For experienced riders, cycling is second nature, and we could probably navigate our favorite routes with our eyes closed. A bike crash is not something any of us anticipate, but all cyclists, no matter how skilled, are susceptible to an unexpected obstacle in the path, a loss of balance, or a collision. In such moments, knowing how to respond calmly but assertively is crucial for your safety and a quick recovery. We’ll equip you with the knowledge needed to ride safely, prevent injury, and respond to a crash with clarity and confidence.
What to do when you fall off a bike
A bike crash can be disorienting and even dangerous. It’s important to stop after a crash to assess the situation and respond safely, even if you feel ok. When you fall off your bike, remember the following steps to take during and after the accident.
1. Check for injuries.
Don’t try to stand and hop back on your bike immediately after a crash. First, take a deep breath and inspect your body for injuries. Make sure you aren’t bleeding significantly and can move all your limbs and your head and neck without pain. Also, check for signs of a concussion–blurry vision, dizziness, confusion, and a headache, among other symptoms.
If you don’t initially notice any major injuries, try to stand and then walk slowly. If you need to move to a safer area and aren’t seriously injured, do so. If you don’t feel any pain, you may be ok to get back on the bike if it isn’t damaged. But it still may be a good idea to head home and rest for the remainder of the day to be certain.
2. Seek help if necessary.
If you do notice signs of major injuries or feel pain after a crash, seek immediate medical attention. Pain could indicate a broken bone or hairline fracture, heavy bleeding from a wound will likely require stitches, and dizziness and confusion could be signs of a head injury. It can be difficult to determine the severity of an injury in the moment, so either contact emergency medical personnel or have someone drive you to the hospital.
If you notice pain that isn’t severe and doesn’t require immediate attention, it’s still a good idea to visit your primary care provider if the pain persists so it doesn’t turn into a more serious or debilitating issue that prolongs the longer recovery time.
3. Clean and dress any wounds.
Clean and dress minor injuries, like cuts, scrapes, or road rash, with water and a Band-Aid if you have the items with you. As soon as you have access to first-aid supplies, clean your wounds gently with soap and water to minimize the risk of infection. Then, apply antiseptic ointment and cover them with a sterile bandage or dressing.
4. Check your bike for damage.
Once you are certain you aren’t injured, move your bike to a safe area and inspect it for damage. Check the wheels, tires, brakes, levers, seat posts, pedals, and other components for damage that would make your bike unsafe to ride. If your bike has significant damage, call someone to give you a ride home so you don’t risk crashing again.
5. Regain your composure.
A bike crash can be unnerving, even if you aren’t seriously injured. So take a few minutes as you wait for help to arrive or before you get back on the bike to catch your breath and make sure you have a clear head. Taking a few minutes to regain your composure will help you better analyze the situation and make the safest decisions.
Once you are back home, prioritize rest and follow your doctor’s recommended recovery plan diligently. Proper recovery measures prevent further aggravating injuries and expedite the healing process. Common treatments for strained muscles, torn ligaments, and sprains involve the RICE method—rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Rest is not always easy for athletes, but rest is essential to cycling at full speed again as soon and as safely as possible.
Additional steps to take during a bike and vehicle accident
Crashing your bike in a vehicle collision requires a few additional steps that aren’t necessary unless another car is involved.
Contact emergency personnel.
Immediately contact the police after the accident to ensure they file an official report. It may not be required to call the police in very minor incidents, but doing so is advisable if anyone involved in the bike accident (yourself or someone else) has sustained injuries or if there is significant damage to your bike or other property.
If you’re uncertain about whether you should contact the police or if you feel unsafe, it’s best to err on the side of caution. Police can provide assistance, ensure everyone’s safety, and help manage the aftermath of the accident. If there is a dispute over who is at fault, police can gather evidence, interview witnesses, and create an official report. This report can help determine liability and assist with any insurance claims or legal proceedings that may arise.
Get contact information from the driver and witnesses.
If you are physically able and it is safe to do so, exchange contact and insurance information with the driver involved in the accident. Get their name, phone number, address, license plate number, and insurance details. Also, try to gather contact information from any witnesses present at the scene.
Document the details and collect evidence.
Make sure you take photos or videos of the accident scene and collect all of your belongings that could be used as evidence for insurance claims or legal purposes. Don’t throw away, fix, or replace any of the damaged items until you’ve reported them to your insurance and received instructions from them. Also keep a record of all medical treatment you receive related to injuries from the accident, including hospital visits, doctor appointments, medications, and therapies. This documentation is also crucial for insurance claims and legal action.
Notify your insurance.
Contact your insurance company to report the accident, even if you believe the driver was at fault. Provide them with as many details and documentation of the incident as possible.
Tips for cycling safely
Now you know what to do if you fall, but let’s hope it never happens. Bike crashes are unforeseeable, but the following tips will help you minimize your risk of crashing or prevent you from injury if you do.
- Always wear a helmet to protect your head from serious injuries. Look for a helmet with a yellow circle that says “Mips” for a slip-plane liner that reduces the impact on the brain if your head hits the ground.
- Inform someone when you’re riding and what route you’re taking.
- Stay seen with reflective elements and lights on your cycling apparel and bike. It’s helpful to make eye contact with drivers when possible to ensure they’re aware of you.
- Pay attention to your surroundings and watch for other cars, pedestrians, and obstacles on the road or trail.
- Approach intersections with caution, making sure the road is clear before you cross.
- Ride defensively by avoiding a car’s blind spots, not swerving around cars or other obstacles that obstruct your vision, and using appropriate hand signals.
- Follow the rules of the road. Use bike lanes, ride with the flow of traffic, signal when turning, yield to pedestrians, and ride at a safe speed.
- Carry basic bike repair tools and first aid with you to be prepared should a crash occur. And do not risk riding without your phone, so you don’t get stranded with a serious injury and no way to seek help.
- Keep your bike well-maintained so it doesn’t malfunction on a ride and cause you to lose control of the bike.
A bike crash can not only injure your body but also shake your confidence. It’s important to be patient with yourself while recovering, but it’s also crucial not to let intimidation keep you away from the road for too long. Take gradual steps toward getting back on the bike and rebuilding your confidence.
Explore our guides below to find cycling gear that can help minimize the risk of crashes and injuries.
- 10 of the Best Cycling Helmets– Discover a curated selection of top-rated cycling helmets that balances safety, comfort, and performance.
- How to Choose the Right Pair of Cycling Sunglasses– Learn how to choose the best sunglass lens to protect your eyes while enhancing visibility and reducing glare on the road.
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