

Another feature of our roads, trash and pieces of road debris can make you lose control of your bike and cause a crash. My last crash on a bike was from slipping on a fast food sauce container while making a simple U-turn at Mall of Asia. That seemingly innocuous thing went under my front tire and had it sliding sidewards instead of following where I was pointing it. In a matter of seconds, a simple turn became a ripped classic Mapei jersey (a personal favorite), a cut knee, and a few weeks off the bike.

3. Other vehicles

The truth is, cyclists hardly matter to most motorists or at least I’m under the impression that it is so. I’m sure I’m not alone. Jake Cuenca crashed into the back of a truck last week and gamely blamed himself for not being able to brake fast enough. Of course, the flipside is, what was the behavior of the truck driver involved in the accident. Even the report said the vehicle “suddenly stopped.” To be fair, they can’t all be expected to be aware of everything around them all time, so the responsibility of avoiding them lies with us. Always be aware of where other vehicles are, most especially scooters and motorcycles.

4. Pedestrians and other cyclists

Aside from motorists, other human factors involved are pedestrians (particularly those who cross at inopportune times) and, well, other cyclists. One of the reasons I don’t ride in an unknown (or sometimes, known) pack is the behavior of other riders—unsteady wheels, uncalled-for brake checks, fighting for your spot in the paceline. Plus, of course, due to the overall light weight of rider and bike, a fellow cyclist crashing nearby usually means some of us go down with him. For pedestrians, stay alert. For cyclists, choose who you ride near.

5. You

Ultimately, the responsibility for crashing and not crashing resides within the rider. If you’re not out racing on a familiar, known, and safe course, it is always best to be cautious. Don’t head out when you’re not at your best, and make sure your equipment is maintained. That’s all you really can do. They say luck is when preparation meets opportunity. The opportunities to crash are always there. It’s up to you to be prepared.

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