bicycle crash

8 Things Cyclists, MTBers, and Triathletes Should Do After a Bicycle Crash


by Chris Carmichael,
CTS Founder and Chief Endurance Officer

Whether you’re a road cyclist, mountain biker, or triathlete, if you spend time on two wheels you will inevitably crash. Experience helps make bicycle crashes less frequent, but even the most experienced riders sometimes fall. I was reminded of this recently when longtime CTS Coach and “Time-Crunched Cyclist” co-author, Jim Rutberg, crashed onto his face, narrowly avoiding serious injuries.

The big lesson we can all learn from Jim’s bicycle crash is that while many of use sport as a way to relieve stress and maybe give our minds a break, we always have to stay engaged on the bike. He was riding third position in a line of riders, at 17mph on a flat, straight bike path. Something he’s done thousands of times. In a shady spot on the path he hit a rock and went over the handlebars. It’s a scenario many athletes can relate to: being tired or preoccupied and making mistakes you don’t typically make.

For crashing on his face, Jim was very lucky. He followed the steps below and came out of it with some stitches and broken toe, and thankfully, no concussion symptoms. When you find yourself on the ground, here are a few practical tips to remember:

Check yourself and your helmet

Did you hit your head? If you’re not sure, check your helmet for damage. Can you remember your name and the date? If you’re with someone who crashes, these are important questions to ask. If you’re alone and you did hit your head, your mental state may not be apparent to you. You may think you’re fine when you’re not. (Remember Toms Skujins’ crash from the Tour of California?) If you fall and have damage to your helmet, the safest thing to do is call for someone to pick you up. Replace your helmet before going on another ride, and consider a MIPS-equipped helmet (CTS Coaches use the Aether Spherical model from Giro)

See if you can stand up

I know this is not the case 100% of the time, but in my experience when a person can’t stand up there’s a good chance they’re truly injured and not just merely scraped up. Obviously, some people who are significantly injured manage to stand up, but then the next limiting factor is the ability to support yourself on the bars. With a broken hip, you’re not going to be able to stand up. With a broken collarbone you might get up (painfully), but you’ll have a harder time supporting yourself on the bars.

Get out of the road or to the edge of the trail

This is especially true if you’re riding alone. In the most recent case with one of my coaches, he could get up and had other riders with him. When Coach Jim Lehman crashed a few years ago he couldn’t stand up because he broke his hip, but he pulled himself to the edge of the road to minimize the chances of being hit by a car. Cars don’t notice cyclists when we’re upright; so don’t expect them to see you when you’re on the ground.

Take your time

Fans of bicycle racing are accustomed to seeing riders crash and then get back on the bike quickly. That’s a different situation and not a behavior you should emulate. You want to be deliberate about checking yourself out, assessing whether you can continue riding or need to call for help, and examining your gear. But don’t rush. You may also feel nauseated or lightheaded after a few minutes as ‘fight or flight’ response starts to dissipate. It is better to wait for the nausea and dizziness to pass before continuing. If it doesn’t pass, it’s another potential sign of concussion.

Call for help

Whether you need to call your spouse, a buddy, or an ambulance; it’s important to have a cell phone with you. If you know you’re going to be in an area without cell coverage tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to return. Also consider using technologies like Strava’s Beacon or a crash sensor, which will contact your emergency contacts even if you are unconscious.  A Road ID or similar band with emergency contact information on it is a good idea, as is programming an ICE (in case of emergency) phone number in your cell phone. On long ride days give someone a time range so they know when to expect you. If you don’t check in by a certain time then there’s likely something wrong.

Stay calm, even when a helpful stranger isn’t

I’ve stopped and helped strangers, and I appreciate anyone who stops what they’re doing to help me or someone else. But bicycle crashes often look worse than they are, and when people aren’t used to seeing someone scraped up and bleeding, they sometimes over-react. If you’re the person who crashed, you may end up needing to help your rescuer calm down. And if you’re coming to the aid of someone who crashed, stay calm and do your best to keep them calm.

Road rash may be a good sign

I know it sounds counterintuitive, but in my experience road rash is a sign that sliding over the pavement dispersed the energy of the crash. I’ve generally seen worse injuries from crashes that leave little to no road rash. In Jim Lehman’s case, there was virtually no road rash and only a small tear in his shorts. Instead of sliding, he fell straight down and his hip absorbed the majority of the impact. Low-speed slips and tip-overs break bones. High-speed slides shred clothing and remove skin but often spare bones. Of course this isn’t always true.

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Take care of your wounds and take time your time coming back

If you have any concerns about your wounds, seek medical attention sooner rather than later. If you’re having headaches or any symptoms of concussion, see a doctor.

I suffered a concussion in a crash a few years ago and it was an eye-opening experience. Though I recovered completely within a matter of weeks, one piece of information I was missing during my treatment was a pre-concussion baseline test, like the imPACT test. While we often focus on pre-concussion testing in youth team sports, they are very important for older athletes, especially considering that for many cyclists your next concussion probably won’t be your first.

Infection is a real risk, so take care of road rash with soap and water, use bandages, and change your bandages regularly. When it comes to training, remember that healing takes energy and people tend to have lower quality of sleep while injured. Pros sometimes have to race or train through pain. However, for the majority of athletes it’s better to prioritize healing over training.

For some pro advice on recovering from a bicycle crash, check out this article from Olympian Mara Abbott.

And when you’re back on the bike, here is advice for regaining your confidence after a cycling crash.

And here’s an article on how to avoid crashes when riding in a group.

Stay safe out there!

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Comments 111

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  2. One more thing…

    In the aftermath of my crash, as I was laying stunned on the tree lawn of an apartment complex, NOT ONE car…and about a dozen or so passed by as I was regathering…bothered to stop and see if I was alive. I didn’t expect anyone to do triage on me, but simple human compassion SHOULD dictate that if you see a prostrate figure, you stop and offer aid…covid or no covid (as everyone carries a mask with them). I’m still plenty ticked about it.

    1. This article was very helpful, thank you!

      I’m so sorry to hear about your experience, Jeff! I wish you had had seven people come to your aid as I just did after a much more minor crash! Take care everyone.

      1. I am so sorry this happened to you. I’ve noticed that there is a decline in simple human compassion. Rest assured that there are still other humans that will stop and care. There really is nothing I will not stop for. We are here on earth to help one another.

  3. An amazing coincidence…this e-mail arrived one year to the day from a rather(?) serious(!) crash of mine. Net result: four broken ribs, a pneumothorax of the right lung and parts of four days over the next week in the hospital. Somehow, however, I managed to pick myself up, collect whatever body parts I had scattered over the area and ride the 20-plus miles (mostly uphill) back to my home. I never said I was all that bright!

  4. I recently retired but was a bike commuter heee in Minnesota for 30+ years. I had dozens of close calls but never a serious crash or significant injury. I credit my attitude of always assuming cars don’t see me, always stop at signs and lights, and being totally defensive in my speed, lane position and patience while riding. I would often stop even if I had the right of way at intersections just to be sure it was safe to cross. I see so many cyclists doing crazy risky things and believe that behavior is partly to blame for the danger we face on the roads as drivers get so frustrated with bikers that they purposely go too close to riders and challenge their position on the road. You can do a lot to make your ride safer and biking in general more safe by how you ride each time you are on your bike. Be safe and have fun!

    1. Great article as always. I have to agree with the road rash is good comment. My only crash was on a 29 mph sweeping turn where my wheel caught and my bike and I flipped into the air.

      I wad knocked out briefly, but it was apparent that I went up, and down with no sliding or dissipation of energy evidenced by the imprint of the asphalt on my helmet, but scratches. Inside, the helmet was cracked like an eggshell.

      All of the energy impacted on my head and on my hip/femur.

      Again, no broken skin anywhere. I was able to stand, but just barely. In hindsight, I was injured far worse then I thought, as I had a compression fracture of my femur! All my weight coming down with no sliding to release the energy basically crushed my femur.

      I hindsight, I would have appreciated the pain of road rash far more then the that pain!

    2. Okay yes cyclists need to be more aware but it sounds like you’re excusing vehicles in road rage towards cyclists. Zero excuses my friend. Even if a cyclist is oblivious, it does not make it ok for people in cars or other cyclists to be morons and cause injury and okay chicken like that.

  5. The information I had been hunting for online for a few days was in your article. It’s a stunning and incredibly useful nugget of information. Thank you for providing us with this useful information regarding fort mcmurray personal injury lawyer.

  6. Pingback: What should you do if you fall off a bike? – Cycle Consciously

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  8. An hour ago I went down as I slowed and turned off the road into the house gate.
    I lost my front wheel to a metal grill covering the gutter.
    I’m reminded of a motorcycling tip… the front wheel can do one thing at a time; brake, or turn; not both.
    Flat tyre and a sore hip seems like the only price I paid, thank God!
    -Nairobi, Kenya

  9. My brother is a road cyclist. I think I’ll advise him to call for help if he gets into an accident and call for bicycle repair if his bike gives up on him. Thanks for the advice that he should have a cellphone with him so I’ll tell him that he should have a repair shop number on hand in case it breaks down.

  10. I am 50, and I broke a rib last week on MTB. Now I am on trainer sessions until pain is gone.
    I did few triathlon races last year and ride MTB for a fun of it. The rear wheel fell off. And blocked when I was standing clipped on my pedals. Quick release unscrewed itself somehow. Never heard of it. My mistake. I did not check bike before ride. It says in the manual. Check your bike before every ride.

  11. Triathlons sounds so fun to me! Swimming and running are my strong points: biking isn’t. Right now I am debating if I should sign up, but I am worried about getting into a bike crash! This advice is great, if I do end up doing a triathlon, I want to be prepared. I appreciate how you say to pull yourself to the side of the road or to the edge to get out of the way! Maybe I will do a triathlon. I will now just need to get my bike into working condition.

  12. Your article was very helpful. I had my very first bike crash a while ago. Which ,I cracked my helmet and broke three bones in my left hand. Thanks to other bikers who came to my help. The helmet saved my Life. I had a Bad concussion and had problems for sometime. I replaced my Helmet with a better one and now back riding again.

  13. So my elbow dislocating blowout was caused by what you titled “a tip over”… Been nearly a year since the accident, 7 months since surgery, 5 months out of cast and THANKFULLY 10 weeks back riding my road bike outdoors. My question? How do you best forget or manage the flashbacks?

  14. I was riding in the rain and had to pass a car that was blocking the bike lane. When I was passing the car my wheel slipped and I fell. Broken pelvis in 2 places, broken tail bone. Strangers drove me back to my car and I drove myself to the emergency room.
    What I learned – never to ride in the rain. It is just not worth it. Always wear a helmet. I hit my head and believe it could have been worse if I was not wearing a helmet. This was one of the most difficult injuries that I had to deal with.

  15. Note the fence/barrier sections in the photo with this article. The vertical pickets/slats/bars/sections, whatever you want to call them are designed perfectly to catch handlebars and/or pedals! They need to go and be replaced with something less likely to do so. I saw a terrible crash in a women’s pro crit once, and a friend recently crashed in a road race finish. This type of fence contributed in both cases!

  16. If you go to the ER, make sure they know where you are hurting. In my fall, they knew from the ambulance staff that I had a concussion and could see that my face and left knee were cut up. They did not notice that my right hand was badly swollen and would not have X-rayed it if I did not point it out to them.

  17. Went down at the beginning of a ride. Bike took.more than I did. Continued ride as I passed the self check. Bruised ribs, hip, and a small amount is road rash. Hooked wheels. Rider to the left of me for spooked and moved right into me. Learned two lessons: Don’t over estimate your capabilities and if you are going down, go with it. Roll or protect. Kept my hands, arms and wrists out of danger!

  18. As always, an excellent piece on an important subject. You might remember the Triple By-Pass in 2013 – I was the guy on the DLA Piper Team who crashed two miles from the end and showed up to the after party bandaged and swollen but nothing broken. I had thankfully, a fellow team member with me who slowed other riders while I gathered myself off the road. What I remember most is how I felt no pain despite the EMT’s insistence I might have a broken collarbone (did not). His concern was that the adrenaline of the moment was masking the pain. Something to think about. Since then, I’m up on my Road ID content and ICE settings on my phone. You can google for the different phone types to see how to set this up. It’s in the Health app for iPhones.

  19. I fell off my bike and hurt my foot and it really hurts when I walk by I haven’t broken it or sprained it hopefully nothing is wrong with it

  20. Need a bit of help. Crashed on my bike about half an hour ago and now have kind of pins and needles type pains in my hands, what can anyone tell me about this? Kind of worried, please help?

  21. Can a cyclist ever hope to have a motorist charged or given a moving violation (short of sustaining really serious injuries)? I was hit by a driver as he turned right (into the parking lot of a funeral parlor, as it happened). I was doing about 15 mph in a marked bike lane to his right. He acknowledged that he had seen me just a couple minutes earlier as he passed me! But then he never bothered to check in his right side view mirror as he slowed to make the turn. So I started braking when I realized he was not waiting for me to pass, and plowed right into his car as he made the turn. I was able to ride home. Stopped on the way home for my bike shop to straighten the handle bars. Both knees were scraped (through my leggings) and neck was sore. Two months later, I can still feel pain from (I guess) soft tissue damage beneath my rib cage. I did get his name but did not call the police and report the accident. So my question is hypothetical. Should I have, or could I have, made an accident report the way I would if two auto drivers collided? And could I expect that he would have been ticketed?

    1. It depends on what country you are in (and maybe even state or city if you are in the US). In some places motorists are almost immune to prosecution when hitting cyclists (e.g. the UK, not on paper but in reality) but in Germany, where I have just been hit in much the same way as you, the police response has been all you could wish for.

      1. I was riding in the correct place and an elderly woman hit me from the rear with the the front middle of her car at 50 mph after she came off the highway and said she thought I was a construction cone. The policewoman gave her a ticket for reckless but in court which I attended wearing my Brain bucket the judge reduced the charge to improper driving and $100 fine. This was VA in the USA!

    2. I learned several things from my bike/vehicle accident: 1) yes, ALWAYS wait for EMT and FILE a police report, even if you don’t feel bad (my injuries were invisible nerve impingement and took several days to present themselves and by the time they did, police and insurance did not believe me), 2) ALWAYS exchange contact and insurance information with the motorist, 3) if helpful passers by say they “witnessed the whole thing”, even if you feel fine, get their contact info and statements too (their statements can be helpful in insurance claims), and 4) take pictures of the scene/bike/cars. Insurance companies are in business to NOT pay claims, so do not expect subsequent costs, especially for things that aren’t as easy to “see” like broken bones and road rash, to be easily recouped if you did not do all these things AT THE SCENE.

  22. I was riding my bike as fast as I could a mongoose bmx with a bmx tire in the front and a rod off road tire in the back I don’t know happened I just was riding so fast and I just scraped my knee,finger,elbow bad mostly my knee and I have three to four scabs or more and it’s swollen a little it’s hurting more every day and I can’t bend it but 1/3 of the way it’s the third day don’t know what to do but put ice on it a reply would be helpful I’m not sure to get it checked or not this was in Little Rock , Arkansas on one of The River Trails reply please and thank you good bye

    1. This just happened to me! I was biking and I took too sharp of a turn and ended up crashing. I think I must’ve landed on my knee as it took most of the blow. It’s been about 5 hours and the pain hasn’t stopped. There was no swelling and there’s pain whenever I move it at all. Been just laying down and not moving my knee still hurts. Any advice?

  23. I usually don’t wear a helmet, but after what happened, I will never ride without it. I never ride in the rain but this day it wouldn’t stop raining so I decided to ride slowly and only on the sidewalk. It was a light rain after a hugè rainfall. I cut through a townhome complex. As I rode over the speed bump I saw my front tire skidding and that’s all I remember. Thank god a good samaritan found me laying on the pavement out cold. He took me to the hospital and thankfully I did not have any serious injury but I could have. Its been 3 days and I’m still recuperating. I will never ride without my helmet. WEAR A HELMET PEOPLE!

    1. helmets are important even if the ride is just around the block, for example just today i went down while braking to turn

      normally i am just fine and i have ridden the core before but i know from the momment i started braking something was wrong as i turned and went side ways, causing me to fly off my bike

      thanksfully i didnt hit my head as i have been in a simmiler crash before and i can tell you, the best place to land in a crash are your hands as the bones are less likely to break

  24. Just wiped out on my bike a couple of hours ago. Was crossing over a streetcar rail in the road when my tire became lodged in the track and I flipped over my bike. Hit the ground hard. A few scrapes but main concern are my injuries to me chest. My ribs to be more specific. Now I’m having trouble taking deep breaths and getting comfortable in general. Thought about going to urgent care but after reading some threads about similar injuries I’ve decided to try and wait it out, ice it and take some OTC pain mess. It happens fast and is always unexpected. By the looks of my helmet it definitely could’ve been much worse. Stay safe out there.

    1. I just had the same thing happen to me. I’ve got some pretty serious road rash to the face. Any help on recovering would be great.

    2. Did you end up recovering? I had this very thing happened, but ended up going to the ER 36 hour after the crash with a 40% collapsed lung (pneumothorax). I waited so long for the same reason you state here, the internet told me even broken ribs would just require waiting out at home. After my experience, I’ll definitely error on the safe side and get checked out, especially for crashes 20+ mph.

    3. The same thing happened to me a few days ago. I was riding over a railroad in the street and my tire got caught in the tracks. Next thing I knew I was on the ground. There was no time to even react to the fall! Luckily nothing is broken. Just dealing with some bad road rash and bruises. Always wear a helmet!

  25. I leave this note to honor my friend who died Sat 2 hrs after sustaining traumatic injuries while riding his bike down Angeles Crest Highway. There were no cars involved. He was an experienced cyclist wearing proper gear and protection..he was going 29 mph…last entry on Garmin..and simply hit a small stone dislodging tire..throwing him over cycle..he was 61yo..

    1. I crashed on my bike yesterday in upper Newport Bay. I have been biking there on weekends several times. The westbound side has a painted dedicated west going bike lane. There is an access road toward the west. Cars could get on the eastbound. Well i was biking at 17mph and onlymlooking out for other bikers and pedestrians. Suddenly I saw a guy turn his bike around in front of me, and I then realispsed too late there was a barrier across the road. My bike went under. I went over but ended up leaning over the barrier. Got scrapes and my upper right femur hurt some. The bike was okay to ride back 13 miles to my car. I felt a bit of pulled muscles on my stomach last night and got paranoid about internal bleeding. So I surfed the net. Distended abdomen? No. Firmness in belly? No. Painful when pressing down anywhere in abdomen! No. These are things you gotta check. If I do obtain any of these symptoms I will certainly get checked out. But I have no visible bruise on my abdominal area. T is the Labor Day weekend and I had to emphatically tell my sisters that in my experience, urgent care is not open on weekends. I found that out in lots of places.

    2. My condolences. I’m sincerely sorry to hear of your friends passing. I got taken out by another cyclist at 30+mph last Saturday, but I realize just how lucky I was not to have been seriously injured. Be safe out there.

  26. Yesterday, I wreaked my bike because my chain fell off. It hurts and is just below the knee. It has bee the worst wreck ever. When I first fell off, I couldn’t move my knee. My neighbor saw me and took me to my house. The pain is worse. Do I need Medical attention?

      1. Yes you do. It could simply be a bruised bone or strained muscle but if the pain is as bad as OU describe t could also be a hairline fracture or torn mucles. When in doubt seek medical attention.

  27. Hi my name is Norma and I am 12 year old and I fell of my bike and I scratch my skin and is below my knee It hert a lot

    1. my name is jayden i am 12 years old and today i fell off my bike i was biking pass a garden then i fell over and before i knew it my elbow was gushing blood so i went to the library and luckly they had bandaids so try your best to get help if you can

  28. Don’t fool yourself…sometimes you just need to let others determine the extent of the damage. I was riding my road bike and a pick-up truck decided it needed to be in the same spot as my bike — it won. After the collision I stood up, but promptly fell to the ground. Luckily someone called an ambulance — I kept saying I was OK. On the way to the hospital I decided breathing was optional — the ambulance crew decided it wasn’t. Twenty days in the hospital, 69 physical and speech therapy sessions later I was back on my bike. But initially I thought I was OK…

  29. Anyone have extremely serious crash & injury due to manufacturer defect? Is legal recourse impossibly difficult? Me: Tube and/or tire failure (15-20 mph), tire suddenly stuck in front brake, front wheel stopped rolling. I didn’t: full impact on head/face (said witness riding with me) Too many fractures to list, unconscious, brain inj etc. extended hospital stay. Asian made tube. Italian tire. Worth pursuing?

  30. I came off yesterday after almost getting hit by a ute reversing into a cycle path without looking. A lot of road rash, swelling and bruising. Elbow took most of the impact which now looks like bone bruising. Judging by the comments I should probably get checked out for a fracture (and definitely change my helmet!) Thanks

  31. Great article. Definitely going to look into an ice dot sensor or something similar. My luck on the bike this year has not been stellar. I do have to contradict one point you made though. Depending on where the hip breaks, you may be able to not only stand – but continue to ride. I’m living proof. I crashed during the first mile of the Chicago Triathlon a few weeks back. Got up with plenty of road rash but no tear to my tri suit. Got cleaned up by medical who gave me an ice pack for my hip and sent me on my way. After 23 more painful miles on the bike and what amounted to a 10k walk, I finished and went to the hospital. X-rays did not show anything was broken but the MRI showed I had just put 30 miles on two hairline hip fractures! Stay safe and be smart – if you go down hard – get yourself checked out ASAP!

  32. As part of estate planning for clients I usually ask if they walk, hike, run or bike & advise getting a Road ID giving ICE info as well as allergies & Blood type in case of injury.

  33. Thanks for the article! Never connected the higher chance of broken bones and low speed crashes. I’m 4 1/2 weeks from my own low speed, uphill fall and resulting fractured femur (74 miles into the 75 mile, 11,000 ft. gain, uphill finish ride?!). Mind wandered, front tire skidded out, overcorrected and boom, right on the hip. The worst part was I missed out on the 40 mile mostly downhill recovery ride back to the start…oh well, looks like I’m in very good company. Can tie my shoes now and Just graduated to one crutch- the walker was soul crushing… 🙂

  34. I crashed 2 1/2 years ago and broke my pelvis and left hand. The ER Doc told me that my helmet probably saved my life. Rider in front of me hit his brakes in a pace line at 21MPH. I now wear the Road ID as other riders don’t know my medical history and if I am alone it is invaluable. While riding in a Grand Fondo 2 weeks ago my son-in-law and I crashed when we hit wet RR tracks which were imbedded, and on a 30 degree angle. The ride organizers failed to warn us about it. 30 cyclists went down, most with road rash including me. My son-in-law broke his hip and his thumb and is out of commission all summer. Again, our helmets saved us from any head injury. I just sent him this info.

  35. One thing that I have found invaluable is my wife and friends have access to my Garmin ‘live track’ info, my wife monitors my location and progress in real time on her smartphone, she can see where I’m at and call me if I’m not moving (so far, just flat tires), what a great invention. Both her and I feel much more secure when I’m out riding alone.

  36. There is one more step before moving at all. Self assess, first the situation as to traffic and other ongoing hazards. If moving is not urgent then think through your body and the incident. Asks yourself what hit the ground or your bike or other bikes. then starting at your feet think can i feel my feet, do they feel right, then ankles, shins, knees, thighs, hips, hands, wrists, elbows, upper arms, shoulders, torso, neck and head. That pause will allow time for initial shock to wear off a little and true injury feeling to show before you move and cause more damage. Then if all seems right roll over and get into a crawling position, from there you can see more of what injuries you have for further assessment. then all of the attempts to stand and lean on bars become good advise.

  37. Crashed several years ago. Broken ribs was the result which was better than a broken wrist (which is what the other bicyclist encountered). Hit my head on the deck and my helmet did its job. Chris, you are spot on with the ‘take your time for recovery’ as I went out about a week later riding and it was EXTREMELY painful and may have set my recovery back by weeks, if not months. Still feel the effects of the TBI (yes folks they do come back to haunt you). Did not ‘take the ride’ as there was little or nothing that a hospital can do for broken ribs IF you do not get Pneumo-thorax (punctured lung). However, if you do hit the deck, check YOURSELF out first, then the bike. Bikes, with few exceptions, can be replaced.

  38. I’m a retired orthopaedic surgeon. Don’t habitually ride alone– ride with a buddy or a group. It’s more fun, more challenging, and is safer for a number of good reasons. If you fall, you have someone that can help tend to you and can take care of your bike, and they can protect you from traffic if needed. If there is any question, you should not move and certainly should not stand and walk. You are trying to avoid any further injury at all costs. Take a moment and assess yourself or your fallen friend– head to toes– is there visible damage, does it hurt, is it tender when you squeeze it, can you lift your head/leg/hand, can you move it side to side, then try to sit up, then try to stand with help. Any question, scoot or get a helper to move you (lying flat) to the side of the road. Try very hard not to do the natural thing– to deny injury, to resume the upright posture and to walk right away. As others have said, you and others with you will do much better to stay calm.

    1. If I stopped “habitually riding alone,” I’d be limited to riding once every week or 2 from May thru September!!!! Not all of us live somewhere that has a vibrant cycling scene. (And its bad enough I have to spend 5 months a year on the indoor trainer.)

  39. I crashed on Ballard Canyon Road at a CTS camp in Santa Ynez a few years ago. Was having a great time descending on some switchbacks and my coach had just told me how well I was doing when my back wheel hit some sand on the shoulder and down I went. I managed to remove most of the skin from my right cheek and thigh as well as the whole backside of my shorts. (Never jump up too fast!) CTS was great – cleaned me up, found my tights to spare my dignity and applied sheets of Tegederm to my wounds. No broken bones, but really sore and stiff for a long time. Physical therapy restored my range of motion and the Tegederm helped me heal without scars from the road rash. The massage therapist and nurse from CTS were great and then there were two other athletes who helped me get my luggage onto the plane in Santa Barbara. Eternally grateful for all the kindness.

  40. My “two cents”: sometimes slowing down is not the solution. I once turned into a road covered with small “slimmy” mud patches (mud fallen from tractors’ wheels). I “prudently” slowed down to 12.5 km/h (last speed measured on my Garmin), the front wheel slipped and I fell vertically without even having the time to uncleat or take my hands off the bar. My pelvis took the full blow, the equivalent of 450 kg hitting the ground. Bike intact, two rashes the size of a 25 cents coin each on my knee and elbow but a pelvic bone broken in 4 places. Had I come at 25mph, I would have either not fallen or I would have absorbed the choc by sliding. Ironically, everyone at the hospital assumed I got my accident because I was going too fast.

    1. Tht cruel man blamed me when i slipped my brake of my cycle and hit a bike even he didn’t knew the rider of motor bike .But i had only front brake which was broken and cased accident.
      Saral Shakya

  41. The advice of “stand-up and walk around” is a good. We had EMTs come to see a woman after a fairly serous crash. They looked her over, decided it wasn’t serious enough to transport her, and quickly left (which was wrong, but . . .). They never asked her to stand-up. When she finally did, she screamed. Broken hip.

    The second lesson is–don’t assume the police or EMTs will do much. If you are too hurt to ride and/or your bike is damaged, they will drive away and leave you bleeding beside the road. If they don’t take you to the hospital, they won’t be cool and offer to give you a ride anywhere else.

  42. Last year was in a paceline, doing 30mph. Bike 2 ahead of me hit the wheel of the rider in front of him and he went down hard. I went over the handlebars, flipped and landed on the road on my back. Helmet intact, alert and sore shoulder. I got up to assist with the rider ahead, he still had his helmet on, had blood from his nose and was semiconscious, Serious head injury. In situations like that the best plan of action is to stabilize the head and neck, keep him warm and call 911. Moving him from the road would have caused more injury. It takes a number of people and a backboard to safely transport someone with such injuries. He continues to recover slowly from bad intracranial bleed. I sustained a fractured collar bone and was off the bike for 5 weeks. And as someone previously mentioned, RoadID is a great invention. My buddies info was inside his helmet and not immediately available.

  43. When on the MTB ride with another person. Crashed at low speed in a muddy turn and broke three ribs. Had to get on the bike and ride three miles to my car. Just lucky I did not puncture my lung.

  44. One more thing I learned the hard way. If you can still ride, make a deliberate, systematic check to make sure everything is still on the bike — Garmin, lights, water bottles, repair kit, etc. Even more important, check the pockets of your jersey to make sure your phone or CAR KEYS are still with you. In my case, the adrenalin was flowing and I was still a little disoriented but was anxious to get going again because I was able to continue with the ride.

  45. Road Rash is good? You bet your lycra it is! It’s much better to dissipate the energy scrubbing off a bit of skin on the never ending belt sander than absorbing it through your body. The 2 really bad crashes I’ve had resulting in punctured lungs, broken collar bones, ribs and shoulder blade road rash was minimal.

    1. Actually, at least on some phones, the ICE contacts can be phoned without unlocking the screen if you go to the “emergency calls” button and then there’s a button for the ICE contacts.

  46. Good article
    I would add that I have a roadID bracelet and also use the app. There is the ability in the app to create a “home lock screen” picture that has your emergency contacts embedded in the picture.
    Also. The app can send your contacts of choice a text or email that allows them to check realtime GPS on where you are. I know my wife has checked on me during thunderstorms and other bad weather. Especially if out alone, a way for others to check in and keep track of you

  47. Great article and all good advice from everyone. A few years ago I missed the last corner of a road race right before the finish. As it was happening I thought no problem I’ll just ride it out onto the grass and come back on. Well, my tire hit the gravel shoulder and I launched over the bars at 23 mph. Was a little dazed and the medical staff sprayed down my little bit of road rash and I crossed the finish 10 minutes later after shaking the cobwebs off. Two hours later the adrenaline wore off and my shoulder was really sore. ER next day confirmed 3rd degree AC separation/tear. Volunteers are great and I went to the first aid tent, but you still need to take responsibility to get checked out by medical people.

  48. If you’re hit by a car, it’s also worth consulting a lawyer as soon as possible. When a girl ran me down after running a stop sign last fall, I not only got all my medical bills paid but was also offered a “pain and suffering” cash settlement. I know the unspoken threat that I might sue (and subpoena the driver’s cell phone records) had a lot to do with that.

  49. Stock up on some basic first aid supplies, an ice pack or 2 and your over the counter pain med of choice BEFORE you crash. It sucks hitting the drug store all banged up and dripping blood. If you live/ride in an area served by Uber, install the app on your phone. It’s a great simple way to get a ride home if you can’t ring up a friend. Or it can get you to the Doc if you don’t need a costly ambulance.

  50. Thanks for the artical, I crashed my race bike 2 weeks on a fast wet road leading into tight bend, there was also some diesel oil on the road. My hip took most of the schock, I could not walk properly for 2 weeks and am still in some pain (having more Scans this week), I have 40 years experience riding bicycles plus 35 years on motorcycles of all kinds, lessons learnt: (1) race bicycle tyres don’t work in the wet, sound obvious I know, (2) if your out riding alone don’t overstretch yourself, because if you become tired then your reaction time slows and accidents can follow. Safe riding & good luck 🙂

  51. Excellent information. Thanks for making me grateful for my road rash!

    Are there any recommended ways to fall, when left with no other option or under force?

  52. Excellent article, especially the part about road rash. A couple days ago I crashed after hitting an obstacle in the bike lane going downhill over 30mph. Basically “laid it down” and managed to just get some gnarly road rash. With a large part of my body (and bike) absorbing the impact I pretty much skated on having more serious injuries.

  53. Good article, 3 things I didn’t do when I crashed and learned a lesson from. Didn’t tell anyone where I was going, didn’t take my phone with me, wasn’t watching the road during an out of the saddle sprint.
    I hit a 20 pound tortoise at 20 mph sending me to the ground and launching my bike through the air. Result, broken collarbone in 4 places, 2 broken ribs and some road rash. Needless to say the one handed 7 mile ride home was painful. The bike and tortoise survived. I needed surgery, rehab and 3 months of no riding. I definitely learned my lesson and have changed my habits.

  54. I would also suggest downloading our free bike crash app the “bike crash kit” available for free on both apple and android platforms.
    Ride safe!

  55. Crashed today MTBing in Colorado. Going to0 fast on an off-camber downhill turn with loose scree. Bike went one way, I went the other. Trail rash, scrapes and a slight blood sacrifice to the trail gods. Slightly sprained wrist. The good news is that my bike was fine….lol.

  56. I can vouch for the road rash being a good thing. Had to bail off my CX bike on a gravel downhill when the brakes failed @ 25 mph. Would have gladly traded some more road rash for the broken pelvis that resulted from going from 25 to zero in a fraction of a second.

  57. Chris good article. I too just did this last week JRA 60 seconds into my ride and hooked a car’s rearview mirror while looking the other way. Split second later I am in the middle of the road and some honda is swerving around my head. Fortunately no broken bones just a huge bruise to hip and thigh. Thanks for the article.

  58. Chris, great advice! Would add one more tip: If injuries exceed road rash and/or your bike is damaged and not rideable, don’t pick up the bike and walk. Wait for help to arrive. I walked 1/4 mile, exacerbating a serious injury, making surgery necessary. Live and learn!

  59. Thanks for this article, it brings home that one must always be aware & ride consciously. Fell today, twice, the low speed slip & tip over type on a sandy road. Just turned too fast & forgot I was on slippery territory. I can’t avoid it since it’s a road that runs in front of our house & leads to pavement so I’ve got to keep that in mind, no quick turns, moves, only slow & steady. I just turned 69 & getting back on the bike is harder than I remember or thought it would be.

  60. Excellent read Chris. I’ve ridden bikes since little, motorcross at a high level, mt. & road, street bikes, and I’ve always told myself & others to always remain present, and, as you put it, engaged. It has rewarded me with very few events, but we do learn from them.
    Of course, middle of a peleton and there ain’t much hope if a rider goes down in front of you.
    Seems the energy of focused awareness is a powerful force.

  61. Great article.
    Program ICE (In Case of Emergency) in your cellphone that you carry. Wear Road ID in the event you have a concussion and do not know important information or are unconcious.

  62. Hey Chris it’s Charley. Super info on road rash maybe a follow up on the bandages the pros use & where to get it. As you know I’ve been down a time or two. Thanks

    1. I’ve bought Tegaderm from a local Walgreens for some road rash I got during a spill last year. The biggest sheets aren’t as big as the ones mentioned above, but I was able to situate them (and they can be overlapped) where it covered the rash on my hip.

  63. Been there, done that with a fond memory of a nylon brush and a bottle of water applied by a first responder.


  64. Great article and much appreciated Chris. In group rides folks, watch overlapping wheels too. As we age we value not being injured. Keep the big picture.

  65. Road ID has a great app as well for alerting emergency contacts in case something happens. It is free as well.

    1. Downloaded free RoadID app to my iPhone. Easy to click Start which sends text message to my wife’s phone that I am ‘Starting My Ride.’ It includes a link which she can click to view my location and progress in Google Maps. When I finish, I can also send ‘Ending My Ride’ message. Most of my rides are with friends, but when I venture out solo, this is a GREAT relief to my wife who worries about me riding out there alone. I wholeheartedly recommend this great app from RoadID. BTW I have been riding 5 years with bracelet, which has come in very handy when I’ve crashed (3 times) and gone to Emergency Room.

    1. Crashed today pre-riding XC race course in SoCal…Only trail rash (good thing as you mentioned)…Thanks Chris for the article!

  66. This brought back memories of my fall on Ballard Canyon Road at a CTS camp. There was a nurse with the CTS staff and she helped clean the grit out of my massive road rash and dressed it with huge sheets of tegederm. My coach Adam Pulford was terrified I had killed myself. There was also a massage therapist staff member who kept my hip from locking up. Hip was sore for months, but luckily no broken bones. Hope Jim has a speedy recovery.

  67. Great subject and advice. My question is: As for road rash, is this when shaved legs can be advantageous to speeding up the healing process?

    1. Post

      Shaved legs helps a bit with cleaning out the wounds, bandaging, and refreshing bandages. But keep in mind, athletes and the general hairy-legged public get wounds all the time and they manage to avoid infection, so shaved legs are not imperative.

    2. The one reason to shave the legs: if you crash and get road rash, peeling old bandages off doesn’t hurt.

  68. Great article. I just want to add, as a spine surgeon, that if you have a lot of neck or spine pain, don’t try to get up. I took care of a racer who broke her neck, managed to get a ride home, but then came to the hospital a few hours later because of the pain. I had to fuse part of her neck. She is very lucky that the bones didn’t shift a few more millimeters and she didn’t go paralyzed when she tried to get up.

    1. It has been 4 weeks since my crash which resulted in a broken neck. I flew off my bike while going about 25 MPH and landed on the top of my head then flipped onto my back. I eventually got up and felt some pain, but honestly it didn’t feel that bad. I actually debated finishing my ride because my Ironman was exactly 2 weeks out. I was on my hands and knees looking for the lens that fell out of my Oakleys. Waited for my sister to come pick me up. I broke C6 & C7 in my neck, but was told I shouldn’t need surgery since the bone didn’t displace. The pain only felt like whiplash. I am very fortunate there was no damage to my spinal cord. I am able to walk, but still wearing the brace around my neck. I really never thought this would happen to me and the accident was silly. I literally ran off the road. It was still dark out since I started in the early morning. I didn’t see the road actually curves at that particular location. Looking back I’m very fortunate I didn’t damage my spinal cord.

  69. Really good write up on the inevitable crashes. Good tips! Sorry to hear about Jim with the hip. I do alot of the DVD’s on the trainer living up here in Alaska. Just to chime my 2 cents id have to say a big factor for me in avoiding crashes is not riding within’ my limits. Trying to do stuff im not capable of doing. As well as being in Alaska the weather factors as in knowing when to just call it a day. Anyways liked the write up and wish all well when out and about pedaling. Take care

  70. Great read this am. Our team suffered a similar injury in the first 5 minutes of a road race about a month ago. He will be off his bike for 6 months.
    Looking forward to riding soon or working with you at an epic event.
    Talk soon,Paul

  71. Two weeks ago I had a minor spill at 5 mph on a loaded touring bike. No road rash, but I fractured my right femur and needed surgery. I now have a titanium rod, pin and screw and 6–8 weeks recovery.
    Thanks for letting me know that I am not alone suffering a broken bone from a low-speed crash.

  72. I would add two things: be prepared! I fell this year after 14 years of not falling and I did not even know where to go for medical attention, even though I have lived here for 12 years. Second, I am convinced that too many cyclist falling and breaking hips and shattering leg bones is a good reason for all cyclists to run as part of their training, and watch the consumption of animal protein, as that causes a leaching of calcium from the body’s largest bones, weakening them.

    1. Bicycling is not a weight bearing exercise. That is why running or other weight bearing exercise is important. I can’t run but I lift weights every week except Important Race Weeks. Good article.

  73. I appreciate all of the helpful advice throughout the years. Good luck with CTS and wish Jim Lehman a speedy recovery.

  74. I was hit by a car recently the car went through a stop sign. I was knocked out and could not get up went to hospital. At hospital they did a CT scan and x-rays but nothing was broken. Road rash and soft tissue damage. It took two weeks of healing before I could stand up on my own. Two month later I am starting to see the effects of the concussion going away. There were days that I would get sick just standing up. Worse part is that it destroyed my bike and now the insurance does not want to replace it. And I have lost all this great riding time. I stopped paying attention because I had the right of way. Will not do that again.

    1. Great article Chris and sorry to hear of Jim’s crash! Reminds me of my crash while visiting CTS coach James Herrera in Jan 2003. Low speed, high impact crash broke my pelvis and injured my kidneys. I just overlapped wheels with the rider in front of me. Someone mentioned “riding over your head” earlier but in my case I believe it was because I was very tired as this was my 4th ride in 5 days at elevation. Fatigue certainly invites mistakes in judgement. Best wishes to a speedy recovery for Jim!!

    2. Dr Bruce Reid, Orthopaedic Surgeon, and aspiring cyclist
      The IMPACT test is critical after a concussion, which includes “getting dinged”. Don’t get back on the bike until ALL the symptoms of concussion, ie. headache, fatigue, “brain fog”, are gone AND the IMPACT score is back to baseline /normal. A “second hit” during the recovery phase can be FATAL > 50%, or permanent brain damage = 100% ( see Mohamad Ali ) of repeat concussions. Recovery can take days to weeks.

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