Words by Lucy Edwards
While we would love every ride to be incident free, it is inevitable that accidents and emergencies can happen out on the road. Knowing what to do in a collision or a mechanical breakdown makes a big difference in how you cope with the situation.
Planning and preparation can help you to deal with any eventuality without ruining your riding experience. Here are some things to remember if you do find yourself in an emergency.
Dealing with an accident
Accidents can be caused by slipping on ice, sliding out on gravel, hitting a hidden pothole, or a collision with a vehicle, pedestrian or another rider. If you are involved in an accident, the first priority is to move yourself and your bike out of the road to minimize the chances of being hit by oncoming traffic.
Once safe, assess the damage to yourself and your helmet. Injuries might not be immediately obvious, as a surge of adrenaline can mask the pain. Check for broken bones, bleeding and areas of pain. If needed, call an ambulance or ask someone nearby to do so. Feeling disoriented and dizzy are symptoms of a concussion and will definitely need medical attention.
Wearing an identification tag or band engraved with your medical conditions can help the ambulance staff to provide treatment in the event of an accident, even if you are unconscious.
Contact a family member or friend to let them know what has happened. A device like a Ridersmate or ICEdot will automatically alert your loved ones in the event of an accident. These units attach to your bike, helmet or clothes- as soon as an impact is detected the device sends a text message to your emergency contact.
If a car was involved, take the details including the vehicle’s registration number and the driver’s name, address, phone number and license number.
Report the accident to the police immediately - give them as much detail as possible. If there are any witnesses at the scene of the accident, ask them to provide information and take their contact details. It’s important to document the accident in case you decide to make an insurance claim- take photos of the damage to your bike, your injuries, the car and the scene of the incident.
Following the accident, it might be an idea to check in with your healthcare professional for advice on treating your injuries. You may need physiotherapy and rehabilitation, so take the time to let your injuries heal completely before returning to the bike.
Your bike will also need a thorough checkup - have your local bike shop inspect the wheels, components and frame for damage. Ask them to provide a quote for any replacement parts, which you can claim for if your bike is insured. If your helmet took the impact, then it’s vitally important to replace it as the protection will be compromised.
Dealing with a mechanical failure
Most common mechanical issues can be easily solved at the roadside providing you have the right kit and a little knowledge. A puncture or broken chain should only be a minor inconvenience and shouldn’t put an end to your ride.
Pre-empt any potential mid-ride problems by checking over your bike before setting off. The ‘M’ Check is a quick and simple way to check your bike is safe to ride. Follow an M shape from the front of the bike to the rear checking all moving parts including the wheels, brakes, stem, headset, frame, bottom bracket, pedals, cranks and saddle. Ensure that all nuts are tightened securely, the brakes work effectively, the chain runs smoothly and the tyres are inflated to the correct pressure.
Before you set off, check that your saddle bag has all the essential items for roadside repairs including tyre levers, a multi-tool, pump, puncture repair kit, spare inner tubes and chain links. It’s also a wise idea to carry some cash and a fully-charged mobile phone.
The most common issue you are likely to face is a puncture- being able to change an inner tube is an essential for every cyclist. If you are unsure, check out our guide and practice at home until you’ve mastered the technique.
Broken cables, chains and spokes are a little more tricky, but we’ve got tips on how to deal with these mechanical mishaps.
Dealing with a complete breakdown
But what if you have an irreparable fault when you are miles from anywhere? Roadside recovery schemes like ETA Cycle Rescue and Cycleguard will arrange a van to take you and your bike to the nearest repair shop, railway station, car rental agency or home. It’s worth considering signing up to a cycle breakdown service for extra peace of mind, especially if you cycle solo regularly.
No matter the situation you find yourself in, remember to stay calm and think rationally. You will be able to follow a more logical course of action if you avoid panicking, losing your temper or getting upset.