At the London Cyclist we were very sad to hear that Olympic Champion Dani King had a nasty accident with a pothole last week.
In this case, the accident caused her five broken ribs and a collapsed lung – fortunately extensive injuries such as this are rare but it’s a reminder we receive all too often about the potential dangers.
Whilst we can’t miraculously improve the roads for you, we’ve provided some advice to help keep you safe on some of the less well maintained roads in Britain…
This one could perhaps go without saying, but you should stay alert when riding your bike. Look ahead at the road, and make sure you constantly scan your surroundings – looking side to side for wayward padestrians and turning cars, as well as straight ahead. Constantly checking the road in front of you means you’ll spot a hole earlier.
Be well equipped
It is a good idea to keep your tyres pumped to the correct PSI. If you are unfortunate enough to hit a hole, too little pressure can result in a pinch flat, whilst two much give you no bounce at all, and will hit the hole much harder.
Recommended PSI should be on the sidewall of your tyre, and you should go to the bottom end of the scale if you are quite light, and the top end if you are on the heavier side
Wider tyres on mountain bikes, hybrid bikes and cyclocross bikes can take much more of a hammering, if you ride a road bike, opt for the widest tyres you have clearance for – this is likely to be 25mm or 28mm.
Riding at the very edge of the road, next to the pavement, is a very common mistake made by new cyclists. Often, riders do this to ‘stay out the way’ of drivers, but it puts them at risk – at the edge of the road you are less visible, drivers will pass much closer, and you’ve got nowhere to go if a pothole appears in your path.
Ride around 1 metre from the curb on wide roads, giving yourself plenty of room to maneuver if needed. On narrow roads, take the primary position and ride in the centre of the lane – this is advised by cycle training instructors and perfectly within the laws of the road.
Don’t ride through puddles (unless you have no choice)
Puddles can hide a lot – particularly potholes, gravel, and rocks. If you can avoid it, do not ride through them. If you absolutely have to, try to stick to the edge, where it’s not as deep.
Call holes in a group
If you ride in a group you must learn to provide instructions to riders behind you.
Riding in a peloton on a group ride means the rider behind you cannot see the road clearly – if you see a hole coming up, or pass a hole, point to it, and shout ‘hole’ – this instruction should be passed back through the group.
If the rider in front of you alerts you, copy them and relay the message back, so you give an advanced warning.
If you happen to ‘hook up’ with another rider on a commute, and you are aware they are drafting your wheel (and you don’t mind sharing the load with them), you can extend the same courtesies.
Be ready for impact
If you do see a hole too late, or you are unable to go around it, don’t panic.
Grip the handlebar tightly – this will prevent you losing control, but keep your arms, elbows and knees relaxed, to absorb the blow. Point your wheel directly forwards, as letting it swerve increases the chance of losing balance.
If the hole was large and you think you are likely to have sustained a flat tyre, roll slowly and brake when it’s safe, without making sudden movements that could cause a deflated tyre to slip off the rim.
Once re-inflated, check your wheel for buckles – if it doesn’t run straight, ask a mechanic to true it for you, or do some research and have a go yourself.
If you see a hole, or are unfortunate enough to see it too late and hit it, report it. The CTC website Fill That Hole lets you report any hole to the relevant council – and they will have a set time in which they must respond.