Dani King Shares Her Advice for Overcoming Post-Crash Nerves
If you are finding if hard to come back after a crash, fear not, you aren’t alone. A quick look in the Total Women’s Cycling Forum reveals a number of women who’ve been through this:
“Ever since the accident I wouldn't say I'm scared...probably slightly nervous at times and more aware of cars passing me with little space, but…I feel like I can't seem to find the joy I used to get from cycling anymore. It almost feels like a chore at times."
Accidents can happen for so many reasons. Sometimes it’s a collision with another vehicle, though this is thankfully rare. More often it’s because of road conditions such as ice or mud, or obstacles such as potholes, leaves or debris.
It’s not just something that happens to the every-day rider either – the professionals are just as susceptible, as Wiggle Honda team rider Dani King knows only too well.
Back in November 2014, she was involved in a crash while training that saw her hospitalised with broken ribs and a collapsed lung. The cause? Another rider in the group hitting a pothole.
“I was on a training ride that I do every week on a Thursday. It was a cold wet day and we were about 100km into the ride with about 40km to go. I was riding on the right of the pack riding two a breast in the road. A guy on my left hit a pot hole that was covered in water, and crashed into the group leaving me no where to go but over my bars."
Once I hit the floor initially I was ok but it must of been a second later I felt excruciating pain in my back when a rider behind me rode into my back resulting in 8 broken ribs (10 fractures) and a punctured lung. At the time I was just thinking about my health and whether I was going to be ok."
For the pros, crashing is part and parcel of racing and training. You might think this means they can shake themselves off and get back on the bike without a second thought, but interestingly this isn’t the case, as Dani explains.
“I was really nervous the first time I got back on my bike. My boyfriend Matt Rowe drove us down to a flat section of road that we ride regularly.
I'm still dealing with my nerves but every time I go out I'm becoming more and more confident. I've been to Lanzarote on a 2-week training camp in the sun and am on my way to Mallorca for another 2-week camp. This helps as I've been extra nervous because of the ice on the roads."
Dani is, by her own admission, an ‘experienced crasher’, so what does she recommend for treating post-crash nerves?
“I believe the more you think about crashing the more tense you will be as you ride, giving you more chance of coming off the bike. It's easier said than done but try to relax, anticipate things happening ahead of you i.e. moving out for cars and potholes, and just enjoy riding your bike!"
Advice and Tips for Getting Back in the Saddle After a Crash
If you’ve experienced a crash and you’re feeling nervous or fearful about getting back in the saddle, we’ve gathered some advice, hints and tips that should help.
1. Make sure you have recuperated
Make sure you give yourself enough to time to recover. If you have any injuries, allow time for them to heal. There’s a case for not leaving it too long before you get back in the saddle, and some people find that getting back on the bike quickly helps them, but that’s not for everyone. Listen to your body, listen to your mind, and do what feels right for you.
2. Ensure your bike and kit is in good shape
One thing that will help build your confidence back up is having faith that your equipment is working effectively and that you can rely on it. It’s worth getting your bike checked by a professional mechanic if you’ve been involved in a collision or hard crash.
You’ll also need to replace your helmet if it took a knock. The outer shell can sometimes hide fractures in the foam lining of the helmet, which hugely decreases its effectiveness at protecting your head.
3. Give it time
Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t back to your normal cycling self after your first return ride. It can take time to convince your brain that cycling is still a fun, safe thing to do.
Your fight or flight responses will be heightened, and the chances are you’ll be hyper aware of things like uneven road surfaces or passing traffic. These reactions will decrease the more time you spend on the bike, as your body and brain get used to the road environment again.
4. Try to relax
This is a hard one, but it’s worth it. Try to stay relaxed when you ride. Tensing up will make you feel less in control and more twitchy on the bike. It will feel counterintuitive but the more relaxed your body is, the more you’ll be able to ride smoothly, anticipate obstacles, and absorb any bumps on the road surface.
5. Ride the route at a quiet time of day
Nervousness of traffic and passing vehicles is one of the most commonly cited fears that affect people after they’ve had a crash. It can take time for these feelings to subside, so you might find it better to find a quiet route to get used to being on the bike again without having to think about other road users.
Another understandable fear is riding along or past the spot where you took your tumble. Try riding the route at a quiet time of day or at the weekend where there will be fewer people about, or another option is to ride with a friend for moral support.
6. Give yourself a goal, or several goals!
If the thought of a big ride is too much, set yourself some smaller goals to help get you back on your bike again. It could be as simple to cycle to the shops and back, or a 30-minute ride round your local neighbourhood. Set a series of increasing goals, and before you know it you’ll be back to your usual cycling self.
This is also a good idea if you find you’re not enjoying cycling any more. Set yourself a ride or experience that you know you’ll enjoy, like riding with friends or cycling through the countryside just for fun, without the pressure of the ride having a particular purpose.
7. Talk about it
Whether it’s your friends, family, partner, or even somewhere online like the Total Women’s Cycling Forum, you may find that talking to other people about your experience and what you are feeling helps. You’ll also discover you aren’t alone – many people will have had similar experiences, and will be able to share what they’ve done to overcome their fears.