Hazard Avoidance Maneuvers

by League of American Bicyclists

Riding safely on the road requires knowledge and understanding of traffic laws and the principles that determine and govern these laws. However, even when you ride predictably and occupy your proper place on the roadway, situations may arise that necessitate maneuvering to avoid hazards or collisions. The ability to execute an evasive maneuver could mean the difference between a close call and a crash. Be sure to practice these often; for any of these maneuvers to work when you need them, they must come naturally.

Quick Stop

When you are riding in traffic and something stops suddenly in front of you, you need to bring your bicycle to a Quick Stop, under control and in a short distance.

There is an art to stopping a bicycle in an emergency. When you apply the front or rear brake, the bicycle begins to slow down and your weight transfers forward. The more weight on a wheel, the more effective the braking and the less likely it is to skid.

If you are like many people, you instinctively grab both brakes in an emergency and apply them equally until the bike begins to skid. You have no control and a wheel that is skidding offers you virtually no stopping power. So the logic of effective braking is:

  • Braking with the rear brake alone will help prevent pitch-over, but it is not very effective.

  • In theory, you can stop fastest with the front brake, but an error will pitch you over.

  • For a fast, safe stop, use both brakes. The produces the optimum deceleration. If the rear wheel starts to skid, ease up slightly on the front brake. With practice, you will use the front brake harder (up to three times harder) and the rear brake more lightly to decrease your stopping distance.

  • When braking hard, slide your body back on the saddle as far as possible. You can transfer even more weight to the rear wheel by moving your rear end straight back and placing your stomach on the seat.

When carry a heavy load on the rear of your bike, you will be able to brake harder with less danger.

Rock Dodge

Rock Dodge is a maneuver to avoid any small object in the road. It is an essential skill for any cyclist to master.

To execute a Rock Dodge, keep riding straight until you are very close to the object. Just before you reach the object, turn the handlebars suddenly to the left-without leaning-so the front wheel goes around the object. Immediately straighten out and keep riding.

When you steer to the left of the rock, you automatically lean right. When you straighten up, you bring the bike back under you. Your front wheel snakes around the rock, your back wheel passes on the other side, but your body and handlebars have barely moved. The motion is subtle and the entire action happens in a split second.

The technique will feel unnatural at first and will take practice before you can do it smoothly. Once you master the Rock Dodge, practice it regularly.

Avoidance Weave

The Avoidance Weave is used when you suddenly encounter a series of hazards like potholes or rocks that could cause a crash.

The Avoidance Weave is a set of swooping turns. To avoid a series of hazards successfully, look ahead past the hazards and begin a turn before you reach each hazard. Continue to look ahead and turn sharply until you are through the hazards. Itís importance to lean your bicycle and get into a rhythm.

Instant Turn

The Instant Turn is used to avoid an unexpected vehicle passing directly in front of you. In these instances, you wonít have time or space to do a Quick Stop. An Instant Turn allows you to avoid the crash and go in the direction of the vehicle. Even if you do crash, it will be at an angle and the consequences will be less than crashing head on.

Many people think that a turn is produced simply by turning the front wheel, but you actually lean first and turn second. Because they happen so fast, the two moves appear simultaneous. To force the lean quickly you have to perform a maneuver that feels unnatural and sound even more unlikely. Turn your front wheel left-the wrong way, toward the car. By doing this youíre forcing a right lean. The moment you have a lean started, turn your front wheel sharply right and youíll find yourself in a tight right turn.

This doesnít ever feel natural, and you must train yourself to do it. The quick twitch in the wrong direction at the start of the Instant Turn is the most important and least intuitive part of the turn. You are deliberately unbalancing yourself by steering the whole bike out from under you.

Reprinted from League of American Bicyclists "Bicyclists Smart Cycling/Traffic Skills 101". For more good cycling tips, see How You Can Ride Better.
For more information about the League of American Bicyclists, visit their web site, www.bikeleague.org, or e-mail them at bikeleague@bikeleague.org.

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